Zen Fly Fishing: Winter 2003/2004 Surf Gallery

The reports are in reverse chronological order with the last report on top. Click on the pictures to view a larger version.

On March 18, 2004, high tide was 5.4-ft at 8:11 am and low tide was -0.6-ft at 3:08 pm. I fished with Dennis Tunstall. We were on the water by 6:30 am. I mainly fished with grubs and got 54 (only 2 with flies). I caught several from 10 to 11 inches but mostly smaller fish. A large male barred surfperch is shown on the left (close up). It was really calm towards high tide and was mostly too calm all day with a few periods of large waves. There seemed to be fish everywhere but they were small. We kept moving and looking for bigger fish. With higher water and calm surf, persistent concentrations were hard to find. I fished the same area that I got into a school of larger ones on Monday. Perch were there in good numbers briefly but the water got thin really fast today and the fish moved out. I should have started fishing it earlier. Timing is really important. I didn't have the energy to fly fish very much today. Also, I got new spinning gear so I was enjoying grub fishing. Dennis had his best day ever and caught a total of 58 surfperch. Way to go, Dennis! The recent swell patterns have moved a lot of sand from offshore sand bars on to the beach and a high berm has formed with a steep beach with nearshore trough along much of the beach. The beach has changed a lot since the last storm and the formation of good structure is progressing well.

March 15, 2004 started with hits on my first cast. It was only a few small perch but it got the day started right. High tide was 5.4-ft at 5:00 am and low tide was -0.6-ft at 12:50 pm. I was on the water at 6:45 am with large swells and a lot of foam. It took 7 hours to work all of the likely holding areas Northward for about 1 1/2 miles. It started slowly but there was consistent action. A few fish seemed to be in every likely spot. I hit the first persistent school at 9:00 am, which turned out to be the largest fish of the day. One of them is shown on the left. Here is another. The biggest were 1 1/2-lbs and 12-inches. I caught 5 larger barred surfperch in this one area. They were wearing mating colors. There was a mix of larger females and larger males here. These females will spawn in August. I ran into schools 4 times. I caught a total of 46 surfperch: 10 walleye surfperch, 1 silver surfperch (close-up) and the rest barred surfperch). This is one of the 1-lb walleyes (close-up). I used a variety of grubs all day. Flies would have caught fish today. It did start rough and foamy but the surf calmed as the tide dropped. The large perch school was within 40-feet. The structure is forming nicely and will continue to create better in-close holding water if we do not get another storm. There were some areas that had sandy bottoms that were pocked with small holes that held perch. I fished until 3:00 pm after catching 6 perch on 10 casts - it was hard to leave...

On March 11, 2004, I went fishing with weak tides and reports of a slow bite following the recent large storms so I used spinning gear. Low tide was 0.3-ft at 7:59 am and high tide was 3.4-ft at 2:17 pm. I was on the water at 6:30 am. The large storms have moved a lot of sand off the beaches and created big offshore sandbars. There is not much water over these sandbars during much of the lower half of the tides. I was working North searching near-shore troughs and holes looking for any schools that may be still shoreward of the bars. After a quiet hour, I got to the best hole in the area - it still had some depth and water current through the sandbar and I got a few light hits then BANG a solid take! As I reeled, I saw wide jaws! It was the nice 13-inch, 2-lb Barred Surfperch shown on the left. By the time I started fishing again, the sun was well on the water, the surf calmed and the water was thin and there were no more fish so I continued to work North for 1/2 mile and back. That was it for a few hours! I found no good water.

My second fish was a mid-sized Redtail Surfperch at 11:30 am after I got back to the best water with higher tide. Next, I caught a nice Walleye Surfperch. The larger walleyes getting fat and will start to spawn soon. More of them will be moving into school. I was actually into a mixed school of redtails, walleyes and barred surfperch and by 2:00 pm, I had a total of 22 surfperch (9 redtails, 3 walleyes and the rest barred). The largest Redtail Surfperch is shown on the left: 12-inch 1 1/2-lb (here's a close-up of the redtail). This is the first time that I have ever caught more then one redtail and this is my largest redtail so far. Redtails are very aggressive and hit hard! Their grab is like a walleyes' but they have sustained power! The redtails were mostly from 8-inches to 10-inches. We might start to see more of them on our central Monterey Bay beaches. It looks like the beaches are still fishing better towards high tide. It was a great day overall! Fly fishing would have been hard today. I needed all of the distance that spinning gear could provide.

