Umarex Gauntlet


Bill Varney – SURF LINES

WON’s Surf fishing Editor Bill Varney, really knows the California surf. His family has lived and fished in Los Angeles since the 1850s. Besides the four generations of surf knowledge that have been passed down to Bill he also grew up in the South Bay where he worked for TC Tackle, as a hand on Redondo’s 3/4-day Dina Lee and for the surf master Fred Oakley collecting bait for every tackle shop from Santa Barbara to San Diego.

Over the years tackle has changed as anglers downsize from the long heavily weighted rods and rigs of the past to much lighter surf gear. It is the fast-growing sector of the fishing industry and Bill’s book “Surf Fishing, The Light-Line Revolution” covers all aspects of West Coast surffishing with information on rigging, baits and dozens of techniques on how to find and catch more fish at the beach.

Bill’s monthly articles in Western Outdoor News cover how-to techniques that help readers find, bait and catch fish in the surf. While his weekly tips, keep surf fishermen up-to-date on new and exciting ways to target local surf fish.

You can e-mail him at

Perch Fishing for Winter Slabs
Now that we are surrounded by winter and much of our offshore fishing equipment is put away, it’s a great time to get back down to the beach for some fishing. You know, when I tell folks that it’s a great time of year to surf fish, they always look a bit sideways at me. I can’t really blame them. Wind, rain, short days and a complete absence of fish reports tend to make one think that there is no good fishing to be had.

Many surfperch fishermen wait until early spring to fish the beach, as this has often been the time when large, spawning perch go wide open. But traditionally, some of the largest perch you will ever see have been caught throughout the entire winter.

BARRED SURFPERCH TUCK into the rocks in winter and wait for food to be washed out from the rocks.

Over the last few winters this has not been the case in Southern California. As the water from the El Nino effect has warmed, both fish and bait (surfperch and sand crabs) have moved north. This year the water temperatures have begun to settle back to their averages and the big perch have followed with them.

Their are many types of perch in the California surf but three of my favorites to target are barred, walleye and calico surfperch. All three use their throat to crush bait and spend most of their time in the inshore trough just a few yards from shore. During the late fall, perch gorge on forage during their mating period. They become voracious eaters during this period as they prepare to give birth to live offspring. The gestation period is around five months, so they generally bear their young in spring. Young perch flood the beaches during summer so the winter period always seems to be the best time to catch the largest fish.

To prepare for catching these 3-pound perch I like to use a nine-foot spinning rod matched with a 2500 series reel, loaded with six-pound pink or red monofilament. For rigging use the Carolina rig. It a simple rig made up of a sliding sinker, a bead, swivel, eighteen inches of leader and a very sharp hook.

If the surf is small and the current light I will use as little as a ¼-ounce sinker. If the surf is large, with a strong current or winds, I will use up to a 1-ounce slider. A bead is essential to keep your sinker from loading with sand and binding on your line. I prefer 6-pound fluorocarbon as my leader material because it’s “invisible” and abrasion resistant. As for a hook, it must be sharp. Yes, I mentioned that twice because it’s so important that your hook is sharp. Ok, that’s three times.

Surfperch love a variety of baits. Perch by nature are scavengers and feed on just about anything. My favorite baits are ghost shrimp, sidewinder crabs, clams and both lug and bloodworms. Although perch also love sand crabs, sand crabs are generally much harder to find during winter. For artificial baits, perch will chase Gulp! Sandworms, plastic grubs, minnow-style hardbaits and spoons.

FOR THE BEST results at the beach find the inshore trough at low tide, line it up with some type of marker on shore and come back and fish it at high tide.

Finding perch at the beach can be a daunting task if you hope just to stumble upon them. Here are a few tips that will help you find the fish.

If you plan to fish on an open beach you will need to find the troughs where surfperch hide. The easiest way to find them is to go to your favorite beach at low tide. Walk along the beach and take note as to where the inshore trough is and line it up with something permanent behind it so you may go back at high tide and fish it. There are generally two inshore troughs: one that is near shore which is carved out by waves breaking on shore (it is about 10 to 50 feet out) and another that is formed by waves breaking offshore at low tide.

Besides the open beach, you’ll always find perch around structure areas like rocks, jetties, reefs and pilings. Surfperch gather around rock areas for both protection and to feed. When the winter months arrive surf fish generally make their way to rock outcroppings because much of their winter food clings to and is washed from the rocks.

