A Guide To Surf Perch Fishing

Tired of fishing by the river or lake? How about a change of scenery and try fishing on the beach coast? In this article, we will introduce you to surf perch fishing. 

Surf perch are among the most sought-after fish by coastal fishermen, and for good reasons: they are enjoyable to catch, easy to find all year round, have a huge population, and are tasty to eat. Not only that, you won’t need a boat since you will be fishing just by the shoreline.

Moreover, you will enjoy the beautiful beach view at the same time and may even cook some of your catch after a long journey. Make sure to read on to learn about the techniques and setups for surf perch fishing.

What is a Surf Perch?

Surfperch, a thin saucer-shaped fish that can weigh up to 2 pounds, is the most common and abundantly available prey for surf anglers. Off the coast of Oregon, there are nine different species of surfperch, with redtail surfperch being the most frequently caught. Anglers have an easy target when schools of surfperch gather roughly about 30 feet of the shoreline, dashing in and out of the crashing surf in search of worms as meal. 

A surfperch could also be a delicious pan-sized fillet from their flat, saucer-shaped bodies! You will need to make a few extra preparations for this fish of course by grilling, baking, or frying to achieve the finest flavor and freshness. 

Types of Surf Perch Fish

Both northern and southern Pacific coastal beaches have an abundance of surf perch fish. Here are 6 notable types of their kind: 

Redtail surfperch can be found in brackish estuaries near the mouths of sea-bound rivers as well as coastal waterways (seasonally). As one of the few of its species, the redtail surfperch can only be found in northern California.

The eastern Pacific Ocean is home to silver surfperch, which are typically caught by anglers on central and northern California’s coasts. Although they can be found in rocky shallows, surfperch are most frequently found in sandy surf zones along the shore. 

Walleye surfperch are abundant and can be seen in great numbers off the coast of the eastern Pacific Ocean. They are a well-liked option for both surf and public pier fishing because they are relatively simple to capture.

Rubber lip seaperch can be found in both California’s bays, ports, and kelp beds. It is distinguished by its unusually thick lips. 

The most prevalent fish in their ecosystem, shiner perch,  makes them a great choice for anglers to target in huge numbers. With a deep body and a golden-green hue, these perch prefer to be found in places with eelgrass and are most frequently found around man-made structures like piers and jetties. 

Barred surfperch are easily identified by their striking green-brown stripes and have a preferred diet of sand crabs. In comparison to many other species, barred surfperch are tiny and suitable for light tackles due to their limited lifespan of only one year.

Things That You Will Need for Surfperch Fishing: Gears & Equipment

Hook for Surf Perch Fishing

You can use a number 2 or 4 hook. However, number 4 hook is what surf anglers usually recommend for it holds the sandworm a lot better. Make sure to place and space your hooks 10 to 12 inches apart.

Line for Surf Perch Fishing

12 to 15 monofilament lines are ideal as leader lines for surf perch fishing. For your main line, you can use a braided line.

Weight for Surf Perch Fishing

For sinkers or weights, you’ve got a lot of options to choose from. Many anglers use claw weights, bank sinkers, teardrop sinkers, pyramid sinker weights, or disk sinkers. 

You can also tie a swivel if you want to make switching weights easier (in cases when you switch between light or heavy weights).

Baits for Surf Perch Fishing

Surfperch are not picky eaters. They will most likely be lured by a variety and kinds of baits. 

It is ideal to use stiff 2-inch baits to ensure that they would overcome rough surfs and keep them attached to your hook. However, you can choose your preferred bait or any readily available bait near you.  

Examples of baits are gulp sandworms, clam necks, squid chunks, pile worms, sand shrimp, nightcrawlers, and mole crabs. Most anglers prefer the gulp sandworms when you are fishing on the go, and time is of the essence.

Rod for Surf Perch Fishing

There are many different personal preferences when it comes to fishing gear. However, due to the rough surf that surfperch prefer to reside in, heavy or medium-fast action tackle is essential to handle these rough conditions to attain a successful catch.

A suitable beginner fishing set for surfperch could consist of a long (about 9 to 11-foot) rod that can handle a 2 to 6-ounce weight. 

Reel for Surf Perch Fishing

Any reel will work, but if you want to get the most out of your equipment, choose one that is made of corrosion-resistant materials. When used in saltwater, conventional freshwater reels typically rust rapidly. To avoid this, once you have finished fishing, always wash your reel in freshwater and let it dry completely.

Moreover, your spinning reel should also hold around 15 to 30 pounds of monofilament line, ranging from 200 to 300 yards in length. Choosing a higher bearing count reel is associated with better build quality and smoother performance.

If you are on a budget or just starting out to surfperch fishing, some sporting goods shops along the shore let you rent rods and reels for a day if you want to test surfperch fishing before making any equipment purchases.

How to Set Up Surf Perch Rig

There are many ways to set up your surf perch rig. These are the following recommended set-ups that you should try:

Hi-Lo Rig

The Hi-Lo rig is simple to tie and easy to set up. You will need to have two dropper loops, size 2 or 4 baitholder hooks, bait (gulp sandworm), weight, 12 to 15 mono leader line, and a braid main line.

