Perch in the surf

Jim Bell casts off of Nye Beach in Newport. (Photo by Bret Yager)

Jim Bell casts a one-ounce weight rigged to a line of rubber sandworms off of Nye Beach, knee-deep in the surf.

“Try to throw it behind the second set of breakers,” he advises. “As it churns out, the fish come in and try to pick up the sandworms or crabs as they’re washed off the bottom.”  

Fishers for surfperch off the Oregon coast will definitely get wet, so hip boots are advisable, and chest waders will offer still more protection. The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife tells us we’ll need heavy tackle for going after these fish, which can weigh two pounds — a trout rod probably won’t cut it. It’s not that the fish — typically well under two pounds — are too big for the gear, but the angler needs the leverage of bigger gear to get a longer cast and to handle heavy surf. A 9-11 foot rod that can handle a weight from 2-6 ounces, plus a reel large enough for 200-300 yards of 15-30 pound line will help put anglers in the zone. The size of the weight needed to keep the tackle on the bottom will depend on the surf action. A series of hooks tied to three-way swivels and linked to the sinker are best for tackling this fishery. 

The fish can be caught year round but are particularly active along the sandy shoreline in spring and early summer as they group up to spawn. Anglers can scout for fishing spots at low tide, keeping an eye out for deep holes, places where the shore angles inward, steep beaches and rocky areas and areas near jetties. Incoming tides offer the best results.

“It’s gorgeous,” Bell, of Eugene, says of the brilliant blue skies that have recently visited the coast. “I can’t think of a better way not to work. I got nothing else to do today.”


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