Surfperch have arrived on Oregon shores. Those who do not fish for surfperch, or don’t know someone who fishes for them, are unlikely to get a chance to taste this fish. These fish can rarely, if ever, be found in fish sections of supermarkets.
The May 23 recreational fishing report by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife describes surfperch fishing as “good” during periods of small ocean swells and incoming tides. ODFW’s website names late spring through early summer as the best times of year to fish for surfperch.
Persons of varying ages and strengths can cast for surfperch. These fish average roughly a pound in weight, but the bag limit for surfperch is 15 fish per day. ODFW notes that schools of surfperch will frequently come within 30 feet of the shore. Their bite feels much more rapid than the pull of the surf. Many stories circulate among surfperch anglers about how the smallest and youngest person in the group with the shortest cast and the least amount of fishing experience landed the most fish.
Many of the specifics regarding tackle are contested among anglers, although tying off two hooks is a common surfperch fishing method to allow the perch have a better window to strike in the rough surf. These discussions may entail what size or type of sinker to use, hook size, types of bait, monofilament versus braided line, swivels versus mainline only or line strength.
ODFW’s surfperch flier describes a common setup of No. 2 or No. 4 hooks and a pyramid sinker tied about a foot below two three-way swivels or loops spaced around 16 inches from each other. Some anglers prefer to use a claw surf casting sinker or a spider sinker instead of a pyramid sinker, but all of these sinker types are adequate for digging into the sand.
The flier also recommends using a nine to eleven foot pole and a reel with a spool capacity of at least 200 yards of 15-pound to 30-pound monofilament line. This might sound like overkill for a fish that may be less than a pound in weight, but the heavy tackle is necessary for dealing with the rugged surf conditions.
The right amount of weight to use depends on the strength of the tide and surf. ODFW recommends two to six ounces of weight for relative stability. Anglers should usually rig a 3-ounce to 5-ounce weight unless fishing in glassy ocean conditions or a storm at high tide. Too much weight can cause the sinker to get too buried in the sand, but a lack of weight for the given conditions will cause frustrations through missed hook-ups and tangled tackle.
Bait for surfperch can vary greatly: sand crabs right on the beach, artificial worms, live pile worms or nightcrawlers, and sand shrimp are all well-tested attractants for surfperch. For anglers that do not know what is “hot” currently, anglers can almost always receive solid advice concerning baits from the nearest fishing store to the beach. ODFW’s fishing report declared sand shrimp and Berkeley Gulp sand worms as the most successful baits.
Only an Oregon fishing license is required by the state for surfperch fishing. A successful outing usually ends up leaving participants muscle sore in at least one area. For anglers that need or want some assistance with holding their surf pole for hours, try investing in a sand spike to place your rod in after casting. If fishing with a sand spike, anglers need to keep a close eye on their rod tip to ensure fish are not escaping.