Bob Vanian's 976-Bite Hot Bite

There’s still a chance of catching a jumbo sized bluefin
The week of offshore fishing saw continued good action for a mix of yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, dorado and yellowtail. The fish are spread far and wide with good fishing being reported from the Mackerel Bank and the Catalina Channel all the way down to the upper Hidden Bank area below the Coronado Islands.

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The yellowfin tuna have been ranging in size from 5 to 60 pounds and bluefin tuna have ranged in size from 15 to 200+ pounds. The dorado have been mixed size fish that have ranged from small throwback sized fish up to big 35 pound bulls. Most of the yellowtail have been mixed size fish that have been in the 5 to 18 pound range.

Some of the current better bite areas are the waters around and about the Mackerel Bank, the 277 Spot, 267 Spot, 209 Spot, 181 Spot, , 224 Spot, 302 Spot, 371 Bank, 425 Bank, the upper Hidden Bank and the area 12 to 16 miles outside of the stretch of coast between Carlsbad and Del Mar

The tuna have been biting from spots of breaking, breezing or puddling fish, spots of working tern birds, kelp paddies, porpoise schools, trolling strikes, meter marks and sonar marks. Once tuna are located, productive baits and lures have been sardines, mackerel, anchovies, chunks of sardine, chunks of mackerel, Megabait style iron, Shimano Flat Fall iron and Shimano Colt Sniper iron. In addition to drifted sardines and mackerel, slow trolled sardines and mackerel have also been effective. Productive trolling lures have been cedar plugs, Rapalas, Halcos and assorted feathers.

Chunking has been a big key to success on the tuna and dorado which have responded well to chunks used for chum and to chunks used on the hook for bait. Skippers are sometimes reporting that they are hooking more fish on chunks of sardine than they are on live sardines.

There is still a chance at catching one of the jumbo sized bluefin tuna out at the 43 Fathom Spot. The bite has been slow though with only an occasional hookup being reported. The techniques being used for the jumbo sized bluefin out at the 43 Fathom Spot differ than what is talked about in the two paragraphs above. This area has mostly been fished by private boaters who have been finding most of the action on plastic Yummy Flyers that are trolled from a kite. There is also an occasional hookup also reported on mackerel or sardines that are trolled from a kite, drifted or slow trolled. There has not been much else reported biting around the 43 Fathom Spot so one needs to have the mindset of trying for a chance at catching one big fish rather than a bunch of fish.

Some recent catch reports start with a report from today's fishing (Friday) which comes from Captain Joe Cacciola of the Sea Star with Sea Star Sportfishing who was fishing out of Oceanside and had a 2 hour wide open bait stop that originated from stopping alongside of a spot of breezing fish that resulted in a catch of 100 mixed yellowfin tuna, skipjack and yellowtail. Cacciola said that they started out catching a few skipjack and that the bite turned over into yellowfin tuna. He said that they also added a few yellowtail when they drifted by a kelp paddie. Their yellowfin tuna started out to be mostly 12 pound fish but he said that as the stop progressed they started catching larger 20 pound class yellowfin. He said they had some of the 5 to 6 inch sardines for bait that worked very well. They had this red hot bait stop while fishing 14 miles outside of Carlsbad.

Private boater Philip Dodge of the Freedom Boat Club in Mission Bay reported about fishing on Thursday and said they found wide open limit fishing for dorado and yellowfin tuna and also caught and released some small yellowtail. Dodge found one stop shopping from a kelp paddie down below the 302 Spot and they were easily able to limit out on dorado and yellowfin tuna from the hot paddie bite. The yellowfin ranged from football sized fish up to fish that were up around 15 pounds and their dorado were nice sized 15 to 30 pound fish. This action was had while fishing out at 22 miles 216 degrees from Point Loma.

