Surfperch Fishing: A Beginner’s Guide

Surfperch Fishing: A Beginner’s Guide

YouTube video
Video fishing for surf perch

Are you ready to dive into the exciting world of surfperch fishing? Look no further! Surfperch, slim and saucer-shaped fish that can weigh up to 2 pounds, are the most popular and abundant catch for surf anglers. Their unique feature is that the females give birth to live young that resemble miniaturized versions of the adults. Along the Oregon coast, you can find nine different species of surfperch, with the redtail surfperch being the most frequently caught. These fish often gather within 30 feet of the shoreline, darting in and out of the crashing waves in search of food, making them an accessible target for anglers.

License and When to Fish

To fish for surfperch, all you need is a general Oregon Angling License. While they are available year-round, the best time to catch surfperch is during the spring and early summer when they school up along sandy shorelines for spawning. For optimal results, try fishing during an incoming tide, particularly an hour or two before high tide. Use low tide periods to scout out areas that could potentially be teeming with surfperch. Look for steeply sloped beaches with crashing waves, rocky sections on the sand, sandy spots near jetties, or locations where the shore cuts inward.

The Right Equipment

Successful surfperch fishing requires appropriate equipment. Start with a long rod, around 9 to 11 feet, capable of handling a 2 to 6-ounce weight. Additionally, choose a spinning reel that can hold 200 to 300 yards of 15 to 30-pound monofilament line. This heavy tackle is necessary to withstand the powerful surf conditions where surfperch reside. If you’re not ready to invest in new gear, some coastal sporting goods stores offer rod and reel rentals by the day.

Terminal Tackle and Bait

A popular setup for surfperch fishing includes two #4 or #2 hooks, swivels, and a pyramid sinker. The size of the sinker depends on surf conditions and the strength of your rod. Opt for a three-sided pyramid sinker as they are suitable for casting and tend to roll less in the surf. Attach a 3-way swivel about 12 inches above the sinker. On one loop, tie the first hook with 6 to 8 inches of monofilament. You want enough line to keep the bait away from the mainline. Approximately 16 inches above the first hook, attach the second hook in the same way.

As for bait, surfperch are not picky eaters. You can use mole crabs, marine worms, sand shrimp, mussels, clam necks, or even plastic baits like Berkley Gulp sand worms. The choice of bait depends on availability, convenience, and personal preference. Many anglers gather crabs, worms, and shrimp during low tide from the same beaches they plan to fish later.

Appropriate Attire

Fishing in the surf means your feet are destined to get wet. If the air and water temperatures are comfortable, you may choose to wear shorts and sandals. However, for cooler waters, invest in high-quality hip boots that will keep your feet and legs dry. Chest waders may be necessary in cold and rainy conditions, but they are usually not essential.

Exploring Other Opportunities

Surfperch can be found not only in the surf but also in bays, estuaries, and along rocky ocean shorelines. Look for areas with any kind of structure—rocks, jetties, pilings, sunken ships, and more—and keep your line and bait close to that structure for potential bites.

Catch and Release

While the bag limit allows for generous catches of surfperch (15 in aggregate per day), it is important to note that much remains unknown about the size of surfperch populations off the Oregon Coast. To help safeguard future populations, consider catching and carefully releasing surfperch after enjoying a few for dinner. They are renowned for their excellent taste!

Now that you have the basics of surfperch fishing, it’s time to hit the beach and try your luck. Remember to respect the environment, follow fishing regulations, and have a great time exploring the exciting world of surfperch angling!

Scott Haugen joins ODFW biologist Robert Bradley to show you how to surfperch.

Header photo by Kathy Munsel

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