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Bill Varney’s surf fishing articles. Catch halibut in the surf. Perch fishing tactics. Corbina baits and rigging, Spotfin croaker fishing and more.

Striped bass fishing in estuaries, bays and along the beach with Greg Silks

Striped Bass Fishing in Estuaries, Bays and Along the Beach

By Bill Varney Jr.

Over the last few decades there were so few stripers caught in the Southern California surf that catching one was almost considered a miracle.  Yet, over the past several years stripped bass catches have increased dramatically for anglers fishing estuaries, back bays and all along the beach.

S.W.A.T. team member Mikey of Santa Barbara takes a nice striper from the surf

S.W.A.T. team member Mikey of Santa Barbara takes a nice striper from the surf


Surprisingly, these fish have been caught up and down the coast rather than being relegated to one particular area.  The most notable catch in the past two years was a fish taken by Brad Baier in Newport beach just two summers ago.  Loaded with six pound test and a short strip of squid Brad landed a 40lb striper from the rocks in Newport Beach in the middle of the night.

Just last week another beautiful fish was taken along Dockweiler State Beach by Colin Rhodes who was also using a strip of squid that he had just launched into the surf.  It was about 3pm when Colin cast out into the surf.  As soon as his bait hit the bottom the fight was on.  After a couple great runs Colin brought the fish to the sand to the amazement of everyone around him.  These are just two of the dozens of reports I have received in just the last five years of striped bass catches.

I’ll admit that I’m jealous.  So to raise my chances of catching one from the beach (and striking it off my bucket list) I sat down with Cousins rod designer and professional guide Greg Silks to learn how to target this prized fish in the surf.

Striped bass are found in both fresh and salt water.  Besides being found inland, they can be caught along the West Coast in bays, estuaries and along the open beach.  Striper range from one to one-hundred pounds.  They often run up and down rivers and transit the coast looking for food.  Predatory by nature, they are always on the prowl for an opportunity to feed.

Transiting fish can travel as much as thirty miles per day in search of food and shelter.  From 1978 through 1980 Calfiornia Fish and Game stocked thousands of striped bass in Newport, Huntington and Long Beach harbors in hopes of introducing a new game fish to local anglers.

To take advantage of this great fighting game fish I sat down with Greg and asked him a few questions about how to get started.

What rod and reel combinations do you recommend for striper fishing?

“Always match the size of your rod and reel to the size of striper you are fishing for.  A good starting point is to use a seven to nine foot medium action rod matched to a four-thousand series spinning reel.  If you are fishing with live bait spool up with 6-12lb mono.

If you are fishing lures upsize your line to 20-30lb mono or a combination of braid with a mono top shot.  Lure fishing also allows you to use either a spinning outfit or a conventional outfit depending our what you like to use most.  You may want to downsize your equipment for fish under ten pounds and up size for those in the fifty plus range.”  Greg prefers monofilament to braided lines because of their stretch and their ability to be easily broken when snagged.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat rigging setup do you use for striper?

“Rigging depends on the size of fish and where you are fishing.  For live bait fishing I like to use the Carolina Rig.  In light current areas I may use a short as a six inch leader and as long as three feet in spots with ripping current.  My sliding sinker will range from ½ ounce to three ounces depending on current and area I am fishing.  When fishing light current I recommend a light sinker and employ a heavier sinker when the current is strong.  For hooks I like to use the Gamakatsu Octopus hook in sizes 1 to 2/0.

When fishing lures for striper I will tie a 110lb crosslock snap swivel to my main line and clip the lure to it.  This rig makes it easy and quick to change lures.  Both of these setups work well in both fresh and saltwater applications.

What kind of bait do you like to use for striper in the surf?

“Both artificial lures and live/fresh dead bait work well for striper.  Some of the traditional lures used over the years have been krocodiles, kastmasters, Rapalla minnows and recently Lucky Craft Flash Minnows.  I have developed a line of striper lures which you may view on my site:  These lures are from six inches to twelve inches long and offer both straight one piece and broken back models.

When it comes to live and fresh/dead baits you have a number of options.  Squid, mackerel, anchovy, sardine, chunk baits, blood and lug worms, crawdads, sidewinder rock crabs all work great for bait.  Look for the forage that occurs naturally in the place you are fishing and use that—it’s probably what the fish are eating!

Ok, now for my most important question:  Where do you find striper and have the best shot at catching one in the surf?

“As you know, stripers have been caught all along the coast, outside harbors and estuary entrances.  These fish are varacious eaters and spend all their time looking for food.  Striper can transit up to thirty miles per day looking for areas to forage.  Once they find a bait source they may stay there for hours or days.

STRIPER COLIN RHOADES 5 15One sure fire way to find them is to look for diving, feeding birds working areas of bait just offshore.  In cases like these I like to use a long rod and cast a lure into the frenzy.  Many times striper, in combination with other fish, will be pushing the bait up to the surface.  Because striper run in schools, if you find one you can be well assured others accompany them.

Another great area to find striper is near harbor and estuary entrances and near the end of jetties.  Fish these areas two hours before and after the high tide when large amounts of water are creating eddies where structure meets sand.

Without question the best time to fish for striper may be after dark.  Nighttime offers some cover for these fish and allows them to approach and forage on prey.  I like to fish them in any low light situation (sunrise, sunset and at night) and find that a high tide around 8pm is ideal for both low light and no light opportunities.

During the day areas that provide shade and a “light-break” over water are also good places to target.  Look for docks, bridges, overpasses and other structure which provides shade.  The right conditions here would include a combination of current and shade that set up a break or “wall”.  This is where fish will congregate.

Good stuff!  What tips would you have for anglers looking to catch a striped bass in the surf?

“ My first tip:  Be patient, look for the conditions we discussed above, learn the habits of these fish and pay attention to tide, light, bait and rigging once you begin to catch fish.

Once you hook a striper always keep you line tight to the fish.  Stripers have an uncanny ability to spit the hook–so any slack is your enemy–and will often allow the fish to disengage.  Accordingly, keep your line tight to the fish and fight it paying special attention to keeping the fish straight out in front of you.

Once you catch a striper remember to grip it by the tail and lift it from under the body.  Striper gill plates are very sharp and the larger fish will easily cut your fingers.

Last tip:  Striped bass are breeders and produce as many as 10,000 eggs per spawn.  They grow and reproduce quickly so go ahead and keep one—they make excellent table fare!

To learn more about striper fishing and Greg’s lures, rods and guide service visit his site: or give Greg a call at (951) 443-6130.

Shore Fishing in the Bay

Shore Fishing in the Bay

By Bill Varney Jr.

Wind and waves pound the coast and make surf fishing difficult in winter.  It’s no fun for the fish either.  Both food and a safe home along the open beach are scarce in winter so most surf fish move inside bays, harbors and estuaries during these cold-water months.