A similar report came from Captain Andy Papworth of the 6 pack charter yacht Prime Time with Prime Time Sportfishing who fished an overnight trip on Thursday and had limits of both yellowfin tuna and dorado. Papworth said that by the time they finished their limits of dorado everyone had also caught and released what would have been an additional limit of yellowfin tuna. Their yellowfin were in the 5- to 12-pound range and their dorado were nice big fish that went from 15 to 30 pounds. Their best fishing was had down between the Kidney Bank and the 371 Bank while fishing 25 miles 213 degrees from Point Loma.

The bigger sized yellowfin and some of the 15 to 60 pound bluefin have been biting around the Mackerel Bank and between the Mackerel Bank and the 277 Spot and this is the region where Captain Scott Meisel of the Condor out of Fisherman's Landing was fishing during his 1.5 day trip on Thursday. Meisel reported that they caught 50 yellowfin tuna on the trip and said that they were quality sized yellowfin that were running from 30 to 35 pounds. Meisel said they only had mackerel for bait and he felt that if they would have had sardines that they would have also done well on the smaller sized yellowfin tuna. He said they were fishing in 74 degree water and that there were lots of spots of breaking fish showing throughout the area.

There continues to be scattered marlin action for boats fishing some of the offshore banks ranging from the banks outside of the Coronado Islands on up to Catalina but the hot bite marlin zone remains further north around various high spots up in the Santa Barbara Island region. Some productive areas have been for boats fishing around and about the 63 Fathom Spot, 175 Spot, 17 Fathom Spot and the Boot. Some of the better action the past couple of days has been coming from inside of the ridge that runs between the 175 Spot and the 17 Fathom Spot.

There are some tailers, feeders and sleepers showing but most of the marlin action originates from fish that are raised on the trolling lures. Some marlin are hooked on the trolling lures but most are hooked on live mackerel that are dropped back behind the boat during a trolling strike. There have been numerous occasions when multiple marlin show up behind the boat chasing the jigs. Lots of marlin continue to be caught and released up in the Santa Barbara Island region with quite a few boats reporting days of fishing where they catch and release multiple fish.

The fantastic 2015 offshore fishing season continues! I hope you get a chance to get out there and get in on the fun sometime soon.

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It is my goal to provide you timely and accurate information in these reports containing news from right off the water. If you require more details that include the specific location of where catches have been made, I refer you to the daily Member’s Reports at Those Member’s Reports contain additional specifics that include latitude and longitude coordinates and other descriptive references about where and how fish are being caught. Make the most efficient use of your precious time on the water with the use of timely and accurate information.

Jim Niemiec's Blog

The good and bad of an early green-up
Late spring and early summer rains triggered an early green up of most of the southern portion of the state. While these rains definitely helped with enhanced nesting for wild turkey and California valley quail offering up excellent chances for brood survival, there was a down side to what Mother Nature provided.

NATIVE CROPS FOR WILDLIFE — All wildlife and upland game birds could benefit by an early green-up. This photo of a sunflower bush located in Riverside County is evidence of a lot of potential food for dove and quail once this wild plant's flowers mature and drop hundreds of sunflower seeds on the ground. There is also a lot of dove weed (turkey millet) out in dove hunting areas that might be a tad late in helping out with dove opener, but should produce an additional food source for the second half of dove season across the state. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

Western Outdoor News checked with retired wildlife biologist John Massie to get his opinion of what happened and its effect on wildlife.

"It should be good. I have been walking the footprints of the flash flooding that went on here in Ramona (northern San Diego Co.) and it's wall-to-wall filaree. Turkey poults are big into this kind of a salad and quail and young chukar are too. It also will probably produce a lot of grasshoppers and other small insects for chicks and poults to eat. Cannot see how it would have any negative aspects. Maybe if it's followed by another three or four years of drought it could be bad to have a spikey point of goodness come up and leave them high and dry, but let's hope not. Monsoonal moisture is a way of life in the Arizona Mearns' quail lives, so maybe something good will come of it in that region as well," stated Massie.

Master guide Chad Wiebe of Oak Stone Outfitters, based out of Bradley, checked in with some positive thoughts on the rain and what he is seeing now that summer is almost over.

