Surfperch Fishing in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz - Santa Cruz, CA

Lunker perch are on the bite at local beaches.
Photo Credit: Photo credit Mark Idemoto

by Allen Bushnell

When most people think of going to the beach it brings up images of surf, sun and sand being enjoyed while wearing board shorts or bikinis. Many anglers around the Monterey Bay have turned this vision upside down. Prime time at the beach for them is winter time. Cold grey waves pounding the beach, maybe with a little rain and wind mixed in are the conditions these guys look for while walking long sandy stretches on the hunt for surfperch of the XL variety.

Last week we described a basic perch-fishing setup, courtesy of Alex Velasco. Essentially, he uses a Carolina rig with eight-pound leader and a #8 baitholder hook (very small). Most surfcasters use the Carolina rig as a default. Leaders can range up to 15-pound mono just in case there are any stripers around. 10 or 12-pound mono seems to be most anglers’ preference for a perching rig. Velasco opts for a small #8 hook. We have seen success with a variety of hook sizes ranging from #6 (small) up to a #1 (much bigger).

With a larger hook, anglers can miss hookups. Perch mouths are on the small side. Smaller hooks may have the tendency to be swallowed by the fish, which is no problem if you’re bringing them home to eat. For those who prefer catch and release surfcasting, we’d recommend a #2 hook. If, on a particular outing the bites are short, go to a #4. If the fish are swallowing your #2 hook, go up one size to a #1.

 Real, organic bait probably works the best for surf perch. It’s even better if it is live bait, like sandcrabs, ghost shrimp or bloodworms. Raw or cooked shrimp from the supermarket will entice surfperch to bite as well. Cut it into chunks appropriate for your hook size. The line between artificial baits and lures gets kind of blurry for surfcasters. On the one hand, the biodegradable GULP! sandworms are soft, moist and stinky like organic bait. Using one-inch grubs is an historically successful ploy. The grubs are soft plastic and come packaged dry, though you can add scent to them. Both the curly-tail grubs and the paddle-tail grubs work equally well. When using grubs, a slightly faster retrieve will enhance the swimming motion of the grub tail, acting more as a lure than as bait floating around in the current.

More and more surfcasters are casting small lures for big perch. The lures resemble baitfish in the water, and it is usually the larger perch that go after them. Because it is a predatory reaction strike, a perch lure hit is often a solid “grab.” Very satisfying. Surfcasters have used small KastMasters for decades for successful perch catches. Another hot lure gaining traction in the surfcasting community the past few years is the Lucky Craft 110 Flash Minnow. The LC is a killer lure, especially if the fish are close to the shorebreak, as they do not cast as far as the metal KastMaster.

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