When fishing rock outcroppings, jetties and harbor entrances, it is important to find the area where an eddy has been created, as this is where the fish will hide to ambush food. When first approaching a rock area, identify the direction of the swell as it reaches the rocks. Look on the opposite side of where waves meet rock for swirling, foaming and off colored-water. This most likely is where you will find the fish.

WALLEY SURFPERCH ARE generally found on open beach areas snuggled into the nearshore trough.

A common mistake when fishing near and from the rocks for perch and other surf fish is that anglers cast away from the rocks. Remember, fish grew big by being smart and although it’s embarrassing to match your wits to that of a fish, they will surely out-fish you if you don’t keep this in mind: fish of all sizes use the rocks for protection. They head back into the rocks and only come out for a short while to feed. You’ll miss the big ones if you cast away from the rocks.

So when fishing from the rocks, cast your bait roughly 5 feet in front of where water meets rock and let the current wash your bait in and out — and because this many times results in snags, just downsize your sinker to 1/4-ounce and also shorten your leader to 12 inches or less. If your line does get snagged in the rocks, jiggle it gently and most times it will come free.

Allowing your bait to wash in and out of the rocks presents food in its most natural state. Fish will come out from the rocks, pick up your bait and move right back into their “garage.” So always keep your line tight to your sinker and as soon as your line begins to come tight (almost like you are snagging), reel quickly and raise your rod tip to set the hook and pull the fish from between the rocks.

Take some responsibility to insure the health of the perch population by quickly and carefully releasing pregnant female perch. That will insure the fish will be there the next time you go. With so many huge barred, calico and walleye perch out there, now is the time to get down to the beach. Don’t wait for summer to pull on you next fish when you can pull on a slab today!

CALICO SURFPERCH ARE most active in the winter and can be found up against offshore rocks, jetties and harbor entrances.

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Bill Varney has just finished publishing the 2019 CCA Sportfishing Tide Calendar. You’ll find it at tackle stores, landings and all Turner Outdoorsman’s stores. Join Bill next summer for a series of CCA on-the-beach surf fishing clinics. You’ll find more information about surf fishing and the upcoming clinics on his website:

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

Fall Fishing With Clams And Mussel In The Surf
This time of year always reminds me of a story my son told me one day after coming home from surf team practice. The story starts out the day I met a fellow fisherman on the beach who turned out to be a marine biologist doing an extensive study on corbina. Although the biologist’s focus was to catch, examine and catalog corbina, they always seemed to catch other common surf fish during their research. Once all the fish had been examined, they discovered that every fish from the surf had one thing in common: their stomachs all contained mussel and clam bivalves — and not just one or a few — but every one they caught over a nine month period.

littleneckclamsLITTLENECK CLAMS CAN be found in intertidal areas and work great for surf fishing in the fall.

I had always known clams and mussel worked in the surf and had noticed some time ago that they seemed to work best starting in October. So one day a few years ago, my son came to me after surf practice and told me the story of how one of the kids on the team was thrown from their board and tossed to the bottom. When they came to shore their face was torn, scraped, bloody and covered with clams. Immediately the light went off in my head and I excused myself, collected my gear (and a few clams) and made my way down to the beach to have some of the best spotfin croaker fishing ever!

With more than 15,000 species of clam, oyster and mussel bivalve mollusks to choose from, it makes sense that this bait works well in the surf. The most common bivalve may be mussels, which are found anywhere you have substantial tidal movement, in conjunction with rock, pilings or jetty structure. More than anywhere else, mussels seem to thrive on pier pilings, docks, jetties and inside wave-protected harbors.

Two different kinds of mussel work great for surf bait. One is common rock or piling mussel, which contains orange and brown meat (Mytilus carifornianus). The other is the green bay mussel, which is full of bright chartreuse meat and can be found under small intertidal rocks (Mytilus edulis diegensis).

The best time to collect mussels is at low tide. Rock and jetty mussel will be found in groups on rocks facing the open ocean. Bay mussel is found inside harbor areas on the bottom of small rocks where only one or two may live.

Rather than wrestling with bait in the morning’s half-light, I like to clean my mussels before going to the beach. When shucking mussel, use a small knife to cut the tendons near the rear of the shell. On one side, near the back, there is a small indentation or hole. Insert your knife into this hole and slowly pull the knife forward toward the front of the shell. As you move along it will cut the tendon and once the shell is partly open you can pry it apart with your fingers. Inside the mussel you will find two different bait textures: one very soft and pliable another very rubbery and strong. Both make good bait.