"The turkey poults did well this past spring and early summer and we are seeing good numbers of young birds on hunt properties under lease. I have seen more small coveys of quail on the ground than during the past 4 years and that bodes well for upland game bird hunting along the central coast. We are into our Zone A deer season and there are some dandy racks already being harvested. Conditions are ideal, even though we didn't receive a lot of rain, and hopefully more summer rains will make for good hunting conditions for the remainder of deer season and into the early fall months for hogs and quail hunts," said Wiebe.

WON headed up to the High Sierra country last week and was pleasantly surprised by just how green it was. Stands of pine trees looked better than they have in years, there was a lot of green grass growing at lower elevations, sage brush looked healthy and there was a lot of Scotch brush in full bloom, Aspen groves were a lush green and there was a good flow in the upper stretches of the Owens River, although Crowley Lake had a lot of shore line and islands showing.

In early August there were two back to back summer storms that hit the Eastern Sierra pretty hard with good results. Western Outdoor News had a chance to sit down with Howard Arcularius who runs cattle on his ranch in Round Valley and also owns a fly fishing cabin on the upper stretch of the Owens River.

"Those storms last week really helped the water table on both the home ranch and our property up here at Arcularius On The River. The water table on both ranches was getting to the point that wells were not pumping strong and the aquifers were not producing enough water to keep up demand. It was looking like some of the cattle would have to be moved around, but then Mother Nature kicked in with a couple of dandy storms that dumped lots of rain. The water table really came up and right now it's looking like there will be ample feed and water available for all wild game and cattle along the eastern side of the Sierras," offered up Arcularius.

It was interesting to see just how much new grass there was and how soggy some of the spots were along the river. The highlight of the visit to the upper Owens was the flushing of a couple dozen sage hens that had come down for drink and then made a strong flight back to the protective cover of tall sage. Sage hen hunts had nearly been called off for this fall for both Inyo and Mono Counties, but thanks to better than average conditions during nesting time these birds might recover in numbers.

In the four days spent in the high country there wasn't a lot of deer spotted. One would think that with the latest rains that browse at higher elevations kicked in and that's where some of the deer headed. WON talked with Rick Geiser of Ken's Sporting Goods in Bridgeport about how the archery season was going.

"As of this morning I have heard of at least 5 bucks harvested by archery hunters but these hunters are not at all that willing to share much information on what's going on out in deer country. This past week I spotted a bachelor herd of a dozen bucks that were grazing between town and Twin Lakes. There is cheat grass all over this region and plenty of browse so I would expect deer to pretty much spread out from lower elevations all the way up into some of the meadows on top of nearby mountains. Bridgeport Reservoir is only 17 percent of capacity and the East Walker River is only flowing at 28 CFS and that's not enough to purge it out so there is lots of moss and weeds growing," offered Geiser.

Turning the page on early summer rains outdoorsmen should be aware of a few negative aspects of these much needed rains to recharge aquifers.

First on the list of negative would be the early germination of seeds that traditionally don't begin to develop until the first rains of the early fall season. In conversations over the years with master upland game bird guide Harold Horner of High Desert Guide Service he had the following to state.

"Early rains trigger a rapid growth in native plant life that traditionally stays in seed form until the first significant rains of the fall season. Once these seeds germinate they often grow fast and end up being burnt by late summer heat. Wild critters have relied on the first green-up of fall to carry them through the winter months. Mother Nature doesn't often allow for a second round of wild vegetation growth and this could offset the greening up of the high desert early in the summer," added Horner.

Another negative, possibly as a direct result of this year's rains, was the emergence of devil thorns! It has been many years since this hunting editor has seen so much of this invasive weed in so many hunting areas. Right now this ground plant is green and sending out limbs of little yellow colored flowers. Once these flowers mature into seeds they become dangerous to hunters and gun dogs.

