Find Family Fun Fishing California’s Beaches
Beach fishing can be as exciting as charter-boat fishing. Fishermen can duel some of the ocean’s most challenging giants while standing on the sand of some of California’s most beautiful beaches.
For some great, inexpensive family fun, try going for the abundant surfperch. They are small but feisty enough to be regarded as a true sport fish. And they are easy to catch. Even the youngest angler in your group will have a blast reeling in one after another of these little fighters. There are many species of surfperches including the barred surfperch, the redtail surfperch, the rubberlip seaperch, the shiner perch, the silver surfperch and the Walleye surfperch.
Anglers who like to fish from piers report catching Walleyes in abundance. However, they can also be caught in the surf or from rocks anywhere along California’s open coast. Bait a small hook with mussels, worms, or shrimp to catch walleyes all year round. Often, several hundred of these fish form dense schools six to eight feet thick. Casting a line in the middle of a feeding swarm of walleye can make a thrilling fishing trip.
Shiner perch are small and easy to catch. Because they grow to an average of seven inches or less and weigh less than a pound, they are perfect for youngsters. They can be caught from the beach, or from piers and rocks along the California coast. Almost any type of bait will attract them and any type of light fishing equipment is sufficient to haul them in. Just make sure that the hook is small enough for their mouths.
Older kids looking for larger prey will enjoy redtail surfperch. At an average weight of two to three pounds they are still easy to handle but large enough to be a satisfying catch. When they concentrate in sheltered inshore waters during the spring and early summer to spawn, they can be caught in large numbers with light tackle and crab backs for bait. Sand crabs, tubeworms or clams also make good bait.
Anglers in the Monterey Bay area catch a large number of rubberlip seaperch from the shore. Like most surfperch, they are partial to hooks baited with mussels, clams, sandworms, or shrimp. They reach an average weight of two pounds.
The barred surfperch is the largest the genus growing up to a foot long. The record catch was 17 inches long and weighed in at 4.5 pounds. These perch love soft shelled sand crabs, but blood worms, or cut fish will do.
When to Fish
October through June are the best months to catch surfperches in central California. You are more likely to catch fish in the early morning or an hour before dusk during mild to moderate surf.
Where to fish
Most surfperches like to congregate and feed inside the breaker zone during an incoming tide. As the water rises it dislodges the small sand crabs and other invertebrates that these fish love. Since they are already stimulated to feed, they’ll readily go for your bait.
Cast to drop-offs and watch for channels that may contain fish looking for food.
Cast near sandbars where sand crabs are nesting.
Rod and Reel Tips
Fly-fishermen should try a 9- to 11-ft rod with a 6- to 8-weight line. Fishermen often wear stripping baskets to keep their lines from tangling when they cast into the surf.
Light bait fishing requires a 7- to 9-ft rod, with a 6- to 12-lb test line.
Polarized sunglasses will protect your eyes and help you see fish below the water surface.
Finally – don’t forget your camera. You’re bound to have some exciting moments you’ll want to remember and share.