The warm calm water of the bay offers a great place to hide and feed while fish wait for spring.  Warmer water allows them to spawn and find various food sources in the bay.  Most inner water ways are chocked full of ghost shrimp, worms, clams and crabs which keep most fish inside the bay until spring when sand crabs and other forage become available along the beach.

TRACY DECKER CORBINA wonDuring fall, surf fish transition from the beach to the bay.  The first sign of cool winter water sends most of the sand crabs and other food along the beach into hibernation and signals it’s time for fish to find their way into warmer water.  In the spring, as the water warms in the inner waterways, fish sense a change and make their way out into the open water and along the beach to forage on beds of sand crabs.

Winter is a fantastic time to target both corbina and spotfin croaker in the bay.  Some of the biggest “surf fish” I’ve ever caught have been in the bay—where they thought they were safe from me!  So here are a few tricks and tips I employ to find, bait and catch croakers in the bay.

First let’s rod and reel up.  I have two rod and reel combos I like to use in the bay.  The first combo is for fishing bait.  Find the longest trout rod (7’-9’ is best) in your garage.  Look for one with a lot of bend that’s lightweight and easy to cast.  Match it up with a 2500-size spinning reel loaded with 6lb monofilament.  For your lure-casting rod I use an eight foot casting rod matched with a small bait casting reel loaded with 10lb monofilament.  Because you will be casting over and over straight out from shore this setup works great with Lucky Craft and Rapalla XRap lures, Krocodiles and Kastmasters.

For rigging lures on your casting rod, just tie lures directly to your main line.  For bait fishing you will need to employ the Carolina rig (sliding egg sinker, 6mm bead, swivel, fluorocarbon leader and hook).

Here’s where you will have a few variations from surf fishing.  In the bay when bait fishing, you’ll always want to use the lightest sliding egg sinker possible.  I deploy a 1/4th ounce sliding egg sinker followed by a bead, #12 black swivel and thirty inches of 6lb fluorocarbon leader material.  My hook is a # 2 Owner Mosquito Ultra Light hook.  This rig will give you a very stealth presentation, which is exceptionally important in a bay setting where there is very little current and remarkably clear water.

GHOST SHRIMP BAITLive bait choices vary in the bay but your best bet are lug/blood worms, clams and ghost shrimp.  All three work great on the Carolina rig and should be cast from shore and slowly retrieved along the bottom.  Although you can cast out and leave your bait in the “dead stick” position this method assumes the fish will find your bait.  Using a cast and slow retrieve motion allows you to cover more surface area where you are in charge of finding the fish rather than them finding you.

Finding fish in the bay involves location, location, location.  Fish tend to congregate near rocks and troughs in the bay.  Unlike the beach, bays tend to have very few changes in bottom structure.  In spring and fall, when fish are transiting into and out of the bay, fish near the opening/exit of the bay along areas where rock, piers, pilings and structure meet sand.  Look for swirling, foaming off-colored water as these current areas attract fish.

Fish also congregate near beds of eelgrass.  Finding these spots is a bit more difficult but pay special attention to areas where you become snagged and then unsnagged or even bring in a bit of eelgrass.  Make note of those areas and fish their edges.

Walk the bay at low tide and find the areas where a trough or ridge has formed.  Line that area up with something permanent and come back at high tide, line yourself up with the landmark and fish there.  Fish tend to feed in these areas as they make great ambush locations when edges are brushed by current and often expose crabs, clams and ghost shrimp—a bay food favorite.

DRE_HALIBUT_06_26_08The last piece of the puzzle is how tides effect fishing the bay.  Incoming and outgoing tides help move water and work by bringing forage to fish.  But some areas fish much better at a high tide or a low tide as determined by where the troughs, holes or structures are located.  Visit the bays you wish to fish at both tides and look for structure to see what tide works best in creating currents where water covers all the places fish call home.

When winter winds and waves move you off the beach try hitting the bay.  Down-size your rig and use baits like lures, worms, clams and ghost shrimp that big fish eat.  Find structure and moving water and make your cast there.  Then spread your feet and hold on cause big fish would like to see you wet too!

What is Light-Line Surf Fishing Anyway?


By Bill Varney Jr.

Every week my mailbox is flooded with questions about surf fishing.  Surprisingly, a good number of folks often ask me the difference between light-line and the old fashioned style of surf fishing we once practiced.  So I’ve put together a few of the questions anglers have asked to hopefully answer a few of everyone’s questions.

What is light-line surf fishing ?

Light-line surf fishing first hit the beach back in the early seventies when surfers turned fishermen tried lighter gear to catch surf fish.  Over the years, surf fishing has become much more refined as equipment manufacturers have put some great rods and reels on the market.  New lighter equipment along with a wide variety of baits has helped make light-line surf fishing popular.

What equipment do you use ?

When talking about light-line surf fishing there are two types of rods.  One rod is for the open beach and utilizes a spinning reel loaded with six-pound monofilament.  The other surf rod is used exclusively for throwing lures like kastmasters, korcodiles and hard baits.  This casting rod uses a conventional reel loaded with ten to twenty-pound monofilament.

For my beach spinning rod I prefer a seven to nine foot rod with parabolic to medium action.  Rods rated for four through sixteen-pound test line and a lure weight of one-half to one ounce all work well.  Many rods in the “steelhead” category fit these specs.

When it comes to a casting rod I prefer a seven to eight foot rod rated for ten to twenty-pound test monofilament.  Medium to heavy action is required of this rod for casting and retrieving lures.  The casting rod uses a small conventional reel and handles lure weights up to one ounce.

What is the best rig for the surf ?

Most of the time I just use one rig in the surf—the Carolina rig.  It’s very simple and effective way to present your bait.  The Carolina is made up of a sliding egg sinker, a bead, a swivel, eighteen-inches of leader and a hook.  You may vary the leader length and sinker size depending on the size of surf and the strength of the current.  For days with big surf and strong currents use a shorter leader and a heavier sinker, then you would on a calm day.  Always keep in mind how important it is for your bait to always be in contact with the bottom—as this is where the fish feed!

A second common rig for the surf is designed especially for fishing the elusive corbina.  This rig is a simple uni to uni knot that attaches thirty-inches of six-pound fluorocarbon leader to your main line.  With this rig just pin on a sand crab and fly line the bait into the surf.  If you need a bit of weight use a pinch on weight like a water gremlin.  Allow your bait to wash in and out with the surge of the waves and hold on—there’s a corbina on its way!

What baits work best in the surf ?

I break surf baits down into two general categories:  Live bait and lures.  With lures you have many choices.  For halibut hardbaits such as Lucky Craft Flash Minnows, Rapalla, Sebile, Yo-zuri and several other “sitck baits” work exceptionally well.  For other surf fish (like corbina, spotfin croaker and halibut) try three-fourths ounce Krocodiles and Kastmasters.  Both of these lures work well in the surf and attract a wide variety of surf fish.  When fishing for perch and the occasional corbina a Carolina rigged Gulp! sandworm or a one and one-half inch plastic grub seems to work great too.