As I kid growing up in Newport Beach and seemingly always running around barefoot, I can recall many encounters with devil thorns. Mature seeds dry and then become a sticker with 3 or 4 sharp spines that can puncture a foot and often even penetrate up through the sole of hunting boot or outdoor shoe.

To date, I have seen devil thorn plants in many areas of Southern California, up into the foothills of the Los Padres National Forest and along parts of Hwy. 395 leading up into chukar country. In the best interest of preventing a good gun dog from stepping on one these thorns check out your hunt area, especially along stretches of road that may have received a lot of rain before releasing your dog into the wilds.

Another direct result of those early summer rains has been the emergence of lots of grass, sage and chaparral. These plants will soon dry under late summer heat and provide additional fuel for wildfires, which could offset all the good that an early green-up did.

Gary Graham's Blog

Paul Watson, my Renaissance friend
My first contact with Paul Watson was in 2011 via Facebook. Watson was founder of Marlin World Media Publishing House that published Marlin World Magazine, an online, a high-quality digital and print big game fishing magazine based in Madeira, Portugal in 2007.

PAUL WATSON ENJOYED a remarkable life – globe-hopping when not at his home in Funchal, Madeira, with his beloved wife Filomena.

We shared many common interests – sportfishing, writing and photography. But it was in 2013, when Wayne Bisbee, Bisbee Tournaments, and Watson announced that a new partnership had been established to publish an online and print magazine with the new name of "Bisbee's Marlin World" that Paul began spending more time in Cabo San Lucas and we developed a growing friendship that we both valued.

During the summer and fall Baja tournaments, we were together for the various events. It was then that we forged a stronger friendship wrapped in our common interests.

When the text flashed on my cell early July 13 requesting family contact information for Paul D. Watson, I was shocked to learn that he had suffered a massive heart attack and had been found in his condo in Cabo San Lucas earlier that day by the property manager.

The news was numbing. I recalled random times we had shared during the past couple of years as I slowly realized my knowledge about his life and background was embarrassingly inadequate.

Resorting to Google, something I had never bothered to do before, I discovered he was 57 years old, born July 12, 1958 in London. After completing his education and becoming fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish, he began a career as an executive banker with Bank of America, Chase Manhattan and Citibank, traveling the world. In his mid-30s, he decided to trade his stress-filled life for one of an entrepreneur.

A British National Certified Skipper he took up residence in Madeira, Portugal, where he also became interested in photography, videography and writing and soon he turned these skills into a professional income stream. He became a freelance photographer in 1994.

His work was varied and he began publishing tourist magazines, calendars and websites. He continued to maintain contact with his colleagues in the hedge fund industry.

His pioneering efforts of digital page flip magazines led to the publishing of Marlin World Magazine, which grew into one of the most popular publications for the genre worldwide.

Bisbee's Marlin World, a new flip magazine and a joint effort, would continue to cover the International Big Game fishing scene plus include detailed information about the Bisbee tournaments. This conceived as a format that would include different language versions of each edition and offer subscribers the choice of a free online version or a paid-subscription print copy.

This gave a new dimension to our friendship, allowing Watson and me to expand our friendship into a professional relationship as well … one that prospered and benefited both of us.

We whiled away the hours with stories, ideas and laughter as we waited for a team with a fish to show up at the scales, always looking for that perfect photo or storyline.

In 2014, when I showed up at the Bisbee East Cape Offshore with a drone, Paul volunteered to edit some of the start footage for me. When the devastating hurricane "Odile" slammed into Baja, he was already in Cabo when I arrived.

We would meet each morning at the Baja Cantina before splitting up and heading out into the devastated Colinas (hills) surrounding the city to do whatever we could to help … only to return later that evening and swap stories and compare photos.

Paul Watson enjoyed a remarkable life – globe-hopping when not at his home in Funchal, Madeira, with his beloved wife Filomena. His long list of friends and companions as he frequently referred to them, literally circle the earth.

"Paul’s dry British humor, talent and friendship will be missed." Wayne Bisbee, acknowledged recently.

