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           SURF FISHING REPORT    


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Southern California Surf Fishing Report January 2023

      The early part of December saw decent beach conditions but bone-chilling air temperatures and water temps in the very low 60s and mid to high 50s. Fishing was slow overall with the exception of a few quality halibut and the occasional striped bass. The sheephead fishing in the rocks was also strong, in fact it was one of the most consistent bites. As the month progressed more storms and winter-like conditions buffeted the southern California coast making for tough fishing conditions.

     Overall, the barred perch bite was the most consistent. Most anglers, on a better weather day, could post a limit or near-limit of fish. Most of the fish have been ranging from palm-size to hand size but there have been a few kickers up to 1 ½ -pounds. Look for this bite to improve with more quality fish starting to show. Good stretches have been Gaviota, Refugio,

     The sheephead bite was also strong with anglers scoring fish to 5-pounds on the shallow reefed beaches. Mussel and clam have been the best baits. A few sargo and cabezon have also been in the mix. Big Rock, El Pescador, PV, south Laguna and Seal Rock have been good places to look. Don’t fish light line, if you hope to land a good one.

     The striped bass radar should be switched on. A handful of fish were reported taken near the river and lagoon mouths. Recent rains have also released fresh water onto the beaches another striped bass attractant. Good places to look has been the mouth of the Ventura River, Dockweiler, River Jetties and Ponto.

     The halibut bite was slow for numbers but saw several 30-inch class fish checked in, most notably on the western Santa Barbara beaches. Spots like Gaviota, Refugio and El Capitan have been holding fish to 35-inches. Live bait and cut anchovy or sardine have been best. A hard jerk bait bite was developing at month’s end.


SANTA BARBARA— Slow fishing, overall, but there were some bright spots, according to Hook, Line and Sinker. The western beaches kicked out a few more legal halibut. The hard jerk baits were working this week scoring a few fish in the 30-inch class. Gaviota, Refugio and Hollister Ranch have been good stretches. The fish and bites are scattered so you have to cast and move, covering ground. The fair weather and good tides have also aided the bite. Barred perch anglers reported good catches of mostly smaller fish. The better models have ranged from 6- to 8- inches. Lugworms and bloodworms have been top baits. Gulp! Sandworms will also get a bite. Goleta, East Beach and Silverstrand have been good places to look. This bite should get better with improved conditions. A 6-pound striped bass was taken below Carpinteria. This has been a good stretch in past winters for striped bass. Swimbaits and cut anchovy are go to baits. Look for signs of bait. Leopards shark catches were reported from several beaches. The fish are smaller and taking cut squid.

MALIBU– Not a lot of action with the holidays, reported Wylie’s. Few anglers reported. Those that did made some catches. Anglers fishing below Mugu reported near limits of barred perch. The fish are smaller with the better models ranging from 6- to 8- inches. The fish were on the bite on better weather days. The perch are also plentiful on Malibu beaches but smaller ranging from palm-size to hand-size. Gulp! Sandworms, lugworms and mussel have been top baits. A few small yellowfin croaker have also been in the mix. The reef bite has also been decent with anglers picking at a mixed bag. The fish are on the bottom but taking cut squid and shrimp. The catch has been a mix of calico bass, sand bass, sargo, cabezon, yellowfin croaker, johnnie bass and chocolate rockfish. Not a lot of bites but a few quality fish.

REDONDO BEACH– The barred perch bite was a best bet this week, according to Just Fishing. Most anglers posted a limit or near-limit. The fish are small, ranging from palm-size to hand-size but biting aggressively on the better days. A few small yellowfin croaker have also been in the mix. Catches were reported from Dockweiler, near the Manhattan and Hermosa piers and off west Torrance beach. A few striped bass catches were reported off El Segundo, both fish were taken on cut anchovy aimed at a halibut. The fish were around the 5-pound mark. Look for more catches as winter conditions take hold. The halibut bite was slow as few anglers were on the beaches. But those who gave it a shot were not shut out. There were scattered bites with good numbers of legals in the mix. No big fish with the better models pushing 30-inches.

