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Basic guide to surf fishing the Oregon coast

(how to catch redtail surf perch on the Oregon coast)

by: PK. 2/4/2018


I'm no expert in surf fishing the Oregon coast. There are many things that I still don't understand, and all of my techniques are mostly self taught. My methods work really well for me, so I will share those methods here in hope of helping you catch more redtails from the surf.

Remember, when applying my surf fishing methods and strategies, your mileage will greatly vary. There are countless variables to catching fish, so when you use my method and you don't catch any, there are many other variables that are out of your control (hint: mother nature is usually uncooperative all the time). Fishing is a process, not a destination.

Let's get on with it ..............


I prefer a rod that's 9 foot or more. I've also used my 6'6" bass rods up in Barview jetty, and I did pretty good. Before you put down a lot of money on a surf rod, I would fish with the rods you have first and see how you like it. Most fishing rods are capable of catching surf perch, so just use what is most comfortable to you. Anyhow, these are the spinning rods I use for surf fishing the Oregon coast:

  • Cabela's Tourney Trail IM8 - 10 foot, heavy action - rated up to 2 oz weight. THE best surf fishing rod that I have found, hands down. Very light, super sensitive, and you can cast your mother-in-law a mile with it! Rod is discontinued by Cabela's ------ big sad face! UPDATE 2/12/2018: they have a new version out! But no 10 footer? That's a head scratcher!
  • Okuma Celilo Salmon rod - 9 foot, MH action - it's also rated up to 2 oz. The butt is short, which is what I prefer. The 9'6" ML action is also good, although it has a lure rating of 1/2 oz, you can easily toss a 1 or a 1½ oz weight.
  • Shimano Scimitar 9 foot. This is the rod I got, and 9 foot is a good length for making long casts while allowing you to keep the line above the incoming waves. I use a 2 oz weight and sometimes a 1.5 oz weight.
  • Shimano Scimitar 8'6" spinning rod. This length is also good for surf fishing.
  • I'm testing out new rods all the time, so check back later to see this list grow

The longer rods allows for farther casts while also keeping your line (mostly) above the rolling waves as they come onshore.

Spinning reel

Lots of options here. Here's a short video I did about different spinning reels for surf fishing.

Line size, type, color

10# to 20# braid. I use braid because it's super strong, sensitive, near-zero stretch, casts far, lacks memory, and lasts longer (I have braid on my spool from 2 years ago that I haven't switched out yet). My favorite fishing line color for fishing is moss green, or just green; I also have gray on a few reels. I tend to choose colors that will blend in with the environment so it doesn't spook fish.

For braid fishing line, I prefer the cheap brands from China. I've used Powerpro/Spiderwire before, and these cheap ones are pretty much the same, but they are easier on your wallet.

» Dorisea is one of my favorite: Check it out here

» As well as Bravefisherman: Check it out here

I use a #2, or a #4 baitholder hook
Best weights or sinkers to use for surf fishing

I prefer the disc sinkers 100% of the time for surf fishing. They cut through the air pretty good during a cast, and go pretty far because of its aerodynamic feature. They tend to roll less in the sand because they lay flat on the bottom. I've used a pyramid sinker before but didn't like them immediately. They roll more because of their higher profile. Because their 3, or 4, sides, it creates that "rat-tat-tag" vibration through your pole as they roll. This "machine gun" type of roll/vibration resembles a perch bite, so it can be diffucult to discern it from a fish bite.

The disc sinker doesn't have any problems with all of that, and you will definitely know that it's a fish bite when you get one.


I use Berkely Gulp Sandworms 9/10 times for bait when surf fishing the Oregon coast. From my experience, it's the best bait for catching redtail surf perch. The camo color is all I use in 2" size.