For natural live bait the list is almost endless but the most common choices would be: Sand crabs, lug and blood worms, ghost shrimp, sidewinder crabs, mussels and clams.  Some of these baits can be purchased at your local tackle shop.  Others must be collected at the beach or in nearby marine areas near harbors, jetties and estuaries.  My suggestion is to call one of the many great tackle shops near the beach and ask them what bait they carry and where to use it.  You may also pick up a copy of my book, which gives details about how to find, catch and keep bait alive.

How do I find fish at the beach ?

There are a great many places to find fish at the beach but here are a few of my favorites:  When you first get to the beach find a high spot on the sand where you can see waves crashing on the beach.  Look up and down the beach for off-colored, foaming and swirling water.  This is where a rip current has formed.  If you find this you will find fish.  Approach the rip current from the side and fish it’s edges where clean water meets turbid water.

Another place for fish to hide at the beach is in the long shore trough.  When waves break, both an inside and outside troughs are formed.  The inside trough is just a few feet from shore.  You have seen it before (or even experienced it) when you see a surfer walk out and then drop into neck deep water.  Fishing is good here at high tide because forage is churned up in the trough and it is also a safe place for fish to hide.

Similar to the trough that forms near the beach, the outside trough forms beneath waves that break the farthest from shore and is a productive spot to fish at low tide.

My favorite place at the beach to fish during winter is around any rock structure.  Looks for jetties, harbor entrances and rock outcroppings.  This is where fish feed and hide during the winter months.  When first approaching a jetty or rock structure pay special attention to the direction of the swell.  Normally you will find that fishing on the opposite side of where the swell meets the rocks is most productive.  Fish use the eddy current, which is produced on the opposite side by the swell, to help them find food, air and a safe place to live.

Where can I learn more about surf fishing ?

There are countless places on the internet to find surf fishing information.  Start by looking at these sites:, , also check out surf fishing videos at  But without question, the very best place to find information about surf fishing is from your local beach tackle shop.  These shops speak with surf fishermen every day and know what bait, tackle and area have the best fishing.

Finding The Perfect Surf Rod

Finding The Perfect Surf Rod

By, Bill Varney


Over the years we’ve had some great on-the-beach surf fishing seminars and have seen thousands of different rod and reel combinations make they way to the sand.  Some have been right on the money and others, well let’s just say, were a bit lacking.

When it comes to surf fishing there are two basic surf fishing setups.   Long rods with heavy line used for casting and fishing outside the surf line.  You know the one’s you usually see in a sand spike along the beach.  And, light-line surf rods designed so surf fishermen can easily move along the beach and fish the inshore troughs, holes and rip currents.

Long rod surf fishing has been around for decades and many surf fishermen (including myself) started this way with twelve to fourteen foot Calcutta rods and Penn “Jigmaster” reels loaded with thirty-pound mono.  Although these rods were way too much overkill for fishing perch and corbina, they were essential equipment for fishing big sharks after dark.

In the 1970’s my buddies and I started fooling around with lighter equipment and fishing much closer to shore.  Although we still fished the sharks at night with heavy gear the lighter gear seemed to help us catch more fish and have a lot more fun during the day.  Since then, light-line surf fishing has become immensely popular, as folks have figured out how much fun it is to catch fish on light gear in the surf.

So let’s take a look at what characteristics make for a good rod and spinning reel for light-line surf fishing.  First, let’s start with picking the perfect rod for the surf.  There are four things I look for in a surf rod: weight, action, balance and sensitivity.

Rods come in three basic types or actions: fast action, medium action and parabolic or slow action.  A fast action rod has a very short taper near the tip (it’s very stiff) and is best suited for tuna or large game fishing.  A medium action rod bends from the middle up and is useful for heavier surf fishing and fishing from the rocks.  While a parabolic action rod has a tremendous amount of bend (all the way to the reel seat) and is very limber.  Parabolic rods work great for fishing the open beach, especially when a longer or more accurate cast is essential.  So for light-line fishing I prefer to use both a medium action seven to nine foot rod and a parabolic rod depending on the application. COUSINS SPINNING ROD PICTURE FOR STORE

The second item that is essential to a good surf rod is it’s weight—or lack of weight.  Unlike heavy rod fishing you will be walking the beach looking for fish and the best fishing conditions.  So a lightweight rod is essential.  Rod weight can vary based on the materials used to build the rod.  I prefer to use rods made with a graphite blank, cork grip and an ultra light plastic reel seat.  A nine-foot rod made with these components can weigh as little as six ounces which means less weight to carry and a lower amount of fisherman fatigue—especially after dozens of casts.

The third component of a great surf rod is finding one which is designed to have the rod balance over the reel.  That is, when holding the rod, the tip and the butt are at the same level when your hand is gripping where the reel meets the rod.  By having your rod balance over the reel seat it reduces the amount of stress and weight of the outfit and works in conjunction with a lightweight rod to reduce fisherman fatigue and improve castability.

The final and most important characteristic of the perfect surf rod would be its level of sensitivity.  When using graphite for building a rod blank you pick up a much greater amount of sensitivity not afforded to rods made exclusively of fiberglass.  Although graphite is in no way close to the strength of fiberglass, graphite is ultra lightweight and has a sensitivity that is unmatched by any other material.  Being able to feel every bite, every type of bottom and even the size of your catch during the fight gives you a clear advantage over fiberglass or other woven rod blank materials.

Now that we know how our rod should be built what about size and length as determined by the kind of surf fishing we do?  I generally break light-line surf fishing down into three categories: Open beach, sight fishing and fishing from the rocks.

When it comes to open beach fishing I’m generally walking the beach and casting off shore to find fish in the offshore trough on in near shore holes.  This would be about eighty percent of the time and in these cases I would employ a nine-foot rod with a very limber tip.  As rods are rated by line class and lure weight this nine-foot rod would have a line rating of four through twelve-pound test and a recommended lure weight of no more than 5/8 ounce.  Parabolic rods will allow you to cast long or short distances with extreme accuracy—which is essential when you are trying to drop your bait near a submerged rock on in a small offshore hole.

COUSINS ROD SHOT RON ALL RODSDuring the summer months when corbina swim in just inches of water I like to use a much shorter seven foot surf rod to sight fish.    When sight fishing, corbina swim very close to shore and a short accurate cast of ten feet or less is essential.  With a longer rod this is extremely difficult.  A shorter rod gives you the ability to aim and land your bait in a confined area at a short distance.

