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Wintertime Surf Perch

by: George Van Zant
Our tremendous winter tides signify it’s time for the ferocious surf fish to put on their seasonal show. Tides fluctuate from a high 7.0 to a consistent number of minus low tides, while the water temperatures range from 55 to 60 degrees. This combination of nature really” fires up” the spawning desires of the barred perch and the wall eye perch. This means that no other time of the year can you catch them as easily as right now. These tasty fish spend all their time in that area of the surf from 6 inches to 2 feet deep, the area of the surf that is white with foam and reaches about to your knees.

Gear used:

Spinning Reels:
Shimano Bait Runner 4500 (long cast surf )

Shimano High Speed 7500 (long cast surf)

Daiwa Jupiter Series J-S4500 (long cast surf)

Light Tackle Reels:
Shakespeare Alpha Spinning 2530

Daiwa SS Tournament SS1600 (light tackle)

Shimano Spirex SR 2000 FB*

Penn Power Graph 1500 (light tackle) *

Hodgman, stocking foot 13445 Brighton
3.5 MM

Light Tackle Rods:
GLoomis Steelhead STR1024C GL2

Lamiglas G1000 Graphite Salmon/Steelhead G1312

Long Rods:
Daiwa Eliminator EL S1002 MHRS 10’
(long cast)

Daiwa Eliminator EL S902 9’ (long cast)

G.Loomis Surf SUR1266C 10’ (long cast)

Mojo rubber tails. 2 inch motor oil color or red flake

Krocodile spoon 3 inch mackerel color.
Fishing For Wintertime Surf Perch
All of the Southern California beaches are habitats for the surf perch, some are better than others, depending on your fishing attack. One thing for sure is that it’s really easy to overcast them. What ever method you deploy don’t throw your bait more than 50 feet out from the average low water mark.

There are two majors fishing applications to winter surf perch fishing. Anglers use either artificials or bait. The bait fishermen use long surf rods and sand spikes. Either spinning or conventional reels can be used with the long rods because distance casting isn’t necessary. The bait guys lob a 3 ounce to 4 ounce sinker with two leaders above the sinker. Their baits are ghost shrimp, mussels, sand crabs, salted anchovies, bloodworms and various clams. Long rods from 9 feet to 10 feet are placed in the sand spikes while they wait for the bite.

Artificial fishing usually means getting wet, (unless you are fishing from a steep beach where you are well above the incoming waves). The idea is to present rubber grubs or lures to the perch. You have to use freshwater tackle in a medium weight. The rod should be very long to hold the line off the water while your grub arcs across the bottom in the current. The further you can walk out into the water, the better you can fish it, but obviously the wetter you may get. For this reason a set of waders comes in very handy. Spinning reels are the most popular in this situation because they cast light lines easier than conventional reels.

Two terminal tackle set ups are tied by most of the anglers that throw grubs. First, a sliding egg sinker is slid up the running line and a swivel is tied onto the end of the line to block the egg sinker from sliding downwards to the hook. A long leader from 3 feet to 4 feet long is tied onto the other end of the swivel from where 2 to 3 grub hooks are tied equidistant apart, about one foot below the swivel. This type of set up works best using 4 pound to six pound test line. The freshwater guys call this a “Carolina Rig”.

The other rig is meant for slightly heavier line and leaders. A two to three ounce torpedo
sinker is tied by the top ring onto the end of the line and a long 8 foot leader is tied onto the bottom eye of the torpedo. 3 to 5 grub hooks are tied into the leader equally apart. The rubber grubs are then slid onto the hooks. At least 8 pound test line has to be used to withstand the heavy casting motion needed to throw the heavy sinkers into the surf.

The last method is the driest. Most guys stand very high and dry up from the water and easily throw the sinker out into the fishing area. With all the above methods for catching the perch, it’s vitally important that the sinker drags and bumps along in full contact with the bottom. The grubs must swing toward shore, in an arc, bouncing on the sand bottom. You don’t recast until the sinker rolls up the beach.

Mojo Grubs are the most popular bait used by the perch fishermen. The popular “ Motor Oil” color is deployed most of the time by the anglers. “Red Fleck” is the next most popular color. Some anglers throw Castmasters, Spinners and other lures and do very well with them but they have to use very light line and very small lures.

Winter perch fishing is really great because you always catch lots of them unless the surf is stormy and loaded with floating kelp. In that event load up your gear go home and wait for the storm surf to go down.

Added: Fri Oct 10 2008
Last Modified: Thu May 14 2009

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