February 23, 2004 was my first chance to get out after the recent storms. Low tide was 1.5-ft at 6:23 am and high tide was 4.5-ft at 12:13 pm. I was on the water at 6:30 am. The surf had long period waves with a lots of hydraulics and foamy water. Good water was hard to find but I found some decent water that maintained depth. It held a persistent school. I got lots of hits but caught only three over the first hour on grubs. The rest of the day was slow with rough, surging surf - good holding water did not exist. The raging sea confiscated my grubbing gear (I guess because I have been using it too much). I don't know what happened. I was trying to cast but my bail was still engaged and a wave hit at the same time. It flew out of my hands - timed perfectly with strong backwash - it was washed immediately away. For the rest of the day, I fly fished under adverse conditions. I did pick up two in the swash area of the first breakers. I got them on a grub fly on dropper. The largest is shown on the left. So I got a total of 5 for the day. I saw a few nice barred surfperch (BSP) taken by others. Bob Galviano caught a 15-in 2 3/4-lbs BSP. I was next to him and saw the grab - we thought it was a striper but the BSP turned its broad side to the currents and fought well. Bob said that his biggest this year was 16-inches and 3-lbs 6-oz. With these large early perch, I'm thinking that we have a shot at a 4-lb plus BSP this year! Way to go, Bob!

It was raining continuously on February 16, 2004 from the moment I woke up - I went fishing anyway. High tide was 3.8-ft at 9:06 am and low was -0.9-ft at 2:04 pm. The swells were storm driven so I left my fly gear in the car and started fishing with grubs at 7:30 am and caught a baby perch on my second cast into the biggest hole around. That was it for a long time. Good holding water did not exist anywhere. I walked North 3/4 miles and worked back half way. I had a feeling - big water - big fish (really!) and two casts into a turbulent trough next to shore and I had a big fish on. I had a size-6 hook so I was careful not to apply heavy force. The backwash happened to be light and I brought the big fish in quickly with incoming waves. I saw stripes as it rolled in the 1st breaker! I soon had it on the beach a beautiful, fat Striped Bass (5 1/2-lbs, 22-inches - heavy for its length). Food must be plentiful out there. This is my 2nd striper this year and so early! What is going on? My small hook broke as I tried to remove it so I rigged another and searched for others. After 30-minutes of casting, I left (at 9:30 am) having had enough excitement for the day.

On February 12, 2004, I'm using bait and grubs to evaluate their relative effectiveness. Grubs did really well today! Most of my fish were caught on grubs. Low tide was 1.1-ft at 9:33 am and high tide is 5.2-ft at 2:28 pm. I was on the water at 7:30 am and caught a few during the ebb tide. Swells calmed and the bite slowed at near low tide. I scouted northward and found some great holding water that persisted from 10:00 am to high tide and beyond. I got into a continuous bite of 1 to 2-lb perch. Dennis Tunstall (see my January 26, 2004 trip) happened along and we shared the same water for the day. Dennis caught a lot of perch (his most ever including a lot of large perch). Dennis' heaviest perch today was 1 1/2-lb (his personal best). He was really happy! I ended up with a total of 50 surfperch. My largest today is shown on the left. My last cast caught my 50th perch - a beautiful female. We left at 3:30 pm but it was hard to leave while fish were still biting. I had my fly rod but the perch were holding 80 to 120-ft out most of the time. I'm really enjoying bait and grub fishing - Zen mind rules for bait and grubs too. This experience will make me a better fly fisherman.

