IMG_1887At the beginning of the year, I had Graham Day of Fish Mantra guest post with Surf Fishing 101.  At that point, surf fishing wasn’t something I had spent much time doing very much at all here in Southern California.  Lately though, I’ve been spending some time doing it.  I enjoy it.  As we’ve transitioned into the winter months, the beaches are less crowded and I find that often it’s just me on the beach and maybe some surfers in the water.  Very tranquil and relaxing.  Over the course of spending this time at the beach, I’ve become proficient at catching one species, the barred surf perch.  Got it down cold…at least this one way.  There are probably others, but this is still a 100 level post 😉  Below I will share with you what I am doing, as well as some observations about surf fishing in general that I’ve discovered as I figured this part of it out.


Rods – longer the better, but just about anything will work.  The reason I say longer is because once you are comfortable using a longer rod, you can more easily cast further.  Casting further yields more time in the water, and like any other fishing, more time in the zone yields more productive results.  Also, just because these surf fish are pretty small, I don’t recommend a trout rod.  I had a really sweet TFO 4-10lb rated rod that I tried using and busted the tip when I got hung up on some kelp.  When the kelp got taken out by the tide…snap!  Ouch, that really hurt.  Plus you never know when something bigger might hit that line.  Something with a faster tip though is nice as you’ll be able to feel bites better.  I’m thinking a 10-20 rated salmon rod would be ideal, especially since they often come as a 2 piece and I can keep it in the trunk, ready to go.

Reels – I’ve tried both a spinning reel and a low profile baitcaster.  Both work.  The thing about the baitcaster though is when the tide flows out, I like to freespool and let the line go with it…more time in the zone.  With a baitcaster, it’s easier to do it.

Other – Needlenose pliers are essential for hook removal


Carolina rig with anywhere from 1/2 to an ounce of lead.  I tie about a 2 foot leader of 4lb fluoro, and tie on a size 2 Kirby style hook (kind of a mini version of an Aki twist hook).


I tried strips of squid, but all that got me were bat rays and leopard sharks.  Fun to pull on, but there are other fish I’d like to catch in this environment.  On a tip from another angler I met on the beach at Santa Monica, I bought some Gulp camo worms.  These things have been money.  I thread them on the hook so that they cover the shank and a little tail sticks out.  It doesn’t seem to matter if the green side or the red side is facing a certain way.


Rigged Gulp camo worm


All I do is cast out as far as I can and slowly retrieve.  Once I start feeling some hits, I try to stay in that zone as long as possible.  I’m still learning how to read the water, so I cast a fan around the spot.  Nothing happening, I move.  These are J-style hooks, so you do have to set, but sometimes they hit it so hard that there’s no way that hook isn’t going to find itself latched onto the inside of their mouth somewhere.

I’ve just been CPR’ing these fish (catch/photograph/release).  If you want to keep them, there is no minimum size, but the maximum bag limit for all species of surf perch (combined) is 20. (See the DFW regulations for more specifics)

One other thing, I’ve found that a couple hours before and after high tide is the ideal time to go.  Makes sense.  High tide is going to wash more food into the water and the fish are going to want to capitalize on that opportunity.  There are a ton of apps to tell you tidal info.  I downloaded a free one called, Tides Near Me that seems to work fine.

That’s pretty much it.  Other than casting out for my 7 year old daughter Juliana, even she found success catching BSP on this setup, so I’m confident that anyone can do it.  Try it yourself and see.  If you have any tips, please share and leave a comment below.  Enjoy!

Related Post: How To Rig Live Sand Crabs (And Catch Corbina)

Works for Juj, oughta work for you

Works for Juj, oughta work for you



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