When it comes to fishing from the rocks I prefer to use a stiffer and longer rod.  Big fish come from between rocks and the certainty of landing one with a parabolic rod is extremely questionable.  In this case I prefer a nine-foot medium action rod.  Look for one that is rated eight though eighteen pound test with a lure weight capacity of about one ounce.  Longer, stiffer rods used from the rocks will allow you to direct fighting fish away from the rocks and help you with landing the fish once it makes it to the rock jetty’s edge.  One last benefit of the longer rod is the fact that it will be much easier for you to “un snag” your rig when it inevitably gets wedged between the rocks.

Unlike choosing a surf rod, spinning reel selection is quite a bit easier.  One rule seems to hold true when it comes to surf fishing: The sky is the limit when it comes to the price of a rod but when buying a reel don’t break the bank.  Modern surf rods are built to stand up to the harshest environments and when taken care of will last for decades.  Spinning reels on the other hand just need one splash of sandy salt water, one drop in the sand, one very windy day and they will seize up like your parents did when they saw your high school report card.

BRAD SPOTFIN 9 17Look for a spinning reel in the 2,000 to 3,000 size.  Shimano (Sedona/Sienna), Diawa, Okuma (Rox series) and Penn (Battle II series) make some excellent reels in the $35 – $100 range.  Shimano’s Senora and Sienna are great examples but I’d also take a look at Penn’s new Battle II 2500 spinning reel.  Penn has been working for years to perfect salt water reels used by fishermen in the Northeast who think nothing about wading out into ice cold sand filled water to fish.  The Battle II offers stainless steel and anti-reverse bearings that are shielded for improved corrosion resistance—essential to keeping sand out of your sensitive bearings.

When it comes to spinning rods for the surf Shimano, Phoenix, Lamiglas and Okuma offer several acceptable models.   Go out to your local tackle store and take a look at the rods yourself.  Use the guidelines that I’ve laid out and you’ll find a great rod for the surf.  And if you’re just starting out with surf fishing and it’s not quite time to drop a load of cash on a new rod take a look through your garage, dust off your longest trout rod and make your way down to the surf.  I guarantee you’ll catch fish and pray Santa brings you the perfect surf rod.

Fall Fishing Road Trips

Fall Surf Fishing Road Trips

By Bill Varney Jr.

The warm days of summer is a great time to get out for a surf fishing road trip but the truth is, I really enjoy hitting the road in fall with cool mornings, warm days, empty beaches and great fishing.

Two of my favorite spots to camp and fish in fall have to be Leo Carrillo State Park and northern Santa Barbara’s Jalama Beach.  Both offer great camping, wide open beaches and some of the best surf fishing for calico, barred, walleye and buttermouth surfperch along the Southern California coast.

leo carrillo beachLeo Carrillo State Park is located just north of Zuma Beach and provides both sandy beaches and offshore rock structure.  The park is located 28 miles northwest of Santa Monica on Pacific Coast Highway.  Fishing here is different than most Southern California spots because the beach is orientated toward the south.  Summer south swells can wash Leo Carrillo out at times but it’s almost always a go-to-spot throughout the year.

Leo Carrillo provides good fishing for a walleye, barred, orange mouth, and calico surfperch.  In warmer months, corbina cruzes close to shore while yellowfin croaker school in the fall and spring along the beach.  The best fishing here is near and around large rocks piles just off shore.

To find some great fishing drive into the park, under PCH, and up the coast to the farthest north parking lot.  Walk along the shore either way and look for rocks or rock groups just off shore.  These spots are best fished at medium to high tide.  If the tide is low wait for the water to fill in around the rocks.

CALICO PERCH 1 4 14     Downsize your tackle to a light 1/4th ounce egg sinker and an 18” leader on the Carolina Rig.  Use lug/blood worms, ghost shrimp, fresh mussel or sand crabs.  Cast right up against the large rocks and stay tight to your sinker.  As soon as you feel the fish pick up your bait reel down fast and pull up.  You’ll need to get the fish out of the rocks if you expect to get them to shore.

Day use and camping are both available here, with the day parking $15 for those who have not purchased an annual pass.  Although there is some construction now going on, Leo Carrillo State Park offers 1.5 miles of beach for swimming, surfing, windsurfing, surf fishing and beachcombing. The beach also has tidepools, coastal caves and reefs for exploring.  Park Information: (310) 457-8143


     Jalama Beach administered by Santa Barbara County is one of the most popular camping and fishing beaches on the West Coast.  Just one hour north of Santa Barbara, this beach is tucked in between Vandenburg Airforce Base and the Cojo Ranch.  The closest town is Lompoc home to the Air Force and civilians that work on ranches and the military base.

I’ve been camping here since 1975 and it has changed very little.  Because Jalama’s a very popular place to camp, if you find it full or you prefer to stay in a hotel the small town of Lompoc, just five miles from the turnoff (20 miles from the park), has everything you’ll need.JALAMA CAMP

Jalama offers a fully stocked store and restaurant, fire pits, hot freshwater pay showers, bathrooms, picnic tables, BBQ facilities, firewood, public phone (as cell phones don’t work here) self-contained and tent camping.  Jalama store offers the famous “Jalama Burger” the very best cheese burger on the coast.  There is no way you can come here without enjoying one—they are really that good!

We first came here to surf but quickly learned how good the perch fishing could be.  The beach offers both sand and rock areas that hold fish.  There are more than 4 miles of beach stacked to the gills with barred surfperch, bass and halibut.  Monster perch roam just in front of the campground—so come prepared for a fight!

Fish you’ll find here include barred surfperch, buttermouth perch, calico bass, rock bass, cabezon, halibut and smelt.

Both light to heavy tackle work here.  When fishing the beach I suggest 6lb mono on a light action 8’ rod.  If you’re fishing near or on the rocks move up to 12-15lb mono—and keep a lot of terminal tackle handy!

Fishing along the entire 4 miles of beach is spectacular—but here are a few of my favorite spots:  Just 1 mile south of the campground you’ll find Tarantula Point.  The point is a large mass of rocks that juts out into the pacific.  You may fish on both sides of it for perch, bass and halibut but be aware of the many snags.  I have had my best luck here during calm swells in the summer by using a partly water-filled bobber to keep my bait from snagging on the bottom.  Hard baits like Lucky Craft and Rapalla Xraps work great here for huge bull bass.

Farther South along the beach is Point Conception.  It’s a long 10-mile walk but along the way you will find many secluded beaches offering both open sand and rocky areas to fish.

North of the campground the beach stretches out for about a mile before you reach a large fence that secures the airbase.  Near where the fence begins, you’ll find good fishing right where rocks begin and sand ends.

Last, and probably most significant, is the beach right in front of the campground.  Fish both straight out and just to the North where the creek meets the ocean.  Some of our best fishing has been right in this area—and close to home!  For park information: (805) 736-3504

Both Leo Carrillo and Jalama offer great beach fishing and a fun camping experience.  Now that the weather is great and the beach uncrowded, it’s time to get back on the road!