SEAL BEACH– The yellowfin croaker showed up off the water tower again, according to Big Fish. The fish were pushing bait outside the breakers. Some of the better models have been pushing the 5-pound mark. The spoon bite has been best with Krocodiles, Colt Snipers and Kastmasters doing the job. Look for the birds to tip you off to the fish. Long rods that can make big casts are best. The barred perch bite was good for smaller models on Sunset, Bolsa Chica and Huntington beaches. Most anglers can post a limit of smaller fish ranging from 4- to 6- inches. Small shiner perch and a few yellowfin croaker have also been in the mix. Lugworms have been the hot bait. The halibut bite has been slow but there are a few bites to be had. Catches were reported in the harbors and on the open beaches. A lot of smaller fish ranging from 15- to 20- inches but a fair share of legals to 28-inches. You have to put in some time but there are bites to be had. The bay bass bite has been good in the main channels. Creature baits dragged on the bottom have been working.

NEWPORT BEACH– The barred perch bite improved this week with good weather and clean water. The fish are mostly small but biting aggressively. Lugworms and Gulp! 2-inch Sandworms have been top baits. The grub bite has also been strong with clean water on the beach. Clear/red flake and motor oil colors have been working best. Catches were reported from Newland, River Jetties, the street jetties and near the piers. Halibut reports have been slim but few anglers have been targeting them. A few reports came from River Jetties where anglers scored a few legal fish on live smelt. The swell was down so it was a good opportunity to fish the live bait. A few other baitfish were reported taken at the harbor mouth on cut anchovy. A couple of chunky sandbass and bay bass also took the bait. The long rodders scored a few yellowfin croaker off the street jetties. The fish were small ranging to 2-pounds but taking lugworms. A few sargo were also in the mix. Bay bass fishing was tough with cold water in the harbor.

DANA POINT— Lugworms fished on light line has been the ticket, according to Hogan’s. The carolina-rigged bait has been taking a mix of barred perch, shiner perch, yellowfin croaker and a few sargo. The stretch from the San Clemente Pier, south has been a good one. Strands and Salt Creek has been another good stretch. No large fish but decent action for December. No big news on the halibut front. Dedicated anglers are scratching at mostly short fish with a handful of legals to 25-inches. Not a lot of bait in the surfline so the fish are scattered. You have to cover some water to find success. The sheephead bite has been good on some of the shallow reefs above Cottons Point. Clam has been a top bait taking fish to 4-pounds. Sargo, barred perch and a few sandbass have also been in the mix.

OCEANSIDE— Some halibut catches in the surf were a highlight, according to Pacific Coast. The stretch off south Carlsbad produced three legal fish in a the last several days. Surf perch pattern Flash Minnows have been hot. The bites are fewer but the quality is better. Another legal fish was taken on cut anchovy off the Campground. The only other catches reported came from the harbor where it was mostly short fish taking small plastics. The lagoon bite has been slow excepting a few 12- to 16- inch fish. The barred perch bite continued to improve on most beaches. Clean, cool water and good tides had the fish on the bite. Most are small ranging from 4- to 6-inches with a few better kickers to 8- inches. Shiner perch and small yellowfin croaker have also been in the mix.

SOLANA BEACH— The barred perch bite has been good on Mission Beach. Most anglers reported easy limits of 4- to 5-inch fish. There were a few better kickers but not many. Lugworms and mussel have been best natural baits. Grubs and Gulp! Sandworms have been the best artificials. Good catches were also reported off Torrey Pines and Imperial Beach. Some better models were in the mix off Imperial. This stretch is often overlooked and can produce some better quality barred perch. The rock hoppers off Point Loma have been scoring some chunky sheephead fishing clam and mussel off the rocks. Anglers report busting off some bigger fish. Better fish landed have been pushing the 5-pound mark.

