2020 Surf Fish Season Pics - PB-MB-TP and IB

Anello

Giddy Up!!!
Apr 9, 2003
845
198
SD, CA.
Name
Dan
Boat
No
Hi All,

I never post anymore. Been years, actually. But I have some time and for some reason, I am willing to share some pics and findings.

I have been taking multiple professional licensing exams so I have not been able to fish offshore this year. So, my buddy Josh and I tried to get good at fishing the surf in some spots we grew up on. I've been surf fishing for many years and never really focused on it, exclusively, until this season. I was a bit archaic in that I assumed that I needed my 4lb flouro and or 6 lb flouro and straight mono to the connection to get bit. More on that below ... but I was totally wrong. Everything rests on good bait, presentation, learning to sight fish, and making ONE cast count (not pounding out 20 in one spot).

We started off fishing Torrey, a few spots in North County, PB/Mission and South Bay. As the season progressed we made a ton of progress reading water, conditions, tides, etc. Maybe one of the biggest lessons was that almost every spot is holding big fish. There is absolutely no need to crowd a spot or crowd other fisherman. Walk the beach and spread out. The fish do. Sounds easy, right? I was amazed at how many fisherman, waders and surfers were convinced that they owned the water or just did not care about sharing the beach. I had long rod guys following me and casting over me at times. Sometimes you gotta just laugh and move on.

Anyhow, in getting back into it I read a ton and watched some youtube videos. I'm no expert per se, but there are quite a few myths out there that we largely disproved. Hopefully this can help shorten your learning curve. These are our findings, not anyone else's, so just assume we've heard or read all the traditional logic. A few lessons we learned:

1. Big Corbina are NOT line shy. They are VERY spooky and will jam out of there if you push them. After losing several tankers I upped my leader to 10 LB flouro and actually increased my hook and land ratio. Additionally, the floatsam in the water is far less an issue with more line strength, and you can turn the fish easier when beaching. So, dont get hung up on 4LB or 6 LB.

2. Bait - Sand Crabs - All sizes can work IF you are matching what is available. I alway heard that the big ones don't work, which is only partially true. If that is all the beach has, they will eat it. Also, if you present the bait in their retreat path and let them eat it without tension, they will eat it. I watched big Corbina and spotties do exactly that. Having said that, the best overall bait IS the medium size baits or doubled smaller baits. Soft shells are great, but the perch give them hell and they are harder to find. Point being, dont get too hung up on having the exact right bait. A great cast and some patience can be effective.

3. Hooks - Best for us were #8 mosquitos. But, I straightened a few. The 6's or an octopus circle were great, too, if you could match them to the bait. The really big fish are tough to handle on the smaller hooks though.

4. Main Line - I started out with mono. Then, I changed to 20 lb power pro to the swivel and connection. No shock leader. The feel that the power pro gives you is huge. I watched the fish eat baits and would barely feel a tap. They are masters at a quick slurp, and if they are mingling or coming to you, you wont feel it like a traditional bite. Once they slurp, you can set it quick and the power pro is great at giving you a good initial hook set. Also, you can really put pressure on them and keep them from getting outside.

5. Beaching - The heavier connection makes it a ton easier to control the fish with the tourists out. Especially if you are on your own. Drop the rod tip, give them pressure and angle their heads to the shore when they are whipped. Then you can circle behind and grab em. But, the power pro to the heavier leader really helps here.

6. Release/Keep - I kept some for eating. I released a TON more than I kept. If they were gut hooked and bleeding or could not be revived, I would keep them. If not, they all got released. Some of the ones in the pics were kept. For pics we figured out a way to hold the exterior of the gill without intruding as they can be tough to hang on to and you want to try to not choke them by squeezing too hard. Here, also, the heavier line helps as you can get them revived. The tankers really expend all their energy, so they take some time. No judgement here, but if you want to release fish, might be best to try to not tire em out too much. This is not true for fish under 20" as they seem to revive easy.

