L-R: Robert Danelen, Ruben Ortiz and Randy Toji at Sav-On Tackle

Combo Trip Report / How-To post…

(Saturday, May 24th) The kids and I headed down to fish Dockweiler Beach in El Segundo, but this story really started back when I attended that surf fishing seminar at Sav-On Tackle back in February.  At that point, I was about 3 months into surf fishing.  In that period of time, I had managed to become somewhat proficient at catching barred surf perch (aka BSP) using the technique I described in my Surf Fishing 102 post.  At the seminar, I was lucky enough to win a guided surf fishing trip from Robert Danelen, one of the panelists for the seminar.  We exchanged emails and I went home…but not before I picked a box of pale orange beads from the giveaway box.

How lucky was that?  When I created the Top 10 for 2014, I wanted to include a surf fish.  What better surf fish to include than the corbina (aka corb, bean)…the elusive ghost of the surf and legendary beach fighter?  Corbina are at the top of the most wanted list for So Cal surf fish.  I followed up with Robert via email and let him know…Bean or Bust.  You let me know when we should go fish for them.

Robert said he’d let me know and I didn’t hear from him for awhile.  The next month (March) I decided to explore the jetty off Ballona Creek, next to the outlet into Santa Monica Bay for Marina del Ray.  I was throwing a dropshotted Jackall Clone Fry across the creek and dragging it back across.  I recall there being a ton of life in the water.  Speed bait would jump the surface every so often, clearly being chased by something below.  Maybe a halibut?  Bass?  I was trying to guess where the bait would jump next and place a cast hoping I could put that plastic in the face of whatever gamefish was chasing the bait school.  I’d never find out.

Hook and hand BSP

Hook and hand BSP

Then I saw them…2 corbina patrolling a sandbar next to the rocks.   There was another angler on the rocks at the time.  I called him over.  He had live lugworms (from Johnny’s in Pasadena).  I re-rigged into a Carolina Rig setup, pinned on a worm and casted past the bar.  Being a notoriously spooky fish, I slowly dragged my line back until the worm was resting on the sand bar and waited.  I would wait in vain.  The corbs passed both of our baits several times and not even a sniff.

April rolled around and I heard from Robert.  He invited me down to Huntington Beach on Saturday, May 3rd.  He was meeting up with Randy Toji and some other surf anglers.  Huntington is supposed to be good for BSP, yellowfin croaker, and corbina.  Randy and his crew had already made bait of sand crabs and they were thumbnail sized jumbos!  I’d never seen sand crabs that big.  I learned a lot from Robert that day.  I learned how to use that little orange bead.  I learned how to look for sand crabs.  I learned how to spot structure in the water.  I learned Robert likes to fish the entire incoming tide and not just an hour or 2 before and after the peak (which is how I’ve been fishing to catch perch).  It was a valuable day in terms of knowledge transfer, but at the end of the day I only caught more perch.


Robert’s Sand Crab Rig



Not a softie

If live squid is the candy bait of sportfishing on boats, then sand crabs are the candy bait of surf fishing.  If you can find a big one with the eggs AND it has the lighter colored soft shell…hold on tight.

Robert’s setup is still a Carolina Rig (C-rig), but with a couple subtle differences.

  1. Robert likes to put that little orange bead just above the hook as the big pregnant sand crabs have orange eggs.  It’s kind of like that roe topping on your favorite sushi…it makes your bait look that much more irresistible.
  2. Robert likes to use a circle hook instead of a J-hook.  It serves the dual purpose of a more secure hooking of the fish, and making it easier to unhook post catch, preventing many of the throat hooks that could harm the fish.

Fast forward to Friday (5/23),   I asked my buddy Will Lin where he had caught the big bean that I posted on our Facebook page a few weeks ago.  Dockweiler he tells me.  For some reason, I thought he was an OC guy.  My head swirled like Chazz Palminteri at the end of Usual Suspects.  Kobayashi!  Corbina like to winter in estuaries (like Ballona Creek).  In the Spring, they migrate out to the beaches looking for sand crabs.  Dockweiler is right next to Ballona Creek!  It all made sense now.

Back to Dockweiler

So that brings us back to yesterday (Sat. 5/24).  The kids and I get down to the beach around 11am.  Low tide was going to be around 1pm.  We worked on making bait for an hour till we had about 2 inches deep of crabs in the bottom of a Big Gulp cup.  Then we had some lunch and waited for the tide to hit bottom and start its way back up.  Just after 1pm, Jake nails the first fish of the day…a little perch.  Then I get one.  Next cast…BAM!  My bait gets slammed and my line starts zipping off the spool.  I resisted the urge to tighten down the drag and let it run.  When it slows down, I start winding it back.  It had a couple mini-runs after that, and I had to time it with the surf to beach it safely, but I got my first corbina.  It taped out at 20 inches.  Not bad for a first timer.  I’ll definitely take it.  It took 6 months of research and putting my time in on the beach, some hands-on instruction from Robert, and a hot tip from my buddy Will, but I know how to do it now.  Just like with BSP, I’ll learn more as I go, but I definitely leveled up in my surf game this weekend.  Maybe I’m a 200 level student now.  Tight lines!

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