WHEN FISHING WITH mussel, be sure to include a bit of shell on your bait to provide for a more realistic presentation in the surf.

Mussel works great as fresh bait, but you may also want to collect a few extra, shuck them from their shells and freeze them for later use. I divide them into small zip-top bags and freeze them. Only thaw them once. Mussels thawed and refrozen may become too mushy for bait. Always take only as many as you will need.

For hooking mussel, I’ll wrap it around an octopus (seems ironic!), mosquito or split shot hook, then pierce the rubber lip membrane last so that it holds the bait in place. Be sure to puncture the lip membrane past the barb to hold it securely. Some anglers use dental floss or silk string to secure mussel to the hook and some also include some of the shell in their bait presentation.

Another hooking technique is to feed the mussel lip up the hook just as if you were using a worm. This can be done by inserting the hook into the center of the mussel lip membrane and then pulling the mussel up over the hook and eventually onto your line. Rather than wrapping the bait around the hook (like above) you are pulling the hook down the center of the bait so it appears to look like a worm. If a bite takes off the bottom half of your bait just slide more mussel lip below the hook and poke the point of the hook back through the membrane.

Mussel is very hardy and will last in a cool moist plastic tray for several days. They can be cleaned immediately or are a bit easier to shuck after being stored overnight. By all means, do not eat mussel that you collect. It’s a filter organism that when feeding passes huge quantities of water through its membrane. It’s “muscle” then retains and concentrates toxins it filters from the water, including “domoic acid,” the neurotoxin that causes amnesic shellfish poisoning, which may also be fatal.

Besides mussel, there are several different types of clams that work well in the surf. My favorites include little neck clams(Protothaca staminea), cockles(Clinocardium californiense) and Pacific razor clams (Siliqua patula). Some of the largest spotfin croaker I’ve seen caught were those caught on fresh clam.

The best place to find these clams (with the exception of Pismo clams) is in inlet areas that are flushed by daily tides. Harbors, inlets, estuaries and any marine environment where saltwater washes over rocks are good places to look for them. Most clams are found near or under rocks.

I look for areas that have small rocks (about the size of a shoe box) and turn them over. By using a small hand cultivator you can turn over the mud and sand near the rocks and find the clams. I use gloves and the cultivator because of the many barnacles on the rocks and sharp objects in the sand.

RAZOR CLAMS WORK great for surf bait and can be found buried in mud and sand inside harbors and estuaries.

The best tide to find clams is always low tide. This allows you to harvest an area that is covered by water at high tide. As with collecting most types of bait, go down to your local harbor or inlet to explore and dig around at low tide. You will be amazed at what you’ll find and you’ll know exactly where to go the next time you need bait.

When you’re finished hunting the elusive clam, replace the rocks and try to leave the spot as undisturbed as possible. Just take what you will need for a couple of days fishing.

Clams will last in your refrigerator for about one week. Be sure they are in a tight container. I open clams at the beach by crushing their shell with my pliers. You may also open them at home the night before. Be sure to keep them in their own juice so they don’t dry out.

When you open clams you will find two distinct meats. One meat is very soft and should be put on the hook first. The other meat is very rubbery and is sometimes characterized by a bright orange or a dull yellow color.

Now it’s time to hook the clam. Once you’ve opened the clam carefully pull out all of the meat. First hook the soft part of the bait. Then hook the rubbery (a heart-shaped, normally yellow or orange) section. This will help the clam stay on your hook for a good cast.

Clams are stable on the hook and easy to cast. Check your bait periodically to make sure it’s securely hooked. You’ll find that clams are durable and work great for surfperch, corbina, yellowfin and spotfin croaker.

Fall and winter months have always been a great time for using clams and mussel in the surf. If you are collecting them yourself, take a few moments to become familiar with the DFW regulations by going to: . Always take just what you need for bait, and catch, photo and release your surf fish whenever possible.


Clams seem to work their best in the months of October through January. As a clue to what fish are eating, I look for beds of clams (Donax gouldii, bean clams) that form near the low tide mark in huge beds. You can usually find these in October and although they are not the clams we use for bait, it lets us know this is what fish are eating.