My friendship with Paul lacked complexity. It was a friendship offered and accepted without qualifications or expectations. Thinking back, to put it in his words, “It was just two blokes with a kindred spirit.”

Renaissance Man by definition is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. By definition, my friend, Paul was certainly a Renaissance Man, but so very much more. He will be missed.

Carrie Wilson's Blog

Rainbow Trout in Anadromous Waters
Question: I have taken up fly fishing again after a long while away. This past weekend I went fishing on the Russian River and caught two rainbows/steelhead (one a hatchery fish and the other a wild fish) and both were about 10 inches long. I am wondering if I have to report fish of that size on my Steelhead Report Card in the future. I recorded them this time out of an abundance of caution, but I don't want to over-inflate the run estimates needlessly. (Kyle K., Healdsburg)


Answer: It can be a bit confusing because steelhead trout and rainbow trout are the same fish. Its scientific name is Oncorhynchus mykiss (O. mykiss). Generally speaking, rainbow trout are O. mykiss found in land-locked freshwater with no access to the ocean, while steelhead trout are O. mykiss fish found in anadromous waters, which are waters with unimpeded access to the ocean where they live the majority of their life before returning to freshwater to spawn.

For practical purposes and to facilitate compliance, fishing regulations differentiate between rainbow and steelhead in anadromous waters by a 16-inch size threshold. O. mykiss smaller than 16-inches are treated as rainbow trout, and those bigger than 16-inches are treated as steelhead. Fishing for steelhead, meaning any O. mykiss in excess of 16-inches, in anadromous waters will require the purchase of a Steelhead Report Card, even if you practice catch-and-release (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 5.88).

The report card provides important data to fishery scientists and requires an entry for each day that you fish and statistics on all fish caught and released. Fishing for O. mykiss less than 16-inches does not require a steelhead report card.

Can other law enforcement agencies enforce CDFW regulations?

Question: I am a current sworn recruit in a Southern California Sheriff’s Department Academy. I will be working in a county with a heavy hunting and fishing population and an abundance of wildlife areas. I am just curious, and have been earnestly trying to find the answer on my own accord without luck, about a specific phrase in Fish and Game Code, section 2012. It states:

§ 2012. All licenses, tags, and the birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians taken or otherwise dealt with under this code, and any device or apparatus designed to be, and capable of being, used to take birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians shall be exhibited upon demand to any person authorized by the department to enforce this code or any law relating to the protection and conservation of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians.

My question is: who are the persons authorized by the department to enforce this code or any law relating to the protection and conservation of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles or amphibians? Are local police and county sheriffs authorized by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to enforce the Fish and Game Code? If it does exist, is there any statute that expresses that authority? (Calen A., M.A.)

Answer: Only CDFW wildlife officers are authorized to enforce the “exhibit upon demand” authority of Fish and Game Code, section 2012. Police officers and county sheriffs are authorized to enforce most hunting and fishing laws but are not authorized to enforce Fish and Game Code Section 2012.

Aside from CDFW wildlife officers, only Rangers and Lifeguards of the Department of Parks and Recreation are authorized to use that law, and then only while on duty in a state park, state beach, state recreation area, state underwater park, state reserve, or other similar facility. Although other law enforcement officers can’t make a formal demand under section 2012 to see someone’s licenses, fish, game, or equipment, they can still enforce fish and game laws and inspect these items if they are in plain view or with the person’s consent.

Discharging a firearm along public roadway

Question: As a firearms instructor and hunting enthusiast, I am continually asked the question, “When hunting and on foot (outside of a vehicle), can you discharge a firearm or other weapon (e.g. compound bow) from or along a public roadway?” Is there a minimum distance from a public roadway? For example, an inhabited structure or barn at 150 yards away? (Don S., Fresno)

Answer: It unlawful to discharge a firearm or release an arrow or crossbow bolt over or across any public road or other established way open to the public in an unsafe and reckless manner (Fish and Game Code, section 3004(b)). Discharging a firearm from or upon a public road or highway is also prohibited (Penal Code, section 374c). In addition, it is a felony to willfully discharge a firearm in a grossly negligent manner that could injure another person (Penal Code, section 246.3). Many cities and counties have also adopted ordinances further restricting where firearms may be fired, so hunters should consult their local law enforcement agency for specific information about the area where they wish to shoot.

