“You call this winter?” my visitor from the Northeast asked. The scene was the freeway-side beaches along the Rincon on one warm, pleasant late morning last week when surf perch anglers were lined up 50 paces apart along the beach while my passenger and I were driving by.
“It looks like the best weather of the year where I come from,” my guest said. I just smiled, nodded and felt blessed to live here. I feel that way often, except perhaps during June Gloom when I’m waiting for our water temps to warm so the glory fish of summer will arrive and make my fishing reels scream.
Ideal weather — a high-pressure system, cobalt-blue sky and not a puff of wind — had much to do with the popularity of fishing easy-to-reach beaches, but so did the wide-open barred surf perch bite. These gutsy fish have been going nuts for better than a month. On some days it’s almost a fish per cast.
Surf fishing is good all along the West Coast right now. I’m in frequent contact with tackle shop owners, avid anglers and charter boat skippers throughout California and the story is the same — barred surf perch are biting like crazy. Whenever larger swells roll in, surf fishing gets even better because where the lip of a big wave trenches the sand and dislodges sand crabs and other nearshore invertebrates, perch rush in to feed while the critters are scurrying to get back into the sand.
My surf fishing kit consists of a light 8-foot rod and a small reel. A tidy creel containing my tackle essentials hangs under my arm from a strap over my shoulder. One common rigging technique is a Carolina rig (sliding sinker, bead tied to a barrel swivel and a 2-foot leader to a baitholder hook with a 3-inch plastic grub pinned to the hook). Another effective rig is a double-dropper loop rig with a 2-ounce weight on the bottom and a plastic grub pinned on each hook.
Barred surf perch typically run about 8 to 10 inches, and when they get up over 12 inches they are considered big. I’ve seen them to 16 inches and I’ve heard stories of 18-inchers, though I can’t substantiate those. They are tall and sturdy fish that put up a good fight for their size. Some folks think they are tasty and some folks don’t. Many people enjoy catch-and-release fishing.
One thing is for sure: It is a great way to enjoy these winters of ours!
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.