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Also, check out Bill’s new product the “Crab n’ Go,” a great tool for catching sand crabs for surf fishing bait. You’ll find it on his site or ask for it at a tackle store near you.

chartreusebaymusselsCHARTREUSE BAY MUSSELS are irresistible to cold-water surf fish.

HALIBUT TOO CAN easily fall prey to a mussel lip threaded onto a long shank hook.

USE THE LIP of a large mussel to attract surf fish by threading it up the hook and making sure it's as straight as possible.

surfperchsnuggleSURFPERCH SNUGGLE UP to rocks in cooler water month hoping to find mussel and clams to forage.

IN THE FALL as the ocean cools and sand crabs hibernate, huge spotfin like this one forage near-shore for clams.

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

Being prepared for fall surf fishing
This summer has produced some crazy-good surf fishing. Stripers in San Diego, world-class corbina fishing in Santa Barbara and everything in between.

Recently, Scripps Institute reported the surface water temperature at Scripps Pier in La Jolla hit a record 78.6 degrees. That’s the highest temperature recorded in 102 years. With hurricanes on the horizon, there is no doubt the water temp will go even higher.

With all this hot water how is that going to affect surf fishing? Well, that’s anyone’s guess, but here’s mine: Warm water generally signals less sand crabs and a migration of some surf fish toward the north. Fish generally follow their food, so as the food moves north into cooler water, so do the fish.

In previous years of warm water, perch have been hard to find in Southern California but are found in abundance in areas like Pismo, Guadalupe, Monterey and beaches north. Yet, it also encourages fish rarely seen in California to move up the coast. Corvina, bonefish, needlefish and jacks are just of few of the fish we might expect to see this fall.

GHOST SHRIMP MAKE excellent bait in the fall when sand crabs become scarce.

Fall has always been my favorite time to fish the beach, when crowds are thin, water is warm and fish are numerous. As with the change of seasons, bait changes from season to season too.

Summer brings us loads of sand crabs and the on rush of corbina to rake the sandy shores for food. When summer ends sand crabs sink out as they prepare for their winter hibernation and fish begin searching for a new food to take the place of crab.

Fall baits such as bloodworms, ghost shrimp and lugworms work well for fishing the beach from autumn through spring. As the billion or more sand crabs leave the beaches, surf fish such as barred perch, spotfin croaker, leopard sharks, yellowfin croaker and the occasional corbina look for a new source of food to comfort their veracious appetites.

One of the best surf baits has always been ghost shrimp. Credited with catching some of the biggest surf fish on record (the current world record corbina being one), the ghost shrimp is one of my favorite surf baits. Ghost shrimp can be found inside your local estuary or harbor where they can be “pumped” by hand.

As with most surf baits fished on light line, I always use the Carolina rig for ghost shrimp. Use a long shank worm hook for shrimp. Insert the hook near the shrimp’s tail and “feed” the hook upwards through the center of its body. Exit the business end of the hook just below the shrimp’s head and between the legs. This is by far the hardest part of the shrimp’s body and by hooking here will allow you to give the bait a moderate cast without losing it.

Storing shrimp correctly is important because of their fragility. Unlike sand crabs, ghost shrimp may be stored in a refrigerator. If you have bait left over after a day of fishing, rinse it out with saltwater at the shore just before leaving the beach. Because shrimp excrete urine (which will eventually kill them) bring home a bottle of saltwater from the beach to rinse them at least once per day.

I like to take it one step further by using a five-gallon aquarium that fits in a “dorm” refrigerator to keep my ghost shrimp alive and crisp. Keep the temperature in the refrigerator around 54 degrees and change the water every two to three days. Shrimp kept this way will last about a week and be much fresher and crisper on the hook.

When I take shrimp to the beach, I will always place them in my hip bait bucket with a couple of ice cubes. That way when I reach the beach they stay cool and don’t cook inside my closed bait container.

Another bait you can find at your local tackle shop are lug and bloodworms.

Bloodworms have a storied past and are considered one of the best baits ever used at the beach. One great advantage of the blood worm is its durability. Their outside casing is so tough feel free to catch one, two, or five fish on the same bait — it’s that strong.

LUG AND BLOODWORMS attract fish in fall and winter and can usually be found at most local tackle shops.

The lugworm is a recent addition to surf fishing baits and has become a great substitute for bloodworms. These worms are farmed in controlled conditions and can be grown in huge quantities. This helps to make them more widely available and less expensive. Both blood and lugworms can be kept for up to two weeks in your refrigerator.

