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   Southern California

 Surf Fishing Report

May 2023


     April began with more spring storms but transitioned into fair weather for most of the month. Cold, off color water slowly gave way to cleaner but still cold water. San Diego beaches saw temperatures as low as 52 degrees. By month’s end, water temps were pushing the 60 dergree mark and fishing showed signs of life.

     On the northern front, the barred perch spawn began in earnest with spawners showing on many beaches and big hens reported to 15 inches. The southern beaches saw the year’s first grunion runs and with it a solid show of short and legal halibut both on ther beaches and in the lagoons.

     There were several, double digit fish topped by a 24-pound fish cught in a logoon on live smelt. A few striped bass were reported taken near the creek mouths off Ventura and Oxnard. Cold water temps kept many species dormant.


            Fair weather and strong, new moon, tides combined to boost the barred perch bite, according to Hook, Line and Sinker. The spawn is underway with lots of ripe fish showing. The overall quality has also been good. Two fish measuring 15-inches were checked into the shop. Several 12- to 14-inch fish were also reported. The best stretch for a wall hanger has been between Elwood and Black Rock extending south to the Goleta Pier. Carpinteria to Oxnard has been another good stretch. Halibut anglers found a few legal fish along East Beach. A handful of 2- to 4- pound striped bass were also reported.


            Improved weather and robust tides had the barred perch on the bite along several beaches, according to Just Fishing. Good catches were reported from County Line, below Mugu, El Segundo, Hermosa and Torrance Beach. Lots of 6- to 10-inch fish to go with a few kickers to 12-inches. The fish are aggressive and taking most offering including lugworms, mussel, Gulp 2-inch Sandworms and grubs. Another grunion run drew more halibut shallow. The bite is still a pick but the trend is good and warmer water will make it better. Flash Minnows have been a good search bait. Long Beach waters closed due to sewage spill.


     Much improved beach conditions and new moon tides made for solid barred perch fishing, according to Big Fish and Ketcham Tackle.  Most anglers found limit-style fishing along many county beaches. Good catches were reported from Bolsa Chica, Huntington Cliffs, River Jetties, Salt Creek and T-Street. The fish are smaller, ranging from 4- to 7- inches with a few kickers to 10. Lugworms, bloodworms and mussel have been top baits. Hogan’s reported some legal halibut catches along Capo Bay beaches. Doheny, the pier and Cottons Point have kicked out fish to 30-inches. The bite is still a scratch with the chilly water but poised to improve rapidly.


            The bay bass fishing stole the spotlight with a red hot bite in the harbors, bays and lagoons, according to Pacific Coast. The wet winter deprived the fish of feeding opportunities and despite the cold water seem to be making up for lost time. One angler caught and released 30 fish in a session, another caught and released 100 fish in 3- days of fishing. Swimbaits, underspins and soft jerk baits have been getting bites. Top fish was an 18 ½ -inch dandy taken in the Carlsbad Lagoon. Even with fair weather, a grunion run and good tides, the halibut bite was a scratch in the colder than usual water.         

Gundy Gunderson

Thank you Brian, Dan, Jason, Team Bobo  and to all the anglers for their great reports and photos…

PLEASE keep them coming!




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What To Look For This Month

Look for a series of south swells to come up the coast durring the month of May.  Five storms will be sending swells from just south of Australia toward Southern California over the next three weeks.

Synopsis:  It’s May and this month will always be remembered for the 2004 catch by Scott Matthews of the colossal record setting 7lb 15oz corbina IGFA All-Tackle World Record in Mission Bay.  In other words May is a great month for corbina!

     May has always been know as the transition month from winter/spring to summer.  Sand crabs are now speading out along the beach.  The water temp in Southern California is finally 60 degrees…which means sand crabs are on the surface, losing their shells and filling full of eggs.  There no better time than May to go down to the beach to surf fish.

     The other great new (besides hopefully all the storms are over from the north) is that we can expect up to five south swells to race across our shores this month.  All swells, so far, are originating in the South Pacific near Australia.  These storms will begin to be augmented by hurricanes that originate off Vera Cruz Mexico (Just above Guatamala) and move their way north toward Southern California.

    South swells bring warm clear water to our beaches but they also bring in sand…much of which we lost this summer.  Newly deposited sand will hold crabs, clams and worms and help to improve fishing.

     During May,  I often like to use sand crabs (as they begin to be everywhere) and worms.  Both lug and bloodworms also work great this time of year.  Halibut will be coming into the shallows both during the new moon and full moon to follow grunion.  BattleStar, Lucky Craft and Rapalla minnows will work great when fished near structure at peak high and low tide periods.

     Early morning and late afternoon will be your best time to find the big fish.

Grunion Runs Are Back! 

Observation Months 2023: March, April, May, June  Collection Months 2023: July and August (Limit 30)  Halibut often feed near shore before, during and after a run


  • 5/5 Fri  9:30 pm – 11:30 pm
  • 5/6 Sat  10:05 pm – 12:05 am
  • 5/7 Sun  10:40 pm – 12:40 am
  • 5/8 Mon  11:20 pm – 1:20 am
  • 5/19 Fri  9:30 pm – 11:30 pm
  • 5/20 Sat  10:00 pm – 11:59 pm
  • 5/21 Sun  10:35 pm – 12:35 am
  • 5/22 Mon  11:10 pm – 1:10 am

Temp:  57, north.  61, south. (Warmer)  Water temps will rise considerably this month and help to improve fishing.

Water temps have a lot to do with surf fishing.  You’ll notice here that blue represents cooler water along much of the Baja and CA coast.  Over the summer you’ll see surface temps change as warm water moves north and the map turns from blue to green, yellow and eventually red

Tides:Excellent tide movement around the full moon on 5/5 and new moon on 5/19.  These will be especially good times for both perch and halibut fishing.  Both follow the grunion as they stage, then make their way onto the sand to spawn.  Don’t be surprised if you also find yourself in a wide-open yellowfin croaker bite as they love small anchovy and grunion.

Winds:  The last storms of winter come as a cutoff low and it looks like we’ll see 10-15mph westerly afternoon winds with slight morning offshore.  Winds should be calm during the first weekend of May and then return to a southwest flow and marine layer through the remainder of the month.  As may is very unpredictable for rouge storms do expect that if black clouds are on the horizon the winds from the west may be back too.

Swell:The last vestiges of winter are sending us a cutoff low and wind from the west.  But this will end during the second week of May and be replaced by a series of south swells originating south of Australia.  These south swells are the beginning of summer and mark the transition from a north to south (cold) long shore current to a south toward the north (warm) long shore current.

Good luck and good Fishng!

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


Surf fishing reports compiled by

Gundy Gunderson and Bill Varney


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