6. Spotties - I caught a ton of spotties this summer. Everywhere. The fishery is great. Often they are outside the Corbina in the mid section of the surf doing a long shore patrol. So, longer casts were best for them. They would eat any size crab if presented right, but preferred medium/larger.

7. Gear - I ended up with a 7' medium/fast action rod and a Penn Clash II 2000. I say "ended up with" as I broke or ruined (2) other set ups. I am vigilant about rinsing, cleaning and relubing reels. But, some are just not capable of taking the pounding. The Penn Clash II 2000 absolutely is the finest reel I've ever used inshore. Highly recommended. For rods, I am 6'5" and I thought 7' was too short for me. Just not enough reach sometimes, and keeping the line above the waves is far easier with a little more length. So, I am looking for a 7'6-8'6 medium fast rod at the moment. Happy to accept recommendations if any of you have had good experience with something moderately priced in that realm.

Pics: As I said, we kept some, so no whining. Some were released. I have a hard time getting my camera out in the water when we are releasing fish, so lots of bigger models got no pic love. Also -- if you want to learn how to catch these, my buddy Josh Hartsough is who I learned from. He is pictured here.

Dan 22 Release.PNG


Josh Giant Corb Pier.jpg


Josh no face Corb no back.jpg


Dan 23 Release on Beach hold.jpg


Dan Big Corb.PNG


Dan hotel back Spottie med.jpg


Dan Spotty on Sand.jpg


Josh side hold pier back spot.jpg


Josh 21 beach.JPG


Dan Release 22 water.jpg


Dan Rip Gill 23.PNG


Dan and Kiddo Corbina.jpg


Foot Corb.jpg


Josh unhook Corb sand.jpg


Dan 22 beach Diam.PNG
 
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Anello

Giddy Up!!!
Apr 9, 2003
845
198
SD, CA.
Name
Dan
Boat
No
Also -- you other surf guys and gals. If you have a good rod recommendation for me please PM or add it here. I am looking for something in the 7'6"-8'6 or so length range with medium/fast action. I've been striking out in finding anything reasonably priced in a one piece rod.
 
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swami 805

I Post A Lot But I Can't Edit This
Mar 9, 2016
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Bill
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sunk it
Nice report, thanks!
Off the rack you might be hard pressed to find a rod factory like you want. There's some nice rain shadow blanks that aren't super expensive, find a builder to wrap it for you. You'll get the handle spaced right for your style of fishing which is important if you're putting in that kind of time casting. Salmon/steelhead type blanks might be a good place to start.
 
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Anello

Giddy Up!!!
Apr 9, 2003
845
198
SD, CA.
Name
Dan
Boat
No
Nice report, thanks!
Off the rack you might be hard pressed to find a rod factory like you want. There's some nice rain shadow blanks that aren't super expensive, find a builder to wrap it for you. You'll get the handle spaced right for your style of fishing which is important if you're putting in that kind of time casting. Salmon/steelhead type blanks might be a good place to start.

Great advice. Much appreciated.
 
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May 3, 2016
61
29
Diamond Bar, CA
Name
Nathan
Boat
16' Slideright
I use a Shimano Clarus 8’6”-medium light-medium fast action- model CSS-86ML-2
Works like a charm for the exact things you are targeting....
I think I used the same rod and have it listed right now in the classifieds. The main reason is that it is pretty decent tackle for the surf, and I feel bad trashing nice stuff at the beach. This rod is a bit light, but I tend to enjoy light tackle as it puts a nice bend in the rod for fish like this. I also like a longer rod, mostly for line control. I fly fish some in the surf, and am not sure if I need a coffee grinder setup anymore, but your post is inspiring and convincing me I need to get off my seat and get a line wet. Perhaps I will rethink my sale!

A couple of questions for @Anello:

Do you ever try artificials? I tie up a bunch of sand crab like flies and even use them with a coffee grinder setup. They are pretty easy to tie, and the only real issue is how rough the surf is on the fly. I think that I weighted the flies a bit and put a bit of split shot on the line to get the fly down with the spinning setup. Fly fishing is a little different as a weighted sinking line is normally used, but the problem here is that the lines are kind of expensive and the surf trashes them. If you have used artificials, what are you using?