The picture on the left shows some sandworms being laid out on a paper towel to dry out. I let them dry about 2-3 hours and put them in a small plastic jar. I don't re-add the Gulp juice into it, but keep them dry. I find that this way they last a LOT longer on the hook, and it lessen down time tremendously. This way it lets me focus more on fishing. Also, this method saves me a lot of money because they are much more durable.

Note on drying them out. On windy days, it will dry out a lot quicker. Be careful not to over dry them during hot, windy days.

Best time to go (best tide, time of year)

Surf fishing is good all year round on the Oregon coast. From my years of surf fishing, I haven't found that one month is better than the other. My 2 best months (best trips ever) was on a Friday after Thanksgiving, and again in February. If you're fishing for redtails in bays, then late spring to early summer is best because they go into bays to spawn.

It's best to pick the right tide, surf condition, and weather when going surf fishing.

The best tide for surf fishing is "usually" an incoming high tide - about 2 hours before high slack tide to about 2 hours after high tide. It also depends on location, sometimes certain areas are better during a low tide. I've caught fish in both tides high and low, so it's hard for me to say that one tide works best. But the common belief among most surf fishers is that high tide "usually" produce the most bites.

Another question is: sunny vs. overcast, cloudy, rainy days. I've always prefer cloudy, rainy, or foggy days to go surf fishing. These types of days have always produce good bites for me. I've also had some phenomenal fishing trips when there is an approaching weather front that brings wind and rain. The fish seem to bite a lot more in this rare condition.

Best type of beach
Where to go surf fishing in Oregon

You can go surf fishing at most beaches along the Oregon coast. I don't think that there is one single beach that's best for surf fishing. People give me reports from all over the coast. Redtail surf perch are found from northern California all the way up to British Columbia. I've found that flat beaches have a lot of redtails as they dart in and out of the surf looking for food. I've also fished at steep beaches and do well too. Looking for underwater beach contour is probably more important, such as troughs and rip current that go back out into the sea. Troughs & rip currents are where they are usually at because many food particles are found here.

I've made a list of surf fishing spots in Oregon here, so be sure to check it out. That list is an on-going project so check back often to see new updates.

Surf fishing techniques I use

Most of the time, I am prretty mobile when surf fishing. I usually don't stay in one spot for too long if there are no bites. I follow the "5/5" rule, which is 5 "fan casts" or 5 minutes - whichever comes first. If I don't get a bite within those 5 casts, or 5 minutes, I move about 40 feet and do it again. And, I cast a lot! This is why I prefer a fast gear ratio reel.

»»»»»»» note: we all know that the tide rise and fall, therefore, beach contours are always changing due to this phenomenon. Sometimes, the rising tides creates a trough which can be underwater and invisible to you. At the same time, receding tides makes trough less productive as fish move on to deeper water. There are also cross currents that can be hard to see due to the flat nature of most beaches in Oregon. And there are other reasons. For all of these reasons and more, redtails are always moving around as they strive to find food. Therefore, it's a good idea for you to be mobile as well so you can find that feeding school. Once I do catch one, I know that schools are nearby, so I don't waste much time and recast out there as fast as I could to try and pinpoint the feeding school of fish.

PK's tips
  1. Always check the swell report first before going surf fishing, this is extremely important!. The Oregon coast is extremely dangerous because of the presence of sneaker waves. This is a serious issue and you should check all weather reports before each trip. I use magicseaweed.com for my swell report and forecasts, and of course the weather channel. NOAA is also another website I bookmark and use daily to check wind conditions.
  2. Waders are highly recommend! Hyperthermia is no fun! I prefer the neoprene waders for better insulation.
  3. Move around - a LOT! If one area isn't producing, move 30-40 feet and try again. Use the "5/5" rule, 5 casts or 5 minutes, then move!
  4. Dry out your Gulp sandworms to make them last longer, and thus save you money over time. They will stay on the hook much longer, therefore it will reduce downtime and allow you to have more time to catch redtail surf perch.
  5. Be sure to remove any seaweed from your bait so it remains clean and looks natural.
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