Clams and the MLPA


Fishing with clams and clearing the water

This time of year always brings me a laugh.  A few years ago when my son was on the surfing team he came home one day with a story about a young surfer who was thrown from her board, hit the bottom, and came up with a face full of clams.  I hurriedly drove him to school and made my way to the beach where I caught a handful of spotfin croaker right at her clam spot.

October and November have always been great months for fishing with clams for corbina and spawning spotfin croaker.  By this time surf fish are stuffed with sand crabs and as fall comes around they tend to search for other bait to forage and prepare for winter.  Clams spawn at this time of year and become one of the favorite foods for surf BAIT 12 11fish.  But besides being used for fall surf baits clams may also be one of the answers to improving our fishery and eventually limiting MLPA closures.

Here’s the truth:  The MLPA closures were put in place with very little science to back the claim that decreasing fish stocks were created by fishermen.  In fact, nothing scientific or plausible was put forward to explain the decline at all.  What’s worse is that the program is so woefully under-funded that there is not nearly enough money for ongoing research to determine if the closures are working and making the resource more productive and sustainable.

The dirty little secret that politicians and activists don’t discuss is that the recreational angler has nothing to do with a decrease in fish stocks or habitat.  It’s not fisherman but unbridled growth that has lead to diminishing the clarity of local waters and therewith fish stocks along the coast.

Both Los Angles and Orange County have a long history of dumping.  From 1892 until the completion of full secondary treatment on November 23, 1998 the Hyperion Plant located in El Segundo dumped billions of gallons of untreated raw sewage each year directly into the Santa Monica Bay.

littleneck clams (2)In addition, every time it rains millions of gallons of oil, radiator fluid, gasoline, trash and other carcinogens are washed off the streets from every county in Southern California and sent untreated into the ocean.  Even without rain the Hyperion plant discharges enough treated sewage everyday to fill the Rose Bowl to the rafters!

South of the Hyperion, the Orange County Sanitation District works to complete their secondary facilities but still dumps enough primary treated sewage into the ocean off Huntington Beach to fill an area the size of Newport Beach’s back bay.  Most of the sewage there is treated with bleach, which is also discharged into the ocean.

These water quality issues and the removal of natural marine estuaries mean it’s not the fisherman’s fault. The fisherman didn’t create this problem. It’s the result of water pollution, urban sprawl, inept management, corruption and neglect that have put our ocean at risk.

So why is water quality so important?  In the 1930′s most of the Santa Monica Bay’s water was crystal clear but as effluents from sewage and urban runoff filled the bay the water became turbid.  Because of the lack of light that reaches the bottom, the basic building block of marine environments (simple marine algae) is unable to grow.  As a result, there is less food for the smallest of marine creatures so they move or die off.  In return, the larger bait fish and other marine creatures leave the area to find a new place to forage.  So once the essential building block of the ocean is gone most fish leave with it.

LITTLE NECK CLAMSBy allowing sewage (treated or not) and urban runoff to find its way to the ocean, turbid water rather than clear water, does not provide enough sunlight to sustain the fragile marine environment.  Over fishing has very little to do with a lower biomass of marine creatures as does the toxic nature of the runoff.  The biggest culprit by far has been the increased turbidity that does not allow light to penetrate the ocean in order to spawn basic algae–the essential building block of any marine environment.

Recently, scientists at both Stanford University and the University of Maryland have found that filtration from farm raised clams has contributed directly to a reduction in water turbidity, improvement in light penetration, increases in oxygen and the removal of nitrogen (a byproduct of gardening, agriculture and big cities).

The EPA has recognized the benefits of shellfish and the University of Rhode Island published a study last year in the Journal of Shellfish Research that shows the improvements to water quality also increase the diversity of marine life.

Bivalves like clams and oysters filter water at an average of about 15 gallons per day per.  So setting up fields of farm raised clams and oysters can have a dramatic effect on water clarity.  For example, a one acre parcel of ocean bottom lined with shell fish in polyester mesh bags would produce approximately 8,160,000 gallons of filtered water per day!

Besides their positive environmental effects bivalve farming would produce much needed food and jobs for California.  Aquaculture in Florida, just for bivalue farming alone, has produced more than $53,000,000 in revenue each year since 2012.

Placement of clam and oyster beds in river mouth areas like Ballona Creek and local harbor entrances will have an immediate effect by increasing water clarity and helping to mitigate urban runoff.  At some point sensible, well-funded marine life closures may help us better understand the nuances of the ocean.  But until we clean the water and provide a more sustainable environment marine life will not be able to achieve acceptable management levels.

LITTLENECK CLAMSSo, at least that gives us an excuse that until changes are made we’ll just have to use clams to catch surf fish.   Some of my favorite bivalves for fishing include little neck clams(Protothaca staminea), cockles(Clinocardium californiense) and Pacific razor clams(Siliqua patula).

Clams seem to work their best in the months of October through December.  As a clue to what fish are eating I look for beds of small orange and white bean clams (Donax gouldii) that form near the low tide mark in huge beds.  You can usually find these in October and although they are not the clams we use for bait, it lets us know this is what the fish are eating.

The best place to find these clams (with the exception of razor clams) is in inlet areas that are flushed by daily tides.  Harbors, inlets, estuaries and any marine environment where saltwater washes over rocks is a good place to look. Most clams occur near or under rocks.

I look for areas that have small rocks (about the size of a shoe box) and turn them over.  By using a small hand cultivator you can turn over the mud and sand near the rocks and find clams.  I use gloves and the cultivator because of the many barnacles on the rocks and sharp objects in the sand.

For razor clams stay away from the rocks and concentrate on sand and mud flats inside harbors and estuaries.  This is where you will find razor clams anywhere from one to three feet below the surface.  By using a shovel you can cover a larger area and sift through the muck to find razors for bait.

CLAM SPOTFIN wonThe best tide to find clams is always low tide. This allows you to harvest an area that is covered by water at high tide.  As with collecting most types of bait, go down to your local harbor or inlet to explore and dig around at low tide.  You will be amazed at what you find and you’ll know exactly where to go when you next need bait.

When you’re finished hunting the elusive clam replace the rocks and try to leave the spot as undisturbed as possible.  Just
take what you will need for a couple of days of fishing.

Clams will last in your refrigerator for about one week.  Be sure they are in a tight container.  I open clams at the beach by crushing their shell with my pliers.  You may also open them at home the night before. Be sure to keep them in their own juice so they don’t dry out.

When you open clams you will find two distinct meats.  One meat is very soft and should be put on the hook first.  The other meat is very rubbery and is sometimes characterized by a bright orange color.  When using clams I like to employ the Carolina Rig.

Now it’s time to hook the clam.  Once you’ve opened the clam carefully pull out all of the meat.  First hook the soft part of the bait.  Then hook the rubbery (normally yellow or orange) section.  This will help the clam stay on your hook for a good cast.  Check your bait periodically to make sure it’s securely hooked.  You’ll find that clams are durable and work great for surfperch, corbina, yellowfin and spotfin croaker.

