Often overlooked, fishing for surfperch is one of the best ways to catch enough fish for dinner or enjoy steady catch and release action in March and April.
The perch come into shallow water to feed and spawn this time of year.
"It has been good when we have good weather," says Chris Hegnes of Englund Marine.
Redtails are the most prized surfperch species, but striped perch, also known as pogies or rainbow perch, also are good-eating and hard-fighting fish.
South Beach, Whaler's Island and Kellogg Beach are favorite surfperch hot spots. The Winchuck Beach near Brookings also is a good spot, as are both jetties in Brookings.
Anglers can keep 10 redtails per day at least 10.5 inches long.
For years anglers used stiff surf rods and heavy line for surfperch, but recently light spinning tackle has become the go-to set-up for perch. I use the same types of rods and reels I use for steelhead side-drifting, 8.5-foot graphite rods rated for 6- to 12-pound test and 10-pound mainline. Instead of the Pflueger Supreme reels I use in the rivers, however, I use the Pflueger president spinning reels, which are made for saltwater use.
The basic rigging is two size 4 Eagle Claw snelled hooked tied to the mainline, and a half-ounce to 2-ounce bank sinker, depending on the surf. Bank sinkers get down more quickly than pencil lead, and pyramid sinkers are more likely to snag.
You want just enough weight to get your bait to where the fish are, usually just past the big breakers. Perch feed in the troughs created by the surf. Striped perch also like rocky structure, while redtails prefer sandy bottoms.
Shrimp, clams, sand crabs, mussels and sandworms make good bait. Many anglers will use live sand crabs dug from South Beach, while boiled sand crabs also work well. Boiled sand crabs have a stronger smell and turn bright orange, which may help attract perch, especially in turbid water.
When using natural baits, I like to add scents, like Pautzke Liquid Krill.
Recently I began using Berkley Gulp!'s new baits. The synthetic baits disperse an incredible amount of scent into the water, and triggers aggressive strikes. Gulp! comes in many shapes, including sand crabs, shrimp, sand worms and minnows. The Gulp! cutbait can also be cut into small pieces.
Perch have small mouths, so the ideal bait should be no bigger than your thumbnail.
Perch fishing will be good through the early part of summer. Right now the perch are close to shore getting ready to spawn. Unlike other fish, perch give live birth. Fish caught recently revealed the young fish were still really small, so the main spawning period has yet to happen.
The best time to fish for perch is an incoming tide. Getting to the beach about halfway through the incoming tide is ideal, and fish will bite until the tide starts to recede. Look for rocks at low tide that are covered at high tide. The covered tide pools are excellent places for striped surfperch, while sandy troughs will hold redtails, also know as pinkfin perch.
Outdoors writer Andy Martin, a former editor of Fishing & Hunting News, runs a halibut charter boat in the Gulf of Alaska during the summer and guides on America's Wild Rivers Coast during the winter. His Web site is www.wildriver