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Surfperch thrill surf fishing anglers

hen I first started fishing the Oregon coast, I didn’t have much money to spend on gas, bait and tackle, so I quickly became privy to the kinds of fisheries where you didn’t have to spend an arm and a leg to bring home the bacon. That’s when I quickly started honing in on the most cost-effective fisheries in the ocean like surf fishing, jetty fishing and tide pool fishing.

When surfperch are biting, it is without a doubt the most cost-effective fishery on the coast, and they’re biting right now with fervor.

There are only two things you need to know about surf fishing for surfperch. Fish bite the best on an incoming tide, and they make great fish tacos.

Ginger Rogers of Merlin, Oregon and her husband limited out on a variety of surfperch while surf fishing with raw shrimp at various Brookings-area beaches on Wednesday and Thursday. Photo by the author

Fish the tides for best results
Always fish the incoming tide if you want to catch limits of surfperch. Don’t waste your time fishing on an outgoing tide; that is unless you just want to stand out there in the sand and not catch anything at all. So naturally a tide book is your best friend when surfperch fishing — and a watch or something that tells the time.

Fred Meyer offers free tide books whose times already have the tide corrections listed for the Brookings-Harbor area, specifically at Chetco Cove.

There are really two basic times when surfperch bite the very best — on an incoming high tide and at high slack.

So if you want to maximize your time the most effectively, time your trip so that you will arrive at your destination at least three hours before high tide, and fish the incoming high tide, through high tide, and then maybe one-half hour after the turn of high tide as the tide is going out.

It just so happens that next week is full of picture-perfect incoming high-tide scenarios.

Let’s take a look at today’s (Saturday, April 4) tide cycles and, just so we’re on the exact same page, let’s take a look at the tide book that Fred Meyer offers for free.

Turn to the April 2015 section and look at April 4, and focus on the figures listed under “HIGH WATER”.

The light-face text lists a.m. times, and the bold-face text lists p.m. times.

Looking at April 4, you can see that 12:43 is listed in bold-face text. So high tide, also known as high slack, or the most-extreme part of high tide is listed as being at 12:43. Any time after 12:43 will be on the outgoing tide — forget about it — the fishing sucks — do not go fishing — waste of time — no workie!

So if you want to fish three hours before high tide and fish the best part of the tide cycle, you will want to arrive at your fishing destination and be ready to make your first cast at 9:43 a.m. It is almost a guarantee that at some point during this three-hour period, the fish are going to snap.

On the following Sunday, high tide is listed at 1:21 p.m. So the correct call here is to arrive at your destination and be ready to make your first cast at 10:21 p.m. And so forth and so on.

Some people like to arrive at their destination and fish at least four hours through the high tide to stretch their day out a little more.

You can often see the dorsal fins of the surfperch huddling together between the breakers, looking like a mini tide rip. Often, they won’t be very far from shore, so don’t make the mistake of casting out too far. Sometimes the surfperch are right at your feet.

When the tide starts turning from high slack to an outgoing tide, you can often see these fins slowly moving away from the beach. If you are lucky enough to detect these fins, this means that they are making tracks for safe haven, hanging out in deeper parts of the ocean close to the surf zone, awaiting another incoming tide cycle that allows them to feed on all those gnarly critters that are in the surf.

Folks are catching most of their surfperch on small quarter-inch pieces of raw shrimp. You can buy a whole bag of these shrimp for less than $10 in the frozen food section at Fred Meyer, the kind that comes between 30 and 50 to the bag.

People are also knocking the socks out of surfperch using the 2-inch Berkley Camo-colored Sandworm. So if you are allergic to shellfish or just feel like catching your perch on artificials, try using these great baits.

You’ll want to rig up with a sinker on the bottom of your 20-pound main line, with the sinker ranging between 4 and 8 ounces, depending on the strength of the tide. About 18 inches above your sinker, tie a loop, and 18-inches above that tie another loop. Inside the loops insert between a size-6 and size-4 snelled bait holder hook setup.

Make your cast and take up the slack. If you don’t get a bite within 10 minutes, start reeling in your sinker 6 inches every 30 seconds, and do this until your gear is at your feet. If you don’t get a bite within a half hour, move to another spot.

Jim Carey or Larry Cody at the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach will show you exactly how to rig up and steer you in the right direction as far as spots go.

Also go into Four M Tackle in Harbor, and ask Clay Mansur where the local hot spots are, or head to the Chetco Outdoor Store in Harbor for local advice as well.

The most important thing to remember is to fish the incoming high tide and through high slack. By the way, these fishing times are also the best times to fish for rockfish and lingcod in the ocean as well. Use this little nugget of information to your best advantage and you’ll be the fishing hero in your neighborhood.

Tight lines!

Larry Ellis, author, writer, columnist and photographer has had a 50-year passion for fishing in California and Oregon's saltwater and freshwater venues. He is a well-known writer for Oregon, Washington and California Fishing and Hunting News, Northwest Sportsman, California Sportsman and Pacific Coast Sportfishing. He currently writes monthly for Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine, and is the weekly fishing columnist for “On the Water” for the Curry Coastal Pilot Newspaper. He particularly loves living in his hometown of Brookings, Oregon - The heart of salmon country and gateway to fishing paradise.

On the Water in Oregon by Larry Ellis is posted with permission of the Curry Coastal Pilot of Brookings, Oregon.

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