Fall months have always been a great time for using clams in the surf.  If you are collecting them yourself take a few moments to become familiar with the DFW rules by going to: .   Please take just what you need for bait and catch, photo and release whenever possible.

Candy Bait for Corbina

Candy Bait For Corbina

When spring rolls around corbina have been hole-up in bays, harbors and estuaries.  As the water warms they know it’s time to leave these safe confines and make their way to the beach.  As they spread out along the shore corbina search for the fine odor of fertile sand crabs and gorge themselves.  Weeks, then months go by and all they eat are crabs—wonderful crabs.  But like any good diet even the best foods get a bit dull and that’s where ghost shrimp replace prime crab rib with lobster.

GHOST SHRIMP BAITGhost shrimp have always been known as the “candy bait” of the surf.  Available in stores for decades shrimp are now flown in from half-way across the world or caught at your local estuary.  Although very few stores now carry ghosties you can still find them with a little patience and perseverance near harbors, bays and estuaries.

Ghost shrimp can be found in many places along the Southern California and Northern Baja coast.  Adult shrimp grow to about 4.5” and males tend to have one claw that is considerably larger than the other.  Most shrimp are from clear or even white (as with a grass shrimp) to orange and brown in color.

Shrimp enjoy living in sandy and muddy intertidal zones, bays and estuaries.  They call home inside burrows, which they share with other fish and invertebrates.  Their main meals consist of plankton and “detritus,” which consists of small pieces of organic plant and animal waste.

The best place to find shrimp (in addition to a few choice tackle stores) is along the shore of bays that contain exposed sand and mud flats.  Shrimp find it easiest to live in flats that are a combination of sand and mud–Most notably, an area where a 6” layer of mud has been deposited on top of a sand bar.  Low tide rising to a high tide seems to offer one of the best times to trap shrimp.

Look for shrimp under holes you find on the mud flats.  I like to try to find the holes that have a recent deposit of fresh sand around their opening.  Shrimp can be dug by hand, or most effectively, by using a hand suction pump.  You can purchase stainless steel pumps manufactured by Alvey, Australia, or you can build one yourself using parts purchased at your local hardware store.

Ghost Shrimp AquariumShrimp are best kept in the refrigerator inside a plastic container with or without salt water.  Look for them to live about 3 days without water and about a week with it.  I use a five-gallon plastic aquarium to keep my shrimp fresh.  Water can be kept cold by placing one or two frozen water bottles inside a five-gallon aquarium or by placing the aquarium itself in the refrigerator.

Rigging your surf fishing set up for a ghost shrimp is easy.  I like to use the Carolina rig tied to 6lb monofilament fished on an 8’ rod matched to a 2500 series-spinning reel.  The Carolina rig is nothing more than a sliding sinker, a bead, a swivel, 18”-36” of 6lb fluorocarbon leader and a super sharp hook.   I like to use a #4 kahle or #4 sproat hook for shrimp.  You can get a good look at the rig by visiting the “rigging” page on my site at

Ghost shrimp are fragile and can be tricky to hook.  The biggest reason fishermen don’t use this bait is because it commonly flies off the hook while casting.  Here are a few tips to help you securely hook the shrimp so they can be easily delivered right to where the fish are.

Use a long shank worm hook or Kahle hook for shrimp.  Turn the bait on its back and insert the hook into the underside of the tail.  Carefully, feed the hook up the center of its body.  Exit the “business” end of the hook, to just above the barb, just below the shrimp’s head, (through the carapace between it’s legs).  This method of hooking does two things: First, it allows the bait to lie flat on your hook (When the bait is flat it doesn’t spin and looks natural).  Second, this helps to secure the bait to your hook and reduce the number of times the bait flies off during a cast.

When fishing for corbina keep in mind that they will be feeding very close to shore.  I find the best beach to fish is one that is sloping and goes from shallow to deep with a slight incline.  The best tide to fish for corbina is from low tide, up until high tide.  This way corbina ride each successive wave farther up the beach as it is covered by water in search of food.

I fish shrimp very close to shore.  Not only because you can’t cast them a mile but also because the fish are feeding in close.  As a result, I generally use a longer 4 or 6lb fluorocarbon leader (24”+) and a very light egg sinker.  Split shot or a sliding egg sinker up to ½ ounce (at the very most) is just enough to keep your bait in the zone.

After I cast out slowly retrieve your bait, always keeping tight to your sinker.  If you’ve found the right place to fish you have just cast over the inshore trough.  As you reel back toward shore your sinker will fall and “catch” the side of the trough.  STOP HERE.  This way your sinker is lodged in the shore side of the trough and your bait (on that 24”+ leader) is waving back and forth across the trough like a soldier on leave!  That’s a corbina super highway with a lobster thrashing in melted butter right in the middle of the road!

GHOST SHRIMP ALBINODon’t ever reel your bait in until you see the egg sinker hit the sand.  So many big ones have been caught in just inches of water and you don’t want to be the one who sees their corbina shrug it shoulders, wave a fin and swim away.

Finding Halibut at the Beach

 Finding Halibut at the Beach

ANDRE HALIBUTI’m often asked: what is the best tasting fish from the surf?  Well the truth is, I release all of my fish back into the water with one exception—the occasional legal halibut.  And it seems like I’m not alone.    California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly Fish and Game) has stepped up their monitoring of halibut fishing this year in response to concerns about over fishing–All the result of so many anglers turning to halibut because of rockfish closures along the West Coast.

Fortunately, halibut fishing from the surf has been exceptional over the last four years.   In fact, it seems to be getting better every season.  In order to target halibut here are a few tips to help you find them at the beach.

Best Places to Find Halibut

Some of my favorite places to fish for halibut are along the open beach, around jetties and near estuaries and river mouths.

Open beaches offer a challenge when targeting halibut. When you reach the beach find a high spot near the water’s edge and look up and down the beach for signs of fish.  Because surf fish congregate near areas of jumbled or foaming water look for small rip currents that form just off shore.  Another area to target is offshore structure including holes, troughs, kelp beds and reefs.   Once you spot these areas, cast your bait or lure along the edge of a rip current, structure or where rocks meet sand–this is where fish will be waiting to ambush bait.INSHORE_TROUGH_1_op_800x599

Halibut also congregate in the offshore troughs that are built just below the waves.  These troughs are easiest to find at low tide and run parallel to the beach.  One trough will form outside where the waves break farthest out from the beach, another trough will form where the waves break (during high tide) near the shore.  Cast over and drag your bait across these troughs to entice halibut to bite.

Open beaches that have a rocky point adjacent to them are also great areas to target fish.  Find where the sand meets the rocks and fish along this area.  Halibut commonly lie-in-wait to forage along these edges.