  • Step 1: To set up, tie your hooks to your mono line about 10 to 12 inches apart. 

Important Reminder: Check your state regulation to make sure that using multiple hooks is legal.

  • Step 2: At the tag end of your line and below the bottom hook, attach a 1 ounce weight (preferably a disk sinker). The length from the bottom hook to the weight should be 18 to 24 inches.
  • Step 3: Tie a double uni knot to connect your main line to your mono line. This is essential to this rig when using a braided line as your main line.
  • Step 4: Lastly, attach your bait (preferably gulp sandworm) to your hooks, and you are now ready to cast.

Other Surf Perch Rig Setups:

Three-way swivel rig

This is another efficient and easy to learn surfperch configuration. This style would skillfully retain your bait within the strike zone and off the bottom of the water. However, its main drawback is that the bait’s presentation is less natural with this rig.

You will need a three-way swivel, 12-14 pound mono main line, size 2 or 4 baitholder hook, 2 ounce pyramid sinker with snap swivel, 6-10 inches of 10 pound mono or fluorocarbon leader, and a bait.

Wire bottom rig

The wire rig is a ready-made arrangement that ties to your main line, much like the three-way swivel setup. A 2-3 ounce pyramid sinker and a few snelled hooks are all you need. Most sporting goods stores sell the wire rig for under a dollar.

Carolina style

This style yields numerous bigger perch fish than the others and has the most natural presentation. The setup is also really straightforward and simple. 

You will need a size 2 or 4 baitholder hook, 1/2 to 1 ounce bullet or egg style sinker, 12-14 pound mono main line, a bead and barrel swivel, 2 to 3 feet of 10 pound monofilament or fluorocarbon leader, and baits.

To prepare for this setup, put a small bead on your main line before adding the weight. The bead will cushion the weight from the knot that is attached to the swivel. The barrel swivel is then fastened to the main line. To knot on the other end of the swivel, cut a 2 to 3 foot piece of your leader. Lastly, add your hook and a bait.

Tips and Tricks for Surf Perch Fishing

How to Spot Surf Perch

At first, it will appear impossible to find schools of fish in the surf. Troughs in the sand are indicated by calm intervals between breaking waves, and regions without breakers may have a deep place that can hold schools of fish. Additionally, keep an eye out for troughs and holes on the sand during low tide, then return there during high tide.

Frequently switch locations when it is particularly difficult to find fish. If nothing happens after casting for 10 to 15 minutes, proceed down the beach and try again. When you have successfully located them and caught one, you will most likely continue to catch more. 

Work your bait into the water until you come across a holding area for surf perch fish. You’ll pick up on reading the waves eventually, and identifying spots with schooling fish will be a piece of cake.

Best Time and Place to Fish for Surf Perch

When to Fish for Surfperch?

Surf Perch is available all year round. However, surfperch fishing is most successful in the spring and early summer when they gather within about 30 feet along the sandy shorelines to reproduce. 

High Tide or Low Tide?

Everything is based on the ocean and weather conditions where you fish. In most cases, surfperch fishing is frequently at its best on an incoming tide, particularly one or two hours before the high tide. 

Although it’s ideal to fish a few hours before and after high tide, you can also have success fishing at low tide. Regardless of the tide, calm seas are ideal for going out to fish.

Where to Fish for Surf Perch?

Utilize low tides to seek for suitable surfperch water. Look for areas with deep depressions or holes that might contain surfperch. These sites include beaches with a steep slope where the waves crash, rocky parts in the sand, sandy pockets close to jetties, or locations where the shore dips inward.

Although widely dispersed, they frequently are grouped close to each other. It is almost certain that you will catch numerous once you locate them. The majority of fish can be located in the calm trough between the first and second breakers, and steep sandy beaches or beaches with small stones are typically preferable for surf perch fishing.

Techniques for Working Surf Perch Fishing 

A good rule of thumb is to cast out your rod beyond the foam where the waves crash. This is where the perch typically are. Let the bait sink to the bottom and hold it. Keep your slackline tightly stretched as you reel it up. Retrieve your bait slowly for brief instances, then let it settle again.

It is important that you let the waves drift, drag, and move your bait. Once the bait is near you without a catch, reel it in and repeat. Continue doing this as you travel along the shore to find a good spot. A good place to fish is where this current crosses a section of deeper water.

When retrieving, it’s not difficult to distinguish a bite from the continuous pulse of the waves because perch would tend to hit your bait aggressively. Cast up the current and allow your bait to drift with it when you observe currents that flow parallel to the coastline. Basically, you have to reel in your bait along with the flow of the waves for easier retrieval.


One of the essential skills for surf perch fishing is finding their possible hiding spots and locating them. You will have a fair possibility of getting a bite as long as your bait is near where the surfperch resides out in the waves. 

Remember not to be discouraged by a few failed attempts! Move to another spot and try again. The hunt is what makes surfperch fishing enjoyable. Plus, you will also experience a great  beach scenery at the same time, and maybe cook yourself some of your catch after that long trip.

With all that being said, we hope that you have learned a few tips and tricks for surf fishing. We wish you luck on your surf perch fishing journey!

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