Are there decent beaches in central/south OC that would be as productive as some of the places you are hitting?

Thanks for the great post.
 
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Anello

Giddy Up!!!
Apr 9, 2003
845
198
SD, CA.
Name
Dan
Boat
No
Thanks Second Row and njoyflyfishing.

RE: Artificials
I have not found any I have confidence in. I know some folks like lucky crafts or swimbaits or grubs, but I have not seen them work anything close to crabs. Granted, I am not targeting halibut or other species that might be in the surf which might make those options more attractive. The other issue is the grass or kelp in the water. That kind of kills anything that is not weedless. So, we just kind of focused on getting good at finding crabs, especially on days when it is tough to find them, and using what is available (I.e. digging deep below clam beds, or deeper in the loose sand). But, I bet a fly, if it looks right, would work great. Having sinking line would also be an advantage for you. If I were a fly guy, I would spend a little more time wading out and looking, then presenting one cast on a fish, versus just blind casting. Given the nature of fly line and the leader, you may actually have an advantage over any other artificial given the fly's more natural presentation in the moving water.

RE: Spots
I'm not sure on OC. But I will say that this is one of the issues that I thought has been largely overplayed. Those fish are all over the place. Or, at least we found them all over the place. They are obviously concentrated in areas that have food, so we would just scout areas at low tide and look for depressions, entrance and escape routes for the fish, and watch the movement of the clam or sand crab beds in target areas. Then, we would wade out into those areas during the incoming tide and look for fish (not blind cast up and down the beach). In doing so, I hooked the bigger fish (22+") in a little deeper water than traditional wisdom dictates. One thing I really noticed was how sensitive they are to metal weights breaking the surface or hitting the sand. Pounding an area scares fish. Almost all the bigger fish, 22" plus, were caught on a first cast after we saw them, watched, and waited for a good spot to cast. Obviously, you need the right conditions for this to work (cleaner water, sunlight, etc.), but when conditions are right, it is a complete game changer.

I see a lot of guys walking the beach and casting in the shallow (or "skinny") water. That can absolutely work, but it is nowhere near as effective as wading and finding them and presenting the bait in a little deeper water. Again, my findings only, and my opinion only, but we caught a ton of fish over 20" this summer. In fact, we were super bummed if we had a day where we didn't.

Kind of the same experience with the spotties. There are a lot of them out there. You gotta intelligently look for them, though, and NOT pound sand and hope to find them (clam beds are a good place to start). Learning this part took time, but it made all the difference.

This is kind of why I wanted to share as I still cant find any good information on fishing Corbina/Spotties online. If you want to stay dry, fish the skinny water, use 4LB leaders, and catch a few smaller fish in a day, then ok. I have no interest in that. I wanted to figure out how to purposefully target the bigger fish, only, and be successful in landing them. I hope that helps.
 
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Kaseyalbayati

Newbie
Sep 15, 2012
5
0
Murrieta/ca/united states
Name
Kasey
Boat
Thekasey
Awesome post man and even better pics! Any advice on what to use for bait once the sand crabs disappear (ie last 2-3 weeks). I started getting back into surf fishing in late August by that time there weren’t many sand crabs around (mainly fish OC bolsa chica/dog beach) so I’ve caught my infinite amount of perch on gulp worms, but I want to go after the croaker and corbina because I see them and know they are out there
 
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Anello

Giddy Up!!!
Apr 9, 2003
845
198
SD, CA.
Name
Dan
Boat
No
Hey Man,

I know some guys love the blood worms or sand worms or lug worms. I recently tried to fish live ghost shrimp as a test. They were brutal to get to stick on the hook as the waves were up and conditions were not great. But, no Corbina or Spottie would swim by one if it were presented right. So, that would be my best guess of you can match them to a longer shank hook and thread them right.