Special Note: Fishing seems TOO easy on days like today! I saw a really happy fisherman walking down the beach. He showed me why - a backpack filled with FIVE (DFG limit) of 2-lb plus female barred surfperch! One part of me was really happy for him but another part thought of the 500 offspring every year that will not feel Monterey Bay waters. He was going to fish every day this week because the bite was so hot. I have been there too. Did you see my father's black sea bass pictures in the Family History Gallery? Those were the days of abundance. The oceans were immense and bountiful with limitless resources, we thought. A lot has changed since then! The ZFF website is still an experiment. I'm not sure where it will evolve yet but I do want it to be educational in more ways than how to catch a lot of fish and big fish. Can our descendants enjoy an abundant surfperch fishery forever? I hope so! Sustainability is an idea that usually seems to be missing from our (U.S.) way of thinking.

Steve Corioso (a ZFF reader at corio@charter.net ) informed me of a Hawaiian saying, Ua mau ke e oka aina i ka pono. It means the life of the land is perpetuated by righteousness. He and his Grandparents fished in Hawaii and they taught him righteousness as keeping only what you can eat in a day. Indigenous cultures certainly have a closer connection with the land and the widsom to perpetuate it. Somehow, we usually end up taking the short view...

It may help to learn the difference between female and male barred surfperch. I have a lot of pictures in the galleries. There are a lot of female pictures in the spring and summer galleries and a lot of male pictures in the winter gallery. Males have a tubercular penis (small rounded projection) and rounded anal fin. Females have a more angular (pointed) anal fin. Research has found that Barred Surfperch give birth to living young from March to July. As few as four and as many as 113 have been counted, but the average is 33 per female. Every time you keep a large female barred surfperch, do it with the knowledge that it produces 100 or so aggressive, autonomous 2- inch long offspring every year. It might be worth it to you for special occasions. If a smaller fish will do or if a male will do or if you keep just one large female, it seems to step more lightly on the fishery. If you want more information, the details and reference links are the Barred Surfperch article.

On February 9, 2004 at 1st light, I'm looking for perch with fly gear near low tide (2.1-ft at 6:06 am). I didn't like the early surf and good water was hard to find. I caught a small one on a Surf Miki 3 right away. Moving North, I switched to grubs and picked up nice female barred surfperch in mating colors. Early fishing until 11:00 am was really slow but I did find the 2 1/4-lbs, 13 1/2-inch female barred surfperch shown on the edge of a distant sand bar at 8:15 am. I also found a few other smaller perch at similar spots.

Towards high tide (5-ft at 11:52 am), a big shallow hole had persistent rip currents that were being worked by a school. The rips would form, move within the general area and disappear at times. The fish were generally holding at least 100-ft out. The bite got better into the afternoon. I got one solid hit at 1:30 pm - it felt bigger than a perch could be! I pumped it in and saw it roll within the first breaker - STRIPES! Yeah! An early striped bass! 2 1/2-lbs. and 17 1/2 inches (about 3 1/2 years old)! I ended up with a total of 19 fish (1 striper, 1 walleye and the rest barred surfperch). I did catch my first two fly rod perch of the year (a small one at first light, an aggressuve junvenille this afternoon). It turned out to be a decent day: my 1st 2004 striper, my 1st fly rod perch of 2004 and my biggest 2004 barred perch. I fly fished at 1st light and for 1-hour in the afternoon and got used to casting and line control again. I caught most of the fish on grubs today - it seems that the fish are getting more aggressive and grubs are doing well now.