Jetties also offer some great opportunities to catch halibut because they provide both habitat and a food source.  As with open-beach fishing, it’s always smart to cast along the edge of rock where it meets sand to find the fish.  But there are some subtle differences to also look for when fishing along a jetty.

When approaching the base of the jetty, where it meets the sand, look out to sea and make note of the direction of approaching waves and swells.  If the waves are approaching the jetty from the right, a natural eddy will be generated on the jetty’s opposite side (left side).   If waves are coming from the left, an eddy will form on the jetty’s right side. JETTIES_op_800x603

Eddys are much like a rip current and are characterized by swirling, foaming off-colored water.  Fish congregate in an eddy where moving water churns up bait and allows them to stay hidden while they wait to ambush food.  Once you find the eddy, fish along its edges and cast through the middle to find the fish.  Don’t be surprised when the tide or swell direction changes and the opposite side of the jetty becomes the best place to fish.

Estuaries and river mouths are almost always connected as a way for fish to run from the warmer breeding grounds of the estuary out to the open ocean.  The California coast was once littered with hundreds of natural estuaries that acted as rockeries for growing fish stocks.  After unprecedented development and growth many of these breeding grounds were filled or closed off to ocean circulation.  Still there remain a few in almost every beach community that offer fantastic surf fishing.

When approaching an estuary and river mouth area use the same rule of observation as with jetties—determine the direction of the swell and current and how it effects water movement. Tidal flow will have a much bigger effect on fishing the river mouth.  A high going to a low tide will pull water out of the estuary and toward the open ocean.  A low going to a high tide will push water and waves up into the estuary and change the direction and movement of fish.

Again, look for the formation of eddys.  On an upcoming tide, an eddy may form just inside the river mouth.  As tide recedes, an eddy may form just outside the river mouth in an area of open-ocean.  Fish your bait along this edge and allow it to be pulled by the tide and current into the strike zone.  Try to stay away from areas where the water is moving quickly as fish here will not be able to catch up with your bait.

The best way to become familiar with good fishing areas is by looking up your favorite strip of coast at: and mapping out a strategy for fishing.   At this site you’ll be able to zoom into any coastline on the planet and find the best spots to fish.  Look for areas where jetties and river mouths meet the beach.  You can also find areas where there are large inshore holes or sand bars, points, kelp and reefs.   Take some time to research your areas and you’ll have a lot more luck with a lot less gas!

Next time we will look at the best times, tides and baits to use for catching halibut in the surf.  Until then, I’ll see you at the beach.

Extra info for the readers?    Hot Surf Tip: The best time to fish for halibut is just after the grunion run.  As grunion come ashore so do halibut to feed.  A good run holds halibut near shore for up to two weeks as they search for bait, spawn and digest what they have found.  Grunion, anchovy, sardine and many spoons and hard baits work great at these times.

Halibut Facts:  The current pending record for California halibut is held by Frank Rivera of Camarillo, CA.  His fish was  67.3 pounds and landed on Friday, July 1 off Santa Rosa Island while fishing aboard the Mirage out of Oxnard.

Know your regulations:  28.15. HALIBUT, CALIFORNIA.  Limit: Five in waters south of a line extending due west magnetic from Point Sur, Monterey County, and three in waters north of a line extending due west magnetic from Point Sur, Monterey County.  Minimum size: 22” in total length.

Another halibut falls for the lucky craft!

Another halibut falls for the lucky craft!

Bait Presentation at the Beach

Bait Presentation At The Beach


      I’ve always said that the most important thing in surf fishing is having a sharp hook.  So the second most important thing must be bait presentation.  Presenting your bait in the most natural manner so that fish don’t know the difference between a bait with a hook in it and one without a hook is guaranteed to catch you more fish.  More importantly, hooking your bait so it looks like it just crawled out of the sand will not only help you catch more fish but is sure to help you catch big fish too.

Here are a few rules that I like to follow that help me weed out the small ones and attract the biggest fish to my bait:  Make sure that your bait is correctly positioned upon the hook so it does not spin.  Check your bait frequently while fishing and adjust it when necessary.  Always place your bait so it lays flat on the hook.  Any curve in your bait will make it spin and therefore much less attractive to fish.  After hooking your bait pull it through the water in front of you to make sure it doesn’t spin.

Match your bait (both natural and artificial bait) in both size and color to what is currently living in the area you fish. This will mimic the natural size and color of forage. If the crabs in the area are green and brown or the clams orange and red, try those colors.  To be most effective, always carry more than one type of bait and know how to use them.SIDEWINDER_CRABS_07

Fan cast:  cast straight, cast right and cast to the left at multiple angles to cover the largest area as you search for fish.  It’s always easier for the fisherman to find fish than it is for fish to find you.

Use the sharpest thin wire black hook possible.  Always be sure you are using the sharpest hook possible. I said that twice because it’s soooooo important!  I like to use the following hooks for surf fishing: For small baits like crabs and grubs I like to use a #1, 2 or 4 Owner mosquito light, Gamakatsu split shot or Mustad ultra point octopus hooks.  For longer baits like worms or ghost shrimp I prefer a #2, #4 Mustad sproat or kahle hook.

The night before your surf fishing adventure take a little time to tie several lengths of leader placing them on a leader holder.  Use four or six pound fluorocarbon leader, a small black barrel swivel and a sharp hook.  This way you’ll be ready once you hit the beach and not wasting time tying leaders while the fish are biting.

After casting out, always be sure to keep your line tight to the sinker by reeling up any slack.  This will help you to feel the bite and catch more fish. It will also help prevent your line from fouling in the surf and give your bait a much more realistic presentation.

Once you’ve cast out, try reeling the bait in slowly using a stop and start motion with your reel.  Vary the speed of your retrieval.  When using lures try a very fast and slow retrieval speed as well.  Also, utilize a sweep to the side motion, then reel up slack and repeat.  This stop and start motion entices fish to follow and strike.  Let the fish tell you which retrieve style to utilize.  Once you get bit remember what action it was that convinced the fish to strike.

You will always catch more fish if your line is tight and straight in front of you.  If there is a long-shore current, pulling your line up or down the beach, try this technique:  Cast your bait up into the current and let the drift push your bait down the beach.  As your bait moves down the beach walk along to keep the line in front of you by reeling in any slack.  Once the bait comes too close to shore, reel in, walk up the beach and repeat. Be aware that fish will frequently be foraging in the inshore trough that may be just a few feet in front of you. Don’t give up on your retrieval until you see your bait on the sand in front of you.

If, after fan casting an area you don’t find fish, move down the beach.  I usually move about 100 yards, observing the water as I go for indications of fish, structure or eddy currents.  I try fan casting and moving until I find biting fish.  Remember, fish move frequently and may congregate in schools to feed; you’ll also need to move for improved success.

