Seeing Spots On The Sand – Leopard Shark Surf Fishing

When I got out on the New Del Mar a couple weeks back, my buddy Tim Shiau, a crewmember on another boat, told me they had a really good day bass fishing on the City of Long Beach.  I wanted to try a change of venue this weekend and get out with them, but they didn’t get off the dock.  It’s one of those unfortunate things, that happens during this slower time of year.  That will all change come March 1st, but it left me looking for another option to get a salty fix.

I decided to put some time in on the sand.

Saturday morning I went south to North Orange County to go fishing with one of my surf gurus, Randy Toji.  Randy was already on the beach when I parked my car.  I texted him to get an update.  “Water is stained and cold.  No bites yet.”  From the bluff where I parked, I could see there was good structure and decently long intervals between sets of waves.  Since Randy wasn’t exactly killing it and conditions seemed to suit it, I rigged up for halibut.  I made my way down to the sand and found Randy.  He alternated between a typical light line perch/corbina setup and a halibut setup.  He got one bite and I skunked.  Targeting halibut from the beach is never a high percentage affair, but it would’ve been nice to pull on something.  Oh well.

Sunday Morning

Randy couldn’t go on Sunday, so I was on my own.  I couldn’t leave Saturday’s result as is, so I decided to try an L.A. beach.  I’d enjoyed some nice days at this spot when I was working in the area, but it had been awhile since I’d gone back.  I walked up to my normal spot and immediately I saw some some shadows moving around in the water near shore.  At first I thought it might just be shadows from the bubbles of foam on top of the water.  But as I looked closer, I could see that wasn’t the case…

After skunking the previous day, my plan was just to catch whatever.  I wasn’t geared up to tackle leopard sharks of this size.  I decided to see if I could catch some small perch to use for bait.  Gave that a go for 20 minutes or so, but the sharks must have been keeping away other fish.  I went back to my car to re-rig.

I came back with something meatier.

Bigger line, bigger hook, bigger bait.  I had a 3″ grunion looking grub tail on 1/2 oz. leadhead.  Tossed it out and got picked up on the first cast!  Woo hoo!  It had a big first run, but I short pumped and got it to where I could see it tailing in the skinny water.  I was hoping to beach it with the next big wave, but it found a second wind and took off on another long run.  It was close to spooling me, so I thumbed the spool and it broke me off.  Ugh.

I re-rigged again and kept at it for a couple more hours.  Got bumped and briefly picked up a couple times, but nothing like that first hit.  It was a bummer losing that fish, but it was a thrill pulling on something that strong…especially from the sand.  I’m sure for the passersby watching me, it gave them second thoughts about entering the water!

I read up on these fish and apparently they start “pupping” beginning next month (they are a live birth type of shark).  I connected with Chris Lowe of CSULB Shark Lab on twitter and he said that the females like to warm up inshore prior to giving birth.  It’s thought that the warmer temps speed up their pregnancy.  So it looks like this condition might be around for awhile.  I might have to come back and give it another go with a heavier setup and some bait (squid/anchovy/sardine).

You might see me if you go.  Good luck if you get out there.

Picture courtesy of Susan Ehrlich
Joe Sarmiento is the founder and primary writer of the So Cal Salty blog. The blog covers saltwater fishing, primarily aboard the many sportfishing boats of Southern California. In addition to writing his blog, Joe's writing has appeared in Western Outdoor News, The Log and Griffin Media. Joe is ...