Some simple tips for surfperch season
The Sportsman’s Report
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By Bill Hanson  April 11, 2014 12:00 am

It is time to catch surfperch. This is a sport carried out while standing in the surf with a long fishing pole and the desire to catch a great fighter.

If you have yet to try this, you must do a few simple things. 

First, hit the bait shop for some good advice. I already have a long surf rod with 20-pound test line. You can get by with any light tackle set-up.

The bait shop guy suggested you tie a Carolina rig or slip rig, which is a bullet shaped weight with a hole through the middle. The line is then threaded on with a swivel tied at the end.  Use a swivel that is too big to pass through the bullet weight about two feet down from the weight, because this allows the line to easily be pulled through when a fish bites, and it allows a good, long cast without fouling the line.

Then, tie on a two-foot leader with one or two hooks. Try a No. 4 snelled bait hook and a smaller hook closer to the weight.  An excellent bait is a 2-inch cut of Sandworm Nereis by Berkley in their ‘Gulp’ style in camouflage color. Or you can use a hunk of live bloodworm or bait shrimp. All will hold up well in the churning waves. The Carolina rig is designed to let the bait float naturally centered over the bit of lead. When the fish bites and turns tail, you feel it right away. They are fighters, so have a good time fighting with a hookup…you will love the action.

Next on your list is to read the wave action. Look for the hidden sand bars in the surf.  Find the spot where the waves do not quite meet, and a still water section forms.  The sand may give you a hint with swales on the high point. Fish the break just off the sand bar. Often there is a bit of foam that lingers on the still water, and this is where they like to hang out. 

Opinions differ, but I find the best luck is halfway after the low tide mark. Fish from two hours before high tide to two hours after because the fish work this flood tide to pick up critters that wash back out from the beach.

With your pole and bait, you will be standing in ice-cold surf. Use the Farmer John part of your wet suit or chest waders. 

You will also need a big vest for the net, bait, creel, extra hooks, etc. I try to take as little as possible into the water, but you should be careful where you leave your bucket/cooler/beach chair. You will be fishing a flood tide, and you just might hook your own chair in the surf.

OK, now what? Perch have scales, so you have two choices. Fillet them and toss the rest of the fish in the gut pile or scrape off the scales, gut and rinse. These are really good deep-fried, or pan-fried with a very light coating of salted flour.

They are also good steamed and served with a ring of rice, sauce with a blend of hot oil, sesame, soy , minced garlic and fresh ginger. 

The juices mix with the sauce and make a wonderful blend with the rice. A normal adult serving is two or three perch, so it takes a few to make a meal. They are sometimes up to three pounds, live weight. Experience will serve you well.


Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.

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