I fished this weekend and found crabs, but it was work for sure. They were in groups of 1's and 2's deep in the softer sand at the high tide mark. Takes some elbow grease, but they are still around, albeit deeper than normal. The fish were scarce, but I saw a 24-25" Corbina in the first trough from the beach. Saw a tanker Spottie, too, and had him eat twice. Somehow I managed to not get a hook in him. Not my day, for sure. High surf and fast water is tough. But, the fish are still here and the crabs are still around. Both are just a bit more scarce. I also managed to step on yet another bat ray. No damage, but man that freaks me out. I've stepped on more than I care to admit this summer. Got a bad one from a sting ray early on ... and the stinkin bat rays are really good at sneaking in super shallow water close to hi tide.

Other option: try a swim bait with some uni goop or other sauce on it and fish the low tide swing. My buddy hooked 2 that way last week. But, each beach bites different, so give that a try if nothing else is working.
 
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May 3, 2016
61
29
Diamond Bar, CA
Name
Nathan
Boat
16' Slideright
I also managed to step on yet another bat ray. No damage, but man that freaks me out. I've stepped on more than I care to admit this summer. Got a bad one from a sting ray early on ... and the stinkin bat rays are really good at sneaking in super shallow water close to hi tide.
The beach and the surf zone freak me out a bit too. I've been to SE Alaska, places in British Columbia, hiked in bear country in MT and CA, been too close to comfort to griz, and had giant black bears in my backyard in Dunsmuir, CA.

For some reason I am even more freaked out by the ocean, including the beach. Right there next to all the people hanging out at the beach is the wildest place on earth. Inhospitable, hostile, and full of dangerous critters. People overlook it all of the time.

Stay safe.
 
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fishkilr

I Post A Lot But I Can't Edit This
Aug 27, 2012
3,661
5,125
long beach,ca.u.s.a.
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alby
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I've been able to get some of the smaller corbs to eat a kastmaster in long beach...
Only place I've seen that ....the slugs just look at it ...
Otherwise the only artificial I've got big ones on consistantly are crappie jigs ..
And the rays are as thick as I've ever seen...
 
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May 3, 2016
61
29
Diamond Bar, CA
Name
Nathan
Boat
16' Slideright
Any advice on what to use for bait once the sand crabs disappear (ie last 2-3 weeks). I started getting back into surf fishing in late August by that time there weren’t many sand crabs around (mainly fish OC bolsa chica/dog beach) so I’ve caught my infinite amount of perch on gulp worms, but I want to go after the croaker and corbina because I see them and know they are out there
When the sand crabs disappear, does anyone catch them and check out what is in their stomachs? Someone somewhere probably has. If practicing C&R a modified turkey baster can give the stomach a pump to get an idea of what they are eating. It may change over time, but would be interesting to know.
 
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JK47

Member
May 19, 2019
338
279
HB
Name
Alek
Boat
SS Minnow
When the sand crabs disappear, does anyone catch them and check out what is in their stomachs? Someone somewhere probably has. If practicing C&R a modified turkey baster can give the stomach a pump to get an idea of what they are eating. It may change over time, but would be interesting to know.
Here in HB I usually see clams in their belly when the crabs go into hibernation.
 
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Anello

Giddy Up!!!
Apr 9, 2003
845
198
SD, CA.
Name
Dan
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No
We hit it again yesterday morning and landed (3) spotfin croaker. Super fun fishing. Crabs are around, but deeper in the sand than usual. Corbina were scarce. But, the mid surf zone was good for me. I straightened a hook on something, then landed a few (I think it was a bigger Leopard). The thing I like about spottie fishing is that they like the bigger crabs.

Again, though, I waded in and did a long shore partrol and located the fish prior to hooking 2 of them. The third was on a blind cast.

