Bill Varney – SURF LINES

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Wednesday, April 05, 2017
Shore fishing the bay
Thursday, September 14, 2017
Bait Presentation at the Beach…

Candy Bait For Corbina
When spring rolls around, corbina have been holed up in bays, harbors and estuaries. As the water warms, they know it’s time to leave these safe confines and make their way to the beach.

As they spread out along the shore, corbina search for the fine odor of fertile sand crabs and gorge themselves. Weeks, then months go by, and all they eat are crabs — wonderful crabs. But like any good diet, even the best foods get a bit dull and that’s where ghost shrimp replace prime crab rib with lobster.

A GHOST SHRIMP aquarium with cold saltwater in it will keep your bait fresh for up to a week.

Ghost shrimp have always been known as the “candy bait” of the surf. Available in stores for decades, shrimp are now flown in from halfway across the world or caught at your local estuaries. Although very few stores now carry ghosties, you can still find them with a little patience and perseverance near harbors, bays and estuaries.

Ghost shrimp can be found in many places along the Southern California and Northern Baja coasts. Adult shrimp grow to about 4.5 inches and males tend to have one claw that is considerably larger than the other. Most shrimp range from clear or even white (as with a grass shrimp) to orange and brown in color.

Shrimp enjoy living in sandy and muddy intertidal zones, bays and estuaries. They make their home inside burrows, which they share with other fish and invertebrates. Their main forage consists of plankton and “detritus,” which consists of small pieces of organic plant and animal waste.

The best place to find shrimp (in addition to a few choice tackle stores) is along the shore of bays that contain exposed sand and mud flats. Shrimp find it easiest to live in flats that are a combination of sand and mud — most notably, an area where a 6-inch layer of mud has been deposited on top of a sand bar. A low tide rising to a high tide seems to offer one of the best times to trap shrimp.

Look for shrimp under holes you find on the mud flats. I like to try to find the holes that have a recent deposit of fresh sand around their opening. Shrimp can be dug by hand, or most effectively, by using a hand suction pump. You can purchase stainless steel pumps manufactured by Alvey, Australia, or you can build one yourself using parts purchased at your local hardware store.

GHOST SHRIMP, THE candy bait of the surf and a great way to tie into a chunky corbina.

Shrimp are best kept in the refrigerator inside a plastic container with or without saltwater. Look for them to live about three days without water and about a week with it. I use a five-gallon plastic aquarium to keep my shrimp fresh. Water can be kept cold by placing one or two frozen water bottles inside a five-gallon aquarium or by placing the aquarium itself in the refrigerator.

Rigging your surf fishing set up for a ghost shrimp is easy. I like to use the Carolina rig tied to 6-pound monofilament fished on an 8-foot rod, matched to a 2500-series spinning reel. The Carolina rig is nothing more than a sliding sinker, a bead, a swivel, 18 to 36 inches of 6-pound fluorocarbon leader and a super-sharp hook. I like to use a #4 kahle or #4 sproat hook for shrimp. You can get a good look at the rig by visiting the “rigging” page on my site at fishthesurf.com.

Ghost shrimp are fragile and can be tricky to hook. The biggest reason fishermen don’t use this bait is because it commonly flies off the hook while casting. Here are a few tips to help you securely hook the shrimp so they can be easily delivered right to where the fish are.

Use a long shank worm hook or Kahle hook for shrimp. Turn the bait on its back and insert the hook into the underside of the tail. Carefully, feed the hook up the center of its body. Exit the “business” end of the hook, to just above the barb, just below the shrimp’s head, (through the carapace between it’s legs). This method of hooking does two things: first, it allows the bait to lie flat on your hook (when the bait is flat it doesn’t spin and looks natural). Second, this helps to secure the bait to your hook and reduce the number of times the bait flies off during a cast.

A NICE BEAN for Mark Gauvin, caught on ghost shrimp.

When fishing for corbina, keep in mind that they will be feeding very close to shore. I find the best beach to fish is one that is sloping and goes from shallow to deep with a slight incline. The best tide to fish for corbina is from low tide up until peak high tide. This way, corbina ride each successive wave farther up the beach as it is covered by water in search of food.

I fish shrimp very close to shore. Not only because you can’t cast them a mile but also because the fish are feeding in close. As a result, I generally use a longer 4- or 6-pound fluorocarbon leader (24 inches-plus) and a very light egg sinker. A split shot or a sliding egg sinker up to ½ ounce (at the very most) is just enough to keep your bait in the zone.

After you cast out, slowly retrieve your bait, always keeping tight to your sinker. If you’ve found the right place to fish you have just cast over the inshore trough. As you reel back toward shore, your sinker will fall and “catch” the side of the trough. STOP HERE. This way your sinker is lodged in the shore side of the trough and your bait (on that 24-inch leader) is waving back and forth across the trough like a soldier on leave! That’s a corbina super highway with a lobster thrashing in melted butter right in the middle of the road!

Don’t ever reel your bait in until you see the egg sinker hit the sand. So many big ones have been caught in just inches of water and you don’t want to be the one who sees their corbina shrug it shoulders, wave a fin and swim away.

Join WON Surf Fishing Editor for two upcoming on-the-beach surf fishing clinics: Friday, July 28, and Saturday, July 29 at South Carlsbad State Beach and August 4-5 at Carpinteria State Beach. Register and learn more about the clinic at www.fishthesurf.com/topics/seminars

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