Allen Bushnell Fishing Report

Javier Parano from Santa Cruz "got a few" last week,ranging from 12 to 17.5 inches. Paramo fooled the fish using GULP! sandworms.

by Allen Bushnell

When many people think of surfcasting, an image of long summer days come to mind.  Hot sand, gentle waves and beachgoers in colorful swimsuits might complete the image.  Fishing from the beach can be very productive all summer along the shores of Monterey Bay for both surf perch and striped bass.  But, the die-hard surfcaster knows that the best and biggest catches often come right about this time of year.  It’s often cold and wet, but always well worth it!
Atmospheric river rainstorms flush out coastal rivers and streams.  Giant winter groundswells and littoral currents sculpt the beaches, moving millions of tons of sand in a cycle of excavation and redepositing.  Deep water pockets and troughs that appear in the surf zone are perfect feeding grounds for the surf perch and early striped bass.  The holes and rip current avenues carry sandcrabs, sand worms and other little critters our sport fish feed upon.  One key to surfcasting is recognizing and capitalizing on this exact beach structure.
Throwing your bait or lure to the outside edges of the currents or holes is the proven technique for enticing a bite.  Using a pyramid sinker below a drop-shot leader will keep your bait anchored to the sand.  The bait remains in the feeding zone.  An alternate technique, favored for its use of lighter tackle and more exciting fights is the sliding sinker rig.  Also known as the “Carolina Rig,” this setup allows your bait to wave freely in the current.  A slow retrieve through the deep spots can be deadly effective. Tension must be kept on the line.  Any slack could mean a missed nibble. Even big perch will often play with the bait for a bit.  It’s important to make sure the fish’s weight is on the line before setting the hook.
The downside of these extreme conditions is that many days are unfishable.  The heavy currents and big waves rip up seagrass, kelp and other seaweed from the ocean floor.  Often, the seaweed is so thick an angler cannot keep it off their line.  Some days the surfcaster can find clean water by moving to the opposite end of the beach or another beach entirely.  Some days it’s best to hang it up and check the conditions tomorrow.
It may sound daunting, but the rewards of winter and springtime surfcasting are proven.  Perch are in their spawning phase during this period, which attract big numbers of mature fish to the nearshore areas.  Spawning also ramps up aggression in the male perch that often results in a solid grab rather than the more common nibble, nibble, set the hook bite.  I call this the “NTN” bite- No Technique Needed.  The fish attacks violently and you set the hook immediately.

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