Check your main line and leader frequently for knots and damage that may occur from contact with rocks or structure as well as the abrasion that catching fish produces. Also inspect your knots after catching a large fish. There is nothing more disappointing than hooking into the fish of a lifetime only to loose it due to a line or knot failure. If you find any damage, replace the leader, as it is your direct connection to the fish.

Be continuously observant about exactly what you were doing when the fish took your bait. How far out, what angle, speed of retrieval, any currents present, is there a trough, sandbar or structure, color of water, etc.

By using a few simple presentation techniques your bait will take on a more natural look and become more effective for catching the bigger fish in the surf.  Treat every outing as a learning experience and you are certain to become a more proficient angler while all the while increasing your enjoyment of this great sport.


Surf Fishing with Grubs

Surf Fishing with Grubs

By Bill Varney, Jr.


As the warm water of fall begins to cool sand crabs go into hibernation. Meanwhile, surf fish continue to scour the surf for any forage to carry them though the year.  Because food becomes scarce in the winter months fish are always looking for an opportunity to find something good to eat.

That’s why so many artificial lures work well during the winter.  Native baits are scarcer during this time but fish still need to eat.  So an enticing meal swimming by may get a bite.  One of my favorite lures to use for a variety of surfperch in the winter months are surf grubs.  Although they work year-round, they seem especially effective during cold-water months.


Plastic grubs come in two distinct shapes: Curley tail and swim tail varieties.  I like to use both shapes in the surf.  The curly tail imitates a small baitfish while the swim tail adds a thumping vibration to the presentation.  One and one-half to three inch grubs seem to work best in the surf.

Use different grub colors depending on the color of the water you are fishing.  With waves crashing and churned turbidity, most surf fishing areas have cloudy water. Fish cannot easily see whites and muted colors.  Dark colors, which cast a more enticing shadow, match surrounding bait and work best.  Motor oil, red flake, gray flake, brown and orange seem to work well.

Tip:  The most productive grub colors are:  Smoke with glitter, motor oil glitter, watermelon/chartreuse, pearl green/silver glitter, sour grape/purple, caterpillar/yellow and green, avocado, green pumpkin, green/pearl and pumpkin with black flake in both curly tail and swim tail varieties (and all colors which mimic the color of bait that naturally occurs in the local environment)

For the best chance of catching fish always be sure to use colors that resemble the colors of food that occur naturally in the area you are fishing.  This is true for all lures used in the surf.  Take a look at the bait you find at the beach.  Mussel and clams have a brown and orange colored meat, sand crabs are gray and sidewinders crabs are motor oil green and brown.  These are the colors you should use as they best imitate the colors of forage living near and on shore.

Some of my favorite grubs are manufactured by Kalin and Slider grub companies.  Be sure to pick up a variety of colors and fell free to try several out once you reach the beach to find out what fish are eating that day.

The best way to present grubs to hungry fish is on the Carolina Rig.  This is a simple rig and is made up of a sliding egg sinker, a 6mm bead, a swivel, leader material and a very sharp hook.CAROLINA_RIG

Your sinker size will depend on how much current or wave action you have at the beach.  On days when the surf is four feet or larger I use a heavier sinker of up to one ounce.   On days with smaller surf I prefer to use a one-half or three-quarter ounce sinker.  Remember, it is very important to keep your bait on the bottom, as this is where fish feed, so having a bit heaver sinker is much better than too light.

Beads used between the sinker and swivel help to control the amount of sand which may build up inside the sinker.  I like to use a 6mm red or orange bead in the winter and a clear bead in the summer.  When fishing for summer corbina it is important to hide your rig as well as possible.  Whereas, during winter the colorful bead helps to attract perch and other fish.

Your swivel and leader would be next.  I use a number twelve black swivel and six pound fluorocarbon leader material.  Black reflects little light and looks natural in the sand while fluorocarbon is invisible (or so they say!) and is very abrasion resistant.

At the end of my leader is a sharp hook.  Sharp hooks may be the most important part of your rig.  See, I said the words “sharp hook” twice because it’s so important!OCTO_HOOKS_op_800x442  There are several good hooks available on the market but my favorite are black, size two or four, Gamakatsu split shot/drop hooks, Owner mosquito hooks or Mustad ultra point hooks.  All three are thin wire hooks that are very sharp and work perfectly with grubs.

Now that you have the rig set up it’s time to hook the grub.  Grubs must be placed on the hook so they lay as flat as possible.  Any small turn in the grub will cause it to spin and not appear natural.

The first step in hooking a grub is to place the hook against the bait to see where the hook’s end will punch through the grub body.  Next, check the grub to see if it has lines, like a seam, left by the mold.  If so, be sure to center your hook between those lines.

Holding the grub between thumb and forefinger insert the hook into the center of the head and pull the hook toward the tail making sure to keep it centered in the grub.  Once the hook is far enough down so the eye of the hook is now at the head of the grub exit with the hook’s sharp end.  Now that the hook’s shaft is buried in the grub stop and pull the grub back toward the eye.  This will even-out the grub and help to keep it flat on the hook.CALICO PERCH 1 4 14

Think about presentation—the more the grub looks like it’s flat and freely moving through the water (without a hook) the better chance you’ll get a bite.  Take a moment to pull the grub just underwater in front of you and make sure it swims freely and doesn’t spin.  Now you are ready to cast out.

Now that you know how to rig a grub the next step is finding the best way to present this bait to surf fish.  Using the grub allows you to cover the greatest area and search for fish.  Begin by fan casting—that is, casting to the left side, straight out and to the right.  Try to cover as much area as possible.   If you don’t get bites after ten minutes move down the beach and try again until you find the fish.

Let your bait sink to the bottom and slowly retrieve it back.  The colder the water the slower your retrieve should be.  When the waves are pulling back, wait a moment during the retrieve and let your bait rest—you can expect bites here as fish are pulled by the current past your bait.  Always keep your line tight to your sinker and your bait on the bottom.

Lastly, comes the dippin’.  I place about two ounces of fish attractant in a small snack size zip bag.  My favorite fish attractant without question? Taco shop hot sauce!  I use two packets (can’t tell if I like Taco Bell® or Del Taco® the best).  Just dip your grub (or really any bait) into the sauce and cast it out.  Every few casts take a moment to reapply.  You’ll be amazed by how many more fish you catch with this simple addition.  Please believe me—it really works!

Halibut, barred surfperch, yellowfin croaker, walleye surfperch and many other surf fish are attracted to grubs.  Although grubs work all year long they seem to work their very best in winter when bait is scarce and fish are hungry.

Tip:  All perch like grubs but especially the small fast ones.  To catch the biggest surfperch use your grub to find the fish.  Once you have a good bite going, switch to a live bait like the sidewinder (lined shore) crab.  SIDEWINDER BAITOnly the largest perch will bite this bait.  How do we know that?  Because the last two state record barred surfperch were caught on them!