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   Southern California Surf Fishing Report

January 2024

Happy New Year Everyone!

     Wow, I don’t need to tell you about the latest swell or the destruction it brought but the good news is that this huge surf will reshape the beach and expose winter food that will drive surf fish crazy!

     Surf fishing last month provided one of the best Decembers on record.  Halibut and of course perch…but corbina were the star with many caught from Hermosa to Coronado.  No question warm water is what has kept the fish here and biting.  Now, after this massive swell, it’s anybody’s guess where the corbina, spotfin, yellowfin, striper and perch will be.

     I’d guess they will be found in their usual winter spots…near rocks, jetties, harbor entrances and inside bays and estuaries.  Here’s a look back at some of the beaches over the last couple of weeks (before the big swell):

SANTA BARBARA/VENTURA

Up until the last few days fishing in Santa Barbara and Ventura (and along the way) has been very good.  Great catches of large barred surfperch on Gulp, worms and hard baits.  Halibut fishing has been a bit slow but should pick up once the swell drops and fish can begin to search again for food.  The really big news is that corbina have been seen swimming around the harbor, near the sand spit and next to the boat launch, inside the harbor.  I’d try fishing there.  Last week a nice size corbina was taken on a Gulp worm at La Conchita.  It’s very late in the year for corbina this far north and really is a testament to how warm the water still is.

MALIBU/SOUTH BAY

The Malibu coast has been a hot spot all December.  From Santa Monica to Malibu the perch fishing has been phenomenal for larger barred perch.  Bonito have been biting on the bobber and feather just south of Topanga Canyon Rd. in the evening on calm wind days.  Up the coast toward Leo Carrillo, halibut, calico bass and perch have been on the bite.  Areas like Leo where sand meets offshore rocks is a great place to target these fish.  Hard baits, Gulp and live bait (worms, ghost shrimp, mussel, clams and sidewinders) will all work.

     Farther south in Manhattan and Hermosa the corbina train continues with a few 20+inchers being caught.  Two Manhattan anglers reported in last week with 60 fish days on barred, walleye surfperch, yellowfin croaker and two corbina.

ORANGE COUNTY

In Hungington Beach, the stretch from Anderson Street to the Huntington Cliffs has been producing!  Yellowfin, corbina, walleye and barred perch have been there in great numbers.  Some anglers have reported 30+ days of this combination.  

     With corbina still biting almost all the way from Santa Barbara to San Diego I would suggest to continue to target them.  Several have been caught on lures (lucky craft and grubs) but I’d concentrate on fresh blood worms (or lug worms) and walk the beach during calm times to sight fish for them.  They will be searching the beach for the last time before retiring to the inner waters of the bays and estuaries and should be very hungry.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY

San Diego recently has produced some of the largest barred perch I’ve seen in years.  Way back in the day one of the very best places for catching large surfperch was the TJ slough along Imperial Beach.  This area stopped producing big fish once the pollution took over the estuary.  Yet, in the last few years we’ve seen some very large fish all around north county…which must be a result of the work on the estuaries all along the northern San Diego beaches.

     Corbina reports have been scarce (which makes sense as many corbina migrated north as the water warmed in late summer) but there have been numerous reports of legal halibut being caught near the Carlsbad power plant outlet, along Ponto Beach and near the Mission Bay Jetty.

     For perch La Jolla seems to be one of the better spots but again look for action near where rock meets sand…there are spots like this along the coast…just drive the beach and you’ll find them.

Thank you Brian, Glen, Tony and to all the anglers for their great reports and photos…

PLEASE keep them coming!

Check out my new article in

Fish Taco Chronicles:

Winter Perch Fishing For Slabs

Up-Coming Article for February:

Surf Fishing Baits: How to Prepare and Preserve Bait for Later Use

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What To Look For This Month

Spinning off Alaska’s Aleutian Islands the next set of large swells are poised to hit Southern California on January 2, 2024.  Look for this pattern to continue throughout the month.

