Outdoor / Fishing

Thursday, May 30 2013 04:13 PM

Steve Merlo: 10 pointers for better surf fishing

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    Jackie Lynch shows off a 2-pound barred surf perch she caught on a recent trip to one of the Ventura beaches. She caught the fish on light tackle and used a small plastic grub for bait during an incoming tide.

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By The Bakersfield Californian

With the kids out of school and summer vacations on the horizon, many local people enjoy spending their leisure time along the coast in Ventura, Pismo, Morro Bay, Cayucos and San Simeon, where these beach towns draw the lion's share of visitors trying to get away from the Valley's oppressive heat. Though most folks prefer to stroll along the sandy beaches, ride four-wheelers, have a bite to eat at one of the many seafood restaurants or just take it easy doing nothing, the fishing can be surprisingly good in the nearby surf.

Frankly, I get bored sitting around doing nothing, so, over the years, my fishing-fanatic friends and I have re-discovered a way to enjoy the cool ocean weather and wet a line at the same time. Rather than casting the huge 10-foot or longer sticks usually associated with surf rods, we use light fresh water tackle normally intended for trout or bass and catch our limits of several salt water species that continually inhabit the rolling surf. Wall-eye, rubber mouth, rainbow and barred surf perch are the usual targets, but others can be caught as well, like jack smelt and the occasional leopard shark, striped bass, corbina or halibut.

While catching these shallow water denizens can be easy as pie, there are some particular dos and don'ts that make one's time on the water more productive. Here's a quick list of our most productive techniques and the gear we use.

1. The ocean's water on the Central Coast is usually cold, in the low 60s at best. Staying warm means dressing right for the occasion, a necessity if one is to enjoy his or her outing. Dress in layers, you can always take clothing off if you get too warm.

2. There's no need to wade out past knee high. The fish are right in front of you only a few feet away and inches deep, at the first or second rolling wave that crashes and foams onto the beach, so a long cast is not necessary. We wear chest waders just to stave off the effects of an unforeseen roller that might catch us off guard and give us a good soaking.

3. Timing is everything in surf fishing. Most species feed heavily during the rising tide, so plan your trip accordingly. We usually start two hours before high tide and stay until the fish quit biting, usually an hour or so after the event.

4. Ten-pound line or even less, along with a medium-light rod, will handle almost any eventuality. The new "invisible" flouro-carbon lines are great for fooling perch.

5. Because perch have relatively small mouths, hook size is important. We rarely go larger or smaller than a No. 6 baitholder, which will easily hold even a small whale.

6. Far and away the best fresh or live bait is a lugworm or bloodworm, available at Bob's Bait Bucket in Bakersfield. However, they are expensive, costing almost a buck apiece, but anglers normally use only a very small piece of one worm to just barely cover their hook. Also, they must stay refrigerated to stay fresh and lively, which necessitates keeping a small ice chest nearby.

7. Lately, we've eschewed the live worms for other baits almost as good, or in some cases, even better. Made by Gulp, these small, inch-long, plastic, saltwater grubs in varied colors work miracles. Simply impale them on the hook and cast them out, no fuss or muss. The perch attack these baits with the same rat-a-tat-tat bite they do with the real worms.

8. Our best and simplest rig is called a sliding sinker rig. We use a sliding weight (1/2-1 ounce depending on the amount of current) a good quality barrel swivel, a two- or three-foot leader and a sharp hook.

9. Other baits can be caught right on the beach, including clams, sand crabs or sand fleas, but that requires a little bit of work to catch them. Also, chunks of cut bait might well entice some larger fish, but the wave action or smaller fish will usually tear the offering from the hook.

10. Anglers on the pier do not have to have a fishing license, but surf anglers do, so be prepared.

 

BBLC sporting clay shoot

Don't forget to support the 13th annual Bakersfield Lions Club Sporting Clay Shoot this Saturday at the Kern County Gun Club. Sponsored by ARRC Technology, the event's proceeds will benefit disabled and disadvantaged children, veterans and other persons or groups in need throughout Kern County.

Using the Lewis Class Scoring System, five classes will be awarded. Afterward, a huge raffle will give away a ton of guns. A steak lunch is included with each entry. Contact (661) 399-0539 or bbivens@hsquaredis.com for more information.

 

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