> beginning surf fishing guide
surf fishing guide
a basic guide on surf fishing the oregon coast
by pk. january 1, 2016
updated: 2/7/2016
updated: 3/29/2016
updated: 4/10/2016

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this is a basic guide on surf fishing on the oregon coast - mainly redtail surf perch fishing. surf fishing differs greatly depending on where you live. this guide is not science or fact, or is it the only way to surf fish. it's written from my own experience and what works for me. like all things in life, your experience will differ from mine. the key is to learn from each trip and repeat strategies that work.

safety first!

there is one sure thing about the oregon coast: it is rough and extremely dangerous year round. it is usually windy and there are big waves that crash hard onto the beach. the water is also very cold. one should always spend as much time watching the on-coming waves as they do fishing so they don't get caught off-guard by a sneaker wave. never turn your back on the ocean! ideally, you want to fish with a partner so they can keep an eye on you.

where to go surf fishing

redtail surf perch are found from the northern california coast all the way up to the washington coast. you will get many different answers if you ask surf fisherman who target redtail surf perch. it's just one of those things where if you ask 10 people about the best surf fishing spot, you will get 20 different answers. any beach along the oregon coast will hold redtail surf perch.


rods, reels, hooks, line, sinkers, etc. in many fishing situations, you match the hardware against how big the fish are. it's a little different surf fishing on the oregon coast. the waves on the oregon coast are big, the tide is fast, and the surf is very turbulent. even though the redtail surf perch are fairly small (a 3# redtail is very rare), you have to use hardware to match the rough environment found along the oregon coast. the most important thing about selecting your hardware is to use one that you feel comfortable with, don't follow what others are using; select something that works for you.

rods. I use a 10' salmon & steelhead rod. I've also used a 6'6" medium heavy action rod, and that worked great too. but I prefer the 10' rod because you can cast a lot farther with it to reach the bigger redtails in deeper water.

reels. any reel that can hold about 150 yards of 30# braid is more than enough. I've used a size 2500 shimano spinning reel up to a size 14000 shimano ultegra, and the results/catch is the same. now I use a stradic fk 5000. just remember to choose a reel that you are comfortable using.

line size. I use braid 100% of the time. there are some advantages to braid: 1) they are much thinner in diameter compared to the same line size in mono 2) they are super tough 3) they have near-zero stretch to let you detect bites quicker 4) they are more limp and shoots through the guides better, thus they tend to let you cast farther.

hook size. #2 hook. either baitholder hooks or octopus hooks will work. if you want the smaller perch, use a #4, or #6

leader size. I use 20# mono. the stiffer mono allows my leader to tangle less.


gulp sandworms is a really good bait for surf fishing for several reasons: 1) it's extremely durable, 2) it's cheap, 3) you can "recharge" them back into the packaging so they can be re-used for next time, 4) it saves you time, money, and your back from having to go dig for clams or sand shrimp. other baits people use for surf fishing are: clam necks, sand shrimp, artificial lures, raw shrimp, cut bait, nightcrawlers, powerbait, plus many others.

where to buy gulp sandworms? I get mine online from - they offer free shipping to a local walmart store. amazon has them too, as most other sporting goods store online.

presentation - "how to fish"

this is pretty simple: cast far out into the surf, tighten your line so it's not slack, and wait for a bite; then set the hook when you feel a rapid tap on your line/rod. occassionally, I reel it in slow if there are no bites; then I pause for a while, then slowly reel it in again. I don't let my bait sit there for over 1 minute. I noticed that my bites usually come after a short pause. because you're on the beach, the tide usually moves left to right or right to left, depending if it's an incoming tide or an outgoing tide. if the tide is moving to my right, I cast a little bit to my left so that the tide can bring my bait in front of me. if you're always having to recast because your bait tends to end up back on shore, then use a heavier sinker to make your bait stationary.

the other concern is wind. high wind will bow your line if it's above water and drag your bait/sinker; so adjust your cast/sinker accordingly.

when do you know when the fish is biting? when you feel a rapid tap, then set your hook! sometimes it's misleading because you feel a similar rapid tap when your sinker is rolling on the bottom. you can tell when this happens because the pressure will be constant along with the tap. when a fish bite, it feels different: there will be a sudden tug.

when to go surf fishing

surf fishing for redtail surf perch along the oregon coast is year round, but generally spring is the hottest time as that is when they spawn in bays and estuaries. during this time, they're quite voracious as they fatten up for the spawn. even though spring is usually the best time for surf fishing, my best trip was actually the day after thanksgiving back in 2015.

generally, the period between 2 hours before high tide and 2 hours after high tide is best. however, I've caught fish in every tide phase. the high slack tide rule is a general consensus and usually produce.

basically, focus on a calm surf - which is quite rare on the oregon coast. being a surf fisherman means you have to keep updated on the wind condition. your safety depends on it. always pay close attention to weather forecasts so you know when storms are arriving. sometimes, a rough surf can take days for it to be calm again because large swells take days to travel across the vast ocean and reach land.

take care of your gear


after each trip, I rinse my rod, reel, and waders off thoroughly. I spray my reel from every direction to make sure all the salt & sand are washed off. for my waders, I spend no less than 5 minutes rinsing it off with a garden hose.


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