Synopsis:  January is always a month with bad weather.  This year it’s bad and mean!  But big weather also provides glass-half-full opportunities when it reshapes the beach and also expose rock and forage that fish are attracted to.

     Throughout the month of January, February and March we will see a series of storms reshape the beach.  Rivers, like the Santa Ana will empty out and change the landscape along with every mile of the beach where sand is taken and redeposited.  Most fish don’t like this so they will find places to hide.

     Concentrate your efforts on fishing spots that are near/adjacent to structure: Jetties, harbor entrances, rock outcroppings, bays, harbors and estuaries.  Concentrate on placing your bait where sand or mud meets rock.  This is where fish will be searching for food.

  Your very best baits for January will be worms (both blood/Lug), sidewinder crabs and ghost shrimp.  For lures use motoroil 1 1/2″ to 3″ grubs and for halibut and big surf fish try kastmasters, krocociles, Lucky Craft 110 and BattleStar stick baits.

     There are some 7+’ tidal changes this month which will be great for collecting sidewinders and mussle from the rocks along with giving you the chance at minus tide to cast in front of your favorite jetty.  Slack tide periods will be ideal for halibut fishing.  Again, remember that most fish, and halibut in particular, will be hunkered down next to rock structure.  Fish the edges of this structure during slack low and high tide periods (right at the low or high’s peak) to find biting halibut.

     One last tip for January…South facing beaches (Malibu, El Pescador, El Matador, Piedres and Leo Carrillo) are much less effected by winter swells.  You’ll find some fantastic perch fishing (barred, walleye and calico) along these beaches when you fish where sand meets rock.

   Time your trips between storms, swells and at the right tide and your guaranteed in January to catch fish at the beach!

Check out these cools baits from Honey Badger Custom Baits

You’ll find more on these great surf baits HERE

Grunion Runs Are Over For 2023 

Observation Months 2024: March, April, May, June  Collection Months 2024: July and August (Limit 30)  Halibut often feed near shore before, during and after a run

Temp:  62 south, 61 north (a bit cooler).  Wow 62, still warm for this time of year.  Warm water, storms and big swells always signal El Nino.  Look for water temps to cool after each successive storm but remain well above last year’s 52 degrees.

Tides:  (Don’t forget your CCA Sportfishing Tide Calendar HERE)  January begins, thankfully, with very mild tide changes from 1/1 until 1/7.  Jan. 11th signals the new moon with tides from 1/8 until 1/27 being active.  Look for the biggest tide swings of the month (7+’) to occur on 1/8,9,10,11,12,13 and 1/22, 23,24,25.  You’ll have great perch fishing these days and get bait catching on jetty rocks.  Also, this is the time of year to fish the front edges of those jetties you could never reach before.

Thanks Turner’s San Marcos for hosting our Surf Fishing with Grubs Seminar!

Winds:  Winds should remain light in the mornings with a southwest fetch.  This will be especially true on rainy days.  Afternoon winds will be 10-15 knots from the northwest.  A few days this month may have very calm conditions, especially those days just before a storm. 

Swell:   Recent swells from the Northwest have battered the California coast with 10-15′ surf.  This is the first storm of this size since the 1968 El Nino event. Over the next few weeks we will experience  very large surf accompanied by wet and windy conditions.  Offshore bouys have reported swells to 35′ just 175 miles west of Southern California.  Although the size of the surf will decline the waves will still be very large for the next three weeks.  After that, it’s anyone’s guess as to when the next storms and wild surf will hit the coast.  In previous El Nino years there was a succession of large storms and swells that lasted until May.

WATER CONTACT ADVISORY

The recent rain has increased the risk of high bacteria levels in the surf-zone from runoff. As a reminder, there is an increased risk of high bacteria levels for at least 72 hours following any measurable rain-event (usually 0.1″ or more) during which time water contact should be avoided.

Follow Pacific Hurricanes Here:

(hurricanes will begin again in June)

www.eebmike.com

Good luck and good Fishng!

  

Surf fishing reports compiled by

 Bill Varney

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