2011 Surfscapades: Summertime Surf Species
Keep in mind my reports are mostly to maintain a personal record of fishing trips, so I apologize if it is a bit too long for the average reader to remain interested in reading. As always, all fish were carefully released.
The sun was out, the wind was low, the waves were small, and my lady wanted to catch some fish. My gf was visiting me at school and we decided to take a short trip to the beach. I had been hearing of the spotfin croaker that were hitting along the coast of San Diego county and was hoping to hook up with one, but I was wholly satisfied with simply being out fishing with my gf.
We arrived to a relatively open beach in the north county of San Diego at around 10am. The sand was absolutely crawling with sand crabs, and each scoop yielded a handful of marble sized arthropods. Recently, I had been having a hard time sourcing the short 2 inch Gulp sandworms, so au naturale would be the way to go today.
My gf was rigged with a 3 ft fluoro leader tipped with a sz 6 mosquito hook under a bead, swivel and ½ oz egg, while I had a slightly heavier outfit with a ¾ oz egg and sz 4 hook. I would love to say that I read the surf with a discerning eye, and found a high sandbar that had formed about 25 yards off the beach, and then a deeper channel that was running directly in front of that… However, if I were to be honest, that was simply the best guess I could give to what I saw in those constantly shifting waves.
Luckily, the fish must have agreed with my evaluation of the situation because they were eager to hop onto our hooks. Within a few minutes, my gf was reeling in her first barred surf perch. A decent 9 inch fish, we quickly documented her first surf fish before gently releasing it back into the surf. And so it began: most casts were met with BSP, all around 8-10 inches. Only 2 hours in, the beach began becoming rather crowded with normal beach goers. Upon meeting a number of unfriendly remarks from bystanders, we decided that the time for fishing had expired. Luckily on my last cast, I managed to pull in a lone walleye surfperch. While not the first of this species for me, it would be the first time for me to document the catch on film.
Together, we hightailed it out of the county, returning back home in the afternoon to rest and relax. However, with my surf fishing fever ignited, it was difficult to want to do anything else. Luckily, my gf had to go to LA county in the evening, so guess who tagged along to “hang out near the beach?” 😀
Having never fished in this area of the coast, I did not know what to really expect. The shorepound seemed to be pretty rough, and there were a variety of people enjoying the water. I hiked along the water looking for an ideal place to begin. With only a few hours of sunlight left in the day, I was eager to begin fishing, but nothing seemed very fishy. The sandcrabs, however, were indescriminate and there were signs of them everywhere.
Eventually, I ended up coming along a concrete breakwall, where I could see a fisherman fishing. As I neared him, I saw him reeling in with a slightly bent rod, so I was hoping to see him catch a good fish. Right when I get to him, I see him gently slide a good sized corbina onto the beach! It looked to be around 20 inches or so, and was caught on bloodworms on a heavy surf outfit. The fisherman quickly dropped the fish into his bucket, and resumed fishing.
Looking past him, I see that for the next 100 yards, there were at least 4-5 more people fishing in the surf, most of them with spikes and buckets. Hm, at least there were fish to be found here! The surf had some salad in it, but not an unfishable amount. I cast out with my rig, but find no willing takers. Using my mobility advantage over the bait and wait sand spike folk, I slowly move my way down the beach, casting in to test the waters every few yards. On one of my further reaching casts, I feel a hard take. With my drag set at only 4 lbs for the sake of my 6 lb fluoro leader, the fish goes on a furious little run. After a great albeit short fight, I beach my first yellowtail croaker! The fish was around 15 inches, and had a nice fat little belly. At that size, it almost looked like a little pale baby redfish to me! He is quickly unhooked, ceremoniously photographed, then sent back into the surf with a tale to tell his school mates.
From this point on, the bite goes wide open. The trick was to get the cast as far out past the breakers as possible. Almost every single cast is met with a bite. Most of the fish were all the same size at around 15 inches, but a few were smaller at 12 inches. Regardless of size, they were all fun to catch on the light tackle.
With the sun slowly setting over the horizon, I was running out of time and light. Last cast, I say to myself. The sun begins to dip over the horizon. I keep the line taut as the surf slowly brings my sandcrab offering back towards me. At only 10 yards away, I get ready to reel in and call it a day. But then there is a hesitation, a slight bump in my rod tip. I pause and keep the line tight… Another set of gentle little nods of my rod tip. OK enough waiting, I set the hook with a short sharp jerk, and I am met with dead resistance. Kelp? Hm, I don’t know… I reel in the resistance but I feel a few shakes here and there. It’s probably a small fish that had tangled itself in some kelp. But as my terminal tackle begins to near the surfline, all hell breaks loose. No, this is no small fish, and no, it is not coming out of the water thanks very much!
It goes on a drag screeching run along the surf, with me chasing it. Then it changes directions almost immediately, and runs the opposite direction along the surf. Back and forth, back and forth we play a game of follow the leader, with the fish obviously being the leader. Eventually, I feel it tiring out, and I’m able to get it to just a bit shallower surf. The shore pound has gotten alot worse as the sun begins to set, and it is hard to get the fish up onto the shore without it being sucked back with the receding waves. Nonetheless, I see my opponent now, as it’s tan fins wave gently at me from above it’s flat body. My first wiggles! It is a 26 inch shovelnose guitarfish. A rather common fish in socal waters, but my first and fair hooked at that! I have NO idea how people land the enormous guitarfish that they do in the surf with 6, 4, or even 2 lb line! This one already had me panting as I chased it all over the place. I took a few pictures for my memories, removed the mosquito hook delicately piercing it’s upper lip, and sent it back into the ocean.
Just another great day in the socal surf filled with catching fish and making great memories with my gf.