Gundy Gunderson

Thank you to all the anglers for their great reports and photos… PLEASE keep them coming!

  What To Look For This Month

This week, 50′ seas, just 765 Nautical miles from Los Angeles will produce epic sized surf along the California coast with waves up to 20’+

Hazardous Condition Warning    NW swell (and more on the way) will increase the risk of rip currents and alongshore currents, and with severe hazards late Thursday the 5th through Friday the 6th. The NWS has posted rip current warnings as well.  Surf on West facing beaches may be 20’+.  Restrict near water activities and stay off jetties, breakwaters.

Water Contact Advisory    Recent rain has increased the chances of bacteria contamination in the surf zone from run-off.  Avoid water contact if you have any open sores, cuts, wounds, etc. for 72 hours after measurable rain.

Conditions    More rain on the way, winds problematic at times, the tide is swinging wide, water temps are holding steady for the most part, and advisories are in effect.

Synopsis: January can be a very stormy month.  Wind and swells from the north will dominate with periods of calm between storms.  This time of year often signals a big slow-down in surf fishing due to the upwelling caused by consistent west/northwest wind swells.

Now is a good time to work on your gear for spring but also a good time to find the calm period between wind driven swells and fish.  All surf fish this time of year, will congregate near rock structure for both security and a chance for food.  Because their metabolism has been slowed by cooling water a much slower retreive of both bait and lures is required.

I find some of my best perch fishing this time of year with a great many barred, walleye and calico surfperch.  Perch will be keyed in on bright colors (so use bright colored beads…red, orange, green) on your carolina rig.  Also, grubs, Gulp and DuraScent baits work well this time of year.  Apply them to your fishing spot with a fan casting motion.  So as to cover as much bottom as possible.  Always be in touch with your sinker and use  “hot sauce” to dunk your bait in as an attractant (I actually use two pouches of Taco Bell hot sauce in a small snack zip bag)

Remember to move along the beach and cover as much territory as possible, until you find fish.  I will generally take about six casts (in a fan casting pattern), then if no bites, move one-hundred yards down the beach and repeat.  Once I find the fish, I will often bring along one or two live baits (lug/blood worms, mussel/clam) and then fish them during the bite to see if I can catch a bigger perch.

One last note…Now begins the mating season for spawning surfperch.  When you catch the big one’s be sure to look and see if it’s a female and loaded with young.  If so, please place them gently back into the water to swim away.  This helps them get back to spawning without the trauma that accompanies a splash.

          Grunion Runs Over For 2022 

Observation Months 2023: March, April, May, June  Collection Months 2023: July and August (Limit 30)

Temp: 57, north.  60, south. (Lower)  

Tides:   Huge tide swings mid-month peaking on Jan. 21 with the coinsiding New Moon.  Great tide swings all month long with a fantastic transition into Feb. with full moon tides on 2/5.  Perch fishing, especially close to shore, will be very good during the high tide periods.  Concentrate on halibut during the lows when you are able to cover, often uncoverable, areas.

Winds:  Wiplash wind storms will rush the beach this month.  Expect a mix of offshore ENE direction winds accompanied by 30mph West winds after each storm.  During non storm periods expect there to be a light NW afternoon wind between 5-10mph.

Swell:  The entire month of January looks like a constant barrage of NW swells coming from storms in Alaska and BC.  There will be breaks but many areas may not recover for days.  Massive changes are happening at West facing beaches.  Take some time to visit your favorite spot at a very low tide to mark the changes.  Look for beaches that face south so they may block on-coming NW swells (Mugu, Throne-Broomhill, Leo Carrillo, Cabrillo, Sunset, Huntington, Newport Jetties…etc.).

Good luck and good Fishing!



Surf fishing reports compiled by

Gundy Gunderson and Bill Varney


     Send your pictures and reports to:  fishthesurf@mail.com 

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