Halibut fishing in SF Bay

Question: If I’m trolling for halibut in the San Francisco Bay, can I use another line that has only dodgers and flashers on it without any hooks to attract the fish closer to my boat? I will only have one pole or line with a hook on it. (J.V., Rodeo)

Answer: Yes.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at

Bill Varney's Blog

Five free surf baits
There’s nothing better than live bait for catching surf fish. California’s beaches, estuaries and harbors are loaded with bait you can collect for free. All it takes is a little time, patience and the right tide to collect what you need for a great day of fishing.

One of my favorite rules when it comes to surf fishing is: Look for the bait that occurs naturally around the area you are fishing. If there are crabs in the sand or sidewinders on the rocks you can be well assured that’s what the fish are eating. Take a few moments the next time you go down to the beach and pay attention to what occurs there naturally— that’s usually your best bet for catching surf fish.


Some baits are available year-round, while others like the sand crab are seasonal and occur mainly in Southern California during spring, summer and early fall. When the local waters warm to around 60 degrees sand crabs will dig their way to the surface in search of food. As warm summer water bathes the beach the crabs grow and shed their shell. Much like a snake loses his skin, the crab also sheds and grows several shells throughout the summer.

My favorite time to collect crabs is at high tide. But crabs can be found in “beds” at low tide too. The two most common techniques for collecting crabs are digging by hand or using a galvanized sand rake.

I like to find an area near the high tide mark on the open sand beach and begin to dig there. When I dig by hand I search crabs within the first 6 inches and put them into a bucket for washing and sorting. If I use the crab rake I can pick out the best crabs and put them directly in my waist bait bucket and I’m ready to go.

For storing, I keep my sand crabs in a plastic container inside a small ice chest near a frozen bottle of water. They will live the longest in a 50- to 60 degree range so don’t put them in the refrigerator. Also, remember to place a piece of wet kelp you collected at the beach right on top of them. They will keep cool, moist and alive for about two days.

Mussel can be found where rocks and structure meet moving water. You’ll find two kinds of mussel in our local bays. On outer rock structure like jetties and breakwalls rock or piling mussels cling in clumps to rocks and structure. These mussels can be up to eight inches long and have orange and brown meat. They group is large numbers and many times completely cover their host. Mussel has always been known for driving perch and corbina crazy. The best place to find mussels is on rock jetties, pier pilings and near harbor entrances.

In bays and estuaries green mussel attaches itself to rocks and structure in small groups. Most often they can be found attached to the bottom of rocks. Look for this mussel in back bay areas where the water movement and wave action is gentle. Turning over rocks is a good way to find them. Be sure to replace the rocks once you’ve look so more mussel will continue to grow. The meat on this mussel is bright green and seems to work both as a sight and taste incentive for fish to bite. Most green mussel is four inches or less in length.

In most cases I use about 10 mussels each time I fish. If you place the mussel in a bucket overnight it will be easier to shuck the next day. If you seal the unopened mussel in a plastic container and refrigerate, it will last almost two weeks. I like to clean some extra mussel, put it in a small zip top bag and freeze it. That way next time you go fishing you bait is ready to go.


There are several types of clams found on California’s beaches including Pacific Littleneck, Gaper, Pacific Razor, Cockle and Pismo clams. All of these clams make great bait but without question one of the most abundant and easiest to collect is the Littleneck.

Littleneck Clams are found in areas where sand and mud meet rocks and in calm bay areas like harbors and estuary inlets. Outside harbors where sandy areas meet rock, look for them to be buried in less than six inches of sand. They like to congregate in groups, buried in sand, adjacent to rocks. Look for holes in the sand that clams use for feeding and many times you’ll find them just beneath.