One other thing, and I am totally aware of how dumb this sounds. But, I am really noticing a difference in how fish respond to me based on how I am dressed. When I wear the long sleeve blue shirt and face mask, etc. and walk slowly and deliberately, I can almost kick them. Obviously, I am guessing that matching the background helps ... or breaking up your profile like Josh in the camo. Josh is really good at being patient and slowly approaching. But, it has been funny watching the tourists try to figure out what the hell he is doing in camo on the beach. When I am in short sleeves and or different colors it seems to alert the fish and I cant get as close. Again, though, my opinion only. I could be totally wrong.

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IMG_7897-2.jpeg
 
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Anello

Giddy Up!!!
Apr 9, 2003
845
198
SD, CA.
Name
Dan
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No
One more thing: As I mentioned in the initial post, I wrecked a few reels over this summer, and in the past, fishing the surf. I bought a Penn Clash II 2000 on Ali's recommendation mid-summer. As much as I hate to give him any credit on anything, he was totally right. The Clash II is worth the money. I have fished it about 30-40 times now and have only opened it up once. When I did it was reasonably clean and only needed a re-lube. No sand in the gearing, which is incredible given the use and pounding. So, again, I highly, highly recommend the reel. And, no, I have no incentive to pump products. Just wanted to pass that on in case any of you are in the market for a good surf reel.

Due to my experience, I am going to get a Penn Clash II 2500 at some point and pair it with an 8'-9' medium/medium heavy and fast rod for a bit heavier set up. If any of you are getting rid of a rod that might fit that bill, pm me.
 
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fishkilr

I Post A Lot But I Can't Edit This
Aug 27, 2012
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long beach,ca.u.s.a.
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alby
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There is no doubt that they react to your movements....there have been days when I have had to crawl to the tide line to not spook the corbs...especially when I fished zuma way back when....
Been in long beach recently and these harbor fish definitely behave different...
Fuckin Ray's are stupid thick..
 
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Anello

Giddy Up!!!
Apr 9, 2003
845
198
SD, CA.
Name
Dan
Boat
No
Agreed ... and that is awesome!

Dude, the bat rays are out of control. And WHY are the damn sting rays back? I poked (3) of them yesterday with my rod. So freaking annoying. My buddy Josh almost stepped on one of the biggest sting rays I've seen in So-Cal yesterday, too. I want to invent a walking bootie that can deflect stingers that is comfortable and does not look like a moon boot or a soccer shin guard.
 
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Pacific Jigger

You’ll never know unless you go
Sep 16, 2019
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Bud
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Formula 233
A trick for fishing ghost shrimp is tie an egg loop knot at the hook. You simply pull the loop off the rear of the hook, loop it over the head and pull it snug. It really helps keep them in place. There’s tutorials on YouTube on how to tie it.
Concerning rods, what’s your upper price limit? There’s some excellent options out there, just depends on what you’re looking to spend.
 
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Anello

Giddy Up!!!
Apr 9, 2003
845
198
SD, CA.
Name
Dan
Boat
No
We caught a few more spotties today. Epic fish day. Some bigger perch mixed in, too. Damn rays were thick again, but water was clear so I poked them with the rod to move em. But, cold as hell with the wind. Fall is here.

We are seeing less and less corbina these days down south. Saw a bunch last week in Del Mar/North County, but they are definitely not home in PB/Mission anymore. Anyhow, it is not offshore fishing, but being able to fish for a few hours in the morning and catch some fish is as good as it gets for me these days.

IMG_7915-2.jpeg


IMG_7921.jpeg
 
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Dan33

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Jul 21, 2006
19
24
Mpls, MN
Name
Dan
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14’ POS
Wow, great info. Thank you.

I know you said that you wanted a 1-piece rod, but St. Croix makes some great Steelhead rods that work great from the beach. I use their 9’ Medium/Fast, 9’ ML/Fast & 8.5’ Heavy/Fast. They cast very well and are sturdy. I use 4000 sized reels for a larger spool diameter & 8,10 NanoFil line on the lighter 2, and 20 lb PowerPro SuperSlick 8 with a Shimano Baitrunner 6000 on the Heavy. All setups work very well. Just my experience. Useful for lots of types of fishing too, not just the surf.
 
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