Forecasts for February 5, 2004 showed small swells, with spring tides and sunny weather but there was a bright moon in the sky all night. High tide was 5.9-ft at 9:09 am and low tide was -0.7-ft at 4:34 pm. I wanted to try the North end of Sunset with higher tides so I started fishing at 8:00 am. I did pick up 3 small barred perch but the beach was flat and boring so I left for the beach of my last trip. I started fishing there at 9:30 am - the water looked much more interesting. Swells (small and short period) kept water pushed up on the beach today. Working North, I found some deeper areas with small rips. The really nice mating female (2-lbs, 13-inch) barred surfperch shown hit on my first cast to the tail-out region of that rip. Sometimes, you "know' a fish will be there. I caught one more small barred at a similar rip on a first cast but that was it for a long time. The fish were not in the usual places so I was searching other areas. Finally at 1:00 pm with much lower water I found a school that was moving around within an area where a North flowing trough transitions into a deep area then seaward through the sand bar. I picked up 9 more surfperch in the next hour working this area. I caught my first 2004 walleye, and my first 2004 Redtail Surfperch (a really nice redtail!). I also got a large mating male. I caught a total of 14 surfperch today (11 barred, 2 walleyes and 1 redtail). I was using bait again. I could have and should have caught fish on flies today. I switched to fly gear in the last hour but didn't catch any more perch. It was fun to fly fish again!

Recently the swells have been too active for good holding water to form. On January 26, 2004, low tide was 2.2-ft at 7:51 am and high tide was 4.3-ft at 1:21 pm (only a 2.1-ft change). The surf was mild around low tide built-up towards high tide but it was still calm relative to my last trip. Good holding water was much easier to find today. It was my best trip this year with a total of 16 barred surfperch all on bait. My largest is shown. I stopped by the beach of my last trip at 8:00 am, fished for 30 minutes and decided that the tide was too low for conditions. I was on the water at a beach further North by 9:30 am - caught my first fish by 10:00 am. Working north I continued to pick-up a few fish. Near my favorite area, Dennis Tunstall of Monterey walked up and introduced himself as a ZFF advocate. He started surf fishing around Thanksgiving 2003, fishes now around twice a week and loves it. We fished together for the rest of the day. Dennis caught his largest barred surfperch ever and caught enough to make him really happy. Note the good-looking water behind him. Here's a wide-angle view of the nice water. Here is another shot of productive water. We did find a couple areas today that held schools with hook-ups on successive casts and several fish coming out of the area. I could have fly fished successfully under these conditions. We left at 2:30 pm when the good water was gone.

On January 22, 2004, I used bait (anxious to have more action than on my last trip). I actually feel that I will become a better fly fisherman with more experience in bait fishing. I started fishing at 10:30 am and fished until 1:30 pm. High tide was 6.6-ft at 9:57 am with ebb tide to -1.4-ft at 5:19 pm. I caught a total of 9 barred surfperch - mostly males and 3 times more hits. Most of the fish were scattered. I finally found a small school at 12:30 pm in structure that was started to form. I caught the last 3 perch there and got many more hits. The perch were aggressive/scrappy males here. These were the first muscled up perch that I've seen this year. The surf was incessant and foamy for most of the day.

On January 19, 2004, I made my first winter trip to the beach. My last was on October 23, 2003 with only striper fishing in between. After viewing the surf from an overlooking bluff, I left my fly rod in the car. Breakers started 150 yards out with mostly turbulent/foamy water within the break zone. I was on the water by 7:30 and I didn't catch my first 2004 surfperch until 8:20 am. It was a funny-shaped, humpbacked barred surfperch. My largest barred (1 1/3 lbs, 11 1/2-in) was my third fish. Overall, I caught only 6 barreds - all on grubs. I did fish with live sand crabs for around 1 hour thinking that bait would be more effective under these conditions. Sand crabs were sparse and they are at least 6-inches down. Some of the perch had mating colors (gray areas along bottom) including the largest. I stopped by another beach and talked to other fishermen who were catching all males some of which were dripping milt. More large females should be around. The swell patterns were better towards high tide (6.7-ft at 7:25 am) - most of the fish were caught earlier in areas that maintained depth (either because water gets pushed in from 2 directions or wave frequency is high enough to keep water pushed up on the beach. The swell patterns changed around 9:00 am and areas that maintained depth were hard to find. Instead, you could be hip-deep and several waves later there would be 50-ft of sandy beach in front. In general, most beaches are long and flat as a result of swell patterns over the last 2 weeks. As a result, it is hard to find good concentrations of fish. There are a few large holes starting to form (visible at lower tides). They are still not moving water well.

Questions or Comments Contact:
Glenn Yoshimoto
Los Gatos, California

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