When you find clams smaller than the legal size always be sure to replant them in the sand. When searching for calms think about where rivers, creeks and estuaries meet the ocean. This is where you will find them most abundant.

Littlenecks are also found in back harbor areas under small stones adjacent to mud and sand. Look for rocky areas that have stones about the size of a shoebox. Try to find where sand or mud is near or under the rocks. Carefully, turn each rock over and look for them just below the rock on in the mud or sand beneath.

I generally collect no more than 10 clams per person for each day of surf fishing. Like mussel, clams keep well in a sealed plastic container in the refrigerator, staying fresh for about two weeks. It’s a good idea to shuck clams the night before you go fishing. That way you’re not fumbling with your clams and a knife at the beach.


Ghost shrimp can be collected by hand or purchased at some tackle stores. Surf fishermen rave about how well ghost shrimp work. Some of the biggest corbina and spotfin croaker I’ve ever seen were caught on a shrimp—seems to be an oxymoron but who cares if it works!

Ghost shrimp or yabbies, as they are called in Australia, can be found in estuaries and inside back harbor areas. Ghost shrimp burrow into mud areas and can be most effectively harvested with a shrimp plug at low tide. This device uses suction to pull a plug of mud from the bottom. You then push the mud plug out and search for ghost shrimp.

Ghost shrimp can be kept in a loosely sealed plastic container in the refrigerator for up to one week. It’s a good idea to collect a bottle of seawater from the beach and rinse the ghost shrimp with it daily.


Sidewinder rock crabs make great bait for perch and croaker and seem to work best when used near rocky areas. You will see these crabs in large numbers scurrying back and forth on local rock jetties. They are brown and green in color and possess two large (and sometimes painful!) claws. They generally live between rocks in nooks, crannies and crevices.

The best place to find sidewinders is just above the waterline on rock jetties and tide pool areas. Look for them between mussel clusters, in crevices between rocks and by flipping over small rocks. Sidewinders can be found at both high and low tide and seem to be easiest to see and catch on overcast and cloudy days. I generally catch them by hand but you can also put a small piece of anchovy, cat food, mussel, etc. in a can, place it between the rocks, tilt it on its side and come back later to see what you’ve caught.

Sidewinder crabs are very hardy bait and can be kept for a week or longer. Place sidewinders in a plastic tub with a large piece of kelp to keep them cool and moist. I usually drape a towel or newspaper over the container to keep light out. Sidewinders, like sand crabs, should not be kept in the refrigerator.


Sand worms live beneath the sand and make great surf bait. Fresh worms work well for perch, croaker and an occasional halibut. These worms can be found at the beach throughout the year but are most active during spring and summer grunion runs. Their color takes on what they have eaten. Many times they are an olive green and orange from eating clams and other times they may be red and green from eating grunion eggs.

When looking for worms at low tide start by digging ten to twenty feet below the high tide mark. Most worms are down about 12”-36” and occasionally can be found in groups. Begin by digging a hole three feet wide and one foot deep.

Look for the worms as you dig. Remember they can climb away fast so keep a close eye. Catching worms takes a bit of practice--because they can dig away from you at a slithering fast pace. Start by grabbing the worm as it digs away. You may dig around it to catch the worm or pull it slowly backwards until it lets loose and comes out.

Worms are very hardy and easy to keep. Simply place them in sealed plastic container and put the in the refrigerator. They will bunch up and stay lively for about a week. I like to use a #2 split shot hook and thread one or two worms up the hook for bait.

Spending a little time collecting bait at your local beach can really pay off. Even when fishing with artificial baits it’s important to know what fish are eating. That way you can match your baits to the colors and size of what fish eat everyday. Not only is it fun to find, collect, rig and fish natural baits but with so many things that cost money today it’s still nice there’s something out there that’s still free!

Attend Bill’s last on-the-beach clinic of the summer on Sept. 26 at Bolsa Chica State Beach. Go to for more information. Check out his new surf fishing identification card at

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