Spring Surf Perch Fishing

Surf perch

Spring’s here and that means it’s surf perch time all up and down the West Coast. From Baja to Washington State, these little bad boys will congregate along sandy beaches and you can have a ball catching them on light gear.

Here’s how to do it…

Where to Look

Your primary targets will be redtail, barred and rubberlip perch. Steeply-sloping beaches, particularly ones near stream or river mouths are best. The best perch fishing takes place on days when the surf is small and you should concentrate on the slots that run perpendicular to the beach and troughs and holes that are parallel to the beach.

Look for rips and cast inside the first line of breakers – a lot of people make the mistake of casting too far You may also find them in bays around docks, pilings and warm water outflows.

underwater perch

Rigging Up

For light tackle perching, I like a 7- to 9-foot rod rated up to 8-pound test and a spinning reel with a long-stroke spool loaded with 10-pound braid. Run a 3/8- to 2-ounce tungsten worm weight up the line add a plastic bumper bead and then tie off to a crane swivel.

Add a 3-foot section of 8-pound leader and No. 6 baitholder hook.

You can use a wide variety of baits like fresh mussels, squid or pile worms, though live sand crabs are number one. I prefer, however, to go with artificial. Three-inch curly-tailed grubs with the tails cut off (to make them look like sand crabs) work great as do Berkley GULP! sand worms in the new penny and cammo patterns. Simply cut the worm in half or thirds and thread it up your hook and onto the line.

perch & GULP sandworm

Keep ‘er Steady

With the Gulp worms or grubs, cast out and let your rig hit bottom. Then, just retrieve it with a slow, steady grind. The bites are the solid tap-tap-tap variety. If you’re using bait, just let it soak until the fish find it.

For much more info, check out my ebook, Light Tackle Surf Perch. Available today. Get the book now for the Amazon Kindle.

Surf Perch ebook cover

Related articles:
Light Tackle Surf Perch


  1. jim Seabolt says

    Looking for some surf perch gear I saw last weekend. It looked like a spreader bar type of thing that had two or three small wires off the main shaft o tie small leaders on and hook your weight on the end of the main. Anyone have a clue?

  2. Dennis Dahlstrom says

    I just got into the surf perch fishing on the Washington coast last spring and had a ball. Now that hunting season is over and I am starting to get bored I was wondering if it is any good to perch fish in the winter time or is it a waste of time? I went clam digging today and the surf looked great. Saved my clam necks so I am ready to go if it is worthwhile.
    Thanks for your answer.

  3. Kevin says

    Is there perch in the oxnard area. and does anyone know of a good fishing spot? near here. biking distance please

  4. Butch Krauth says

    OMG, Surf Perch fishing is a complete kick, I’ve fished from Santa Cruz to Monterey and believe me there are a ton of places to hook up with some great fishing. I found out by accident one day fishing for Stripers at the mouth of the Salinas river when a 2 pound Red Tail nailed my shrimp. I went home and rigged up much lighter with very small twin tail grubs about an inch long in motor oil color (local liquor store tackle), and about 1/2 ounce sliding sinker above a two foot leader. 10 fish in about 2 hours! I was soaked but had a great time that I have repeated more times than I can count.

    • says

      Hello Butch,
      About what time of year did you catch these perch? I live in San Mateo and have always gone for bigger game. It would be nice to take my kids along the beach for some fishing. Thanks Rick

  5. Tom Markle says

    I’ve surf fished for red tail with light gear for 40 years. I’ve always down well from Capitola to Washington State. They are a great eating fish when filleted properly taking the center bones out with a small V cut after filleting. Lots of fun catching and releasing also. tj

  6. Cecil Taylor says

    I’m so glad I found this site through Sep’s show on saturday’s on KHTK 6 to 8 am. I haven’t been steelhead fishing , but thanks to the web site i’m going to give it a try. Then get with my friends to go surf fishing

  7. casey newman says

    what can you suggest for a first timer at grays harbor i have never caught a surf perch before but am very excited to try it thanks for any help

    • Casty Mctangles says

      Well since you posted your question a year ago I am guessing your questions may have been answered but if not I will tell you what works best for us. First off we always use Razor clam necks for bait though if you are not an avid “Digger” then you may want to try the Berkley gulp worms, sand shrimp or whatever you can find that works well. One old timer even told me that Boloney works (go figure!). I use 10# to 15# monofiliment main line on a spinning reel. On the main line I slide on a small plastic bead, then a small plastic tube with a swivel attached. I have no idea what they call these things but you can find them at just about any sporting goods that sells fishing tackle. After running my mainline through the tube whatchamacallit, I slide on another small plastic bead then tie a barrel swivel to the end of my mainline. For leader I use about four to five feet of 10# test monofilament and an octopus hook at the end. I attach my weight to the swivel on the tube watchamacallit. I have found that a 2 ounce pancake style weight works best for just about every surf condition. It sounds complicated but its a really easy rig to tie. I use the same rod that I use for Steelheading but I’ve got friends that even use trout rods and they seem to do just fine. If you think you are going to stay dry…think again, if you fish in Washington you need to wade into the surf. You should invest in neoprene or waterproof breathable chest waders if you want to do it like we do. Wade into the surf to about your waste and fling that bitch out there. PAY ATTENTION TO THE TIDE!!! and watch behind you as well as in front. Last week a buddy and I failed to do so and very nearly had to swim. We didn’t realize we were fishing on a sand bar while the tide was coming in. Stupid I know, we know better but got caught up in the moment because the fishing was so good. Drowning in the Pacific is not the way you want to finish off your fishing trip. Good luck and keep Clam.
      Casty McTangles

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