Because you will use the entire worm for bait, it takes a bit of practice to get one on your hook. Inside the worm’s mouth you’ll find a set of two to four pinchers. They appear as if they are tiny fingernails. The worm uses these to catch its prey and to dig holes in the sand. On larger worms these claws will get your attention as they clamp onto your skin with a sharp pinch!

It is essential to have the worm expose it’s “claws” outside of the casing to hook it correctly. Rub the worm against your coat or pinch it with your pliers to open its mouth. The fresher the worm, the faster and more pronounced the pinchers and mouth will be.

To get the worm in a position to place on the hook, pinch the “neck” (just below the pinchers) between your thumb and forefinger. Holding the worm firmly and insert the sharp hook end into the mouth (center of the pinchers). Slowly and carefully, trying not to puncture the worm casing, feed the worm up the hook (and the hook down the center of the worm). Pull the worm onto the hook until you reach the hook eye and mono knot. Firmly grasp the mouth and pull it over the hook’s eye. At this point the worm can also be slipped up the line. Puncture the casing of the worm with the hook and leave a one and one-half inch piece of worm, just below the hook. Be sure to pull the hook past the barb so it sets well and will hold the worm in place as you cast.

Check your worm every cast to make sure it has not slid down the line and bunched up. Also, make sure the worm is flat on your hook so it looks like a worm moving along the bottom as you retrieve. After each fish just pull another one and one-half inch piece down below the hook and off you go.

Great combination — worms and grubs : A great way to enhance your grubs is by adding a small piece of worm above the eye of your hook so it sits atop the grub. I start with a whole worm but when most of my worm has been eaten, I like to add a 1½-inch grub below the remaining piece of worm. Try it — you’ll be amazed at the results.

Now is a good time to begin collecting bait to be used in fall and winter. Being prepared by collecting bait a day, week or month before a fishing trip and freezing it, can make the difference between catching fish or not. Every few months I’ll spend some time working on collecting, processing and freezing bait.

Take some time to collect rock mussel and sand crabs. Make sure the crabs are of the hard shell variety (harder the better). I place them in snack-size zip bags with enough for one day of fishing. Make several varieties: One with crabs alone, one with crabs and taco sauce (pick your favorite) and one with crabs and a piece of juicy mussel. Once frozen and thawed, the crabs will have a softer shell and will be naturally scented. I guarantee that during wintertime this will drive fish crazy!

Mussel makes excellent fresh and frozen bait and they are easily collected from the rocks of a jetty or the pilings of a pier. After collecting a handful of mussel, let it sit overnight and it will be easier to shuck the next day. Clean the mussel and place it in small zip top bags with enough for one day of fishing. A great variation on this is to cut squid into strips (about the size of a pencil) and add this to the mussel bag. The squid will absorb both the color and smell of the mussel and will be both easy to keep on the hook and deadly effective.

Put bait packages in labeled brown paper bags in the freezer. Once per year throw out old bait and start over. That’s sage advice especially for those who want to stay married!

Knowing when sand crabs begin to leave the beach and knowing what baits work as fall and winter replacements will not only make you a better angler but will ensure that you’ll be catching fish at the beach long into this year’s warm water days of winter.

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WON’s surf fishing editor Bill Varney is teaming up with CCA Calfiornia for an on-the-beach surf fishing clinic at Bolsa Chica State Beach on Saturday, Sept. 22. To learn more about the clinic visit his website:

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

Learning to surf fish on the beach
For more than a decade I’ve had the privilege and honor to work with the California State Parks to teach surf fishing right on the beach. Over those years, we have taught more than 3,000 anglers about how to rig, bait and find fish at the beach. This year, I’ve teamed up with CCA California to provide a series of clinics at both South Carlsbad State Beach and Carpinteria State Beach.

There’s no better way to learn how to surf fish than right on the beach. If you have time please join us. We offer both an evening and morning clinic and for those who get up early you’ll also be rewarded with coffee and donuts before you hit the sand. You’ll find a link to all the registration and program information below.

For those who won’t have a chance to join us but are ready for a surf fishing road trip, here are some tips about these two parks that’s sure to put you on the fish.


CARLSBAD CORBINA — There’s no better way to learn to surf fish than right on the beach.

CARLSBAD SPOTFIN — South Carlsbