With high water anticipated this week, plunkers on the Chetco River may still have one last chance (albeit a small one) to catch a steelhead before the river finally closes its doors for the retention of steelhead and salmon one hour after sunset on March 31. The river has already been closed for keeping sea-run cutthroat trout since September 1. The Chetco will not reopen until May 24.
Fish tacos anyone? Limits of large striped surfperch up to 2 pounds have been coming to the Brookings Harbor fillet tables with regularity. Redtail surfperch are also being filleted at the cleaning station as well.
Surfperch can be caught at a variety of local beaches and once you find a school, the action can be fast and furious.
The best time to fish for them is on an incoming tide. Make sure that you get to your desired location at least four hours before high tide and fish through high tide and about one-half hour after the tide turns.
One of the best baits for surfperch is raw shrimp which can be bought by the bag for less than $7.00 in the frozen food section at Fred Meyer. One bag can last an entire season depending on how often you fish.
Cut your shrimp into small one-quarter to one-half inch sizes. Other great artificial baits are the 2-inch Berkley Camo-colored Sand Worms.
Use the small pieces of shrimp or the Sand Worms on small size 6 or 8 snelled hooks. You can catch very large surfperch on very small size 8 hooks, but the bait stealers will often nibble off your bait if you use hooks larger than size 6, so if you want to catch every nibbler, use small hooks.
You can also use Miracle Thread or any lightweight cotton thread to help hold the bait onto your hook.
Although you can catch surfperch using steelhead or ultra-light tackle, a long stout rod with a spinning reel filled with 20-pound test is usually the best call for the heavy spring swells that will be constantly hammering your line into the sand. Sand is an abrasive that will eventually wear away light line.
Tie a sinker ranging from 6 to 10 ounces to the bottom of your line. When I go surf fishing, I like the security of knowing that my sinker will stay where it has been cast.
About 18 inches above your sinker, tie a dropper loop. Usually one loop is enough, but if you want to use two baits, tie another dropper loop 18 inches above the first loop. Buy a package of size 6 or 8 snelled leaders, insert the loops of the leaders inside the dropper loops, insert the hook inside the dropper loop, pull tight and you're good to go.
If you don't know how to tie a dropper loop, simply visit animated knots.com, click on "fishing" and then "dropper loop". A series of self-help steps will guide you through the easy process of making your first dropper loop. I like to make sure that there are at least five winds on each side of the loop to make the strongest knot.
Look for a beach that has wavy wand and sloping areas nearby the surf, indicating that the same type of terrain is adjacent to these areas. Surfperch hang out in the dishes and channels of these wavy, sloping areas.
The biggest mistake people make is casting too far. Most often, you'll find surfperch surprisingly close to your feet. So if you're not getting bit, reel your line in a few feet and wait a few more minutes, continuing the process until your bait is within 10 feet from the surf line.
A good pole holder is an asset. You can make one for less than $6 as described in the March 8 issue of the Curry Coastal Pilot.