Pier fishing has the advantage that anglers don't have to wade in rough water or go out on a boat in dangerous winter surf conditions. Also, by fishing from different points on a pier anglers can access a variety of different depths.
Anglers can fish from any man-made pier or jetty without a fishing license, but they still must abide by all regulations and bag limits (daily bag limit for combined fish species is no more than 20 fish per day, with up to 10 of any one species.
"Surfperch fishing is a real fun, accessible method of fishing — and it's one of the only things available for anglers in the winter," said Allen Bushnell, co-host of "Let's Go Fishing Radio Show," which airs on KSCO 1080-AM on Friday mornings from April through September.
Bushnell said the winter season is ideal for surfperch species because, though they are here year-round, they congregate in the bay for winter spawning, plus the bigger waves mean there is more food near shore. In addition, other sports fish are out of season or have disappeared from the area.
There are several piers and jetties around the bay from which local anglers have had success fishing for surfperch. They include Municipal Wharf 2 and the Coast Guard Pier in Monterey, the Moss Landing Jetty, the Santa Cruz Pier, the Capitola Pier and the Cement Ship in Santa Cruz.
Local angler Matthew Michie, who holds the state record for black perch (1pound, 8 ounces — caught from the beach adjacent to the Coast Guard Jetty), said that the piers and jetties surrounded by rocky structures, such as the Coast Guard Pier, the Moss Landing Jetty and the Capitola Pier, are best for perch species that prefer rocky substrate.
Municipal Wharf #2, the Santa Cruz Pier and the Cement Ship are all surrounded by sandy substrate so would be better habitat for surfperch that prefer sandy beaches.
"Surfperch are small fish," said Michie. "To catch them, I use a small pole — a six-foot ultra light with a small weight and a6- to 10-pound test line. The best bait is uncooked shrimp, but you can also use lures or mussels."
Bushnell said he prefers using a 7- to10-foot pole and that you can throw out lures or bait. For bait, he suggests pile worms, pieces of shrimp or squid and, his personal favorite, sand crabs.
"The best lures are half-inch grubs," said Bushnell. "The favorite color is 'motor oil red' or 'gold flake.' They fool the perch into thinking they are food. On piers, people closer to the beach might use lures."
Bushnell explained that there are three methods of casting your pole from the pier. The first method is casting out with a lure or grub and retrieving the line slowly.
The second method is casting out bait and simply letting it sit on the bottom of deep water. The third method involves letting your line go straight up and down. For this last method, Bushnell recommends anglers use a Sabiki Jigg. "Sabiki" is Japanese for "fish skin," so named because it has "wings" that look like flies and were traditionally made out of fish skin.
"You put a weight on the bottom and can put tiny pieces of fish as bait on the hooks — but you don't have to," said Bushnell. "Sink it to the bottom, reel it up one reel, then retrieve it slowly. This is very productive for perch fishing off the pier."
For those who are hooked on surf-perch, the 6th Annual 2010 Sand Crab Classic Perch Derby will be held on March10, 2010. Participants will fish for surf-perch from their favorite fishing spot, then gather in the afternoon for a weigh-in, awards ceremony and banquet. All event proceeds go towards the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project.
For more information, see www.theletsgofishingradioshow.com, where event announcements will be posted after the first of the year.
Learn more about the Monterey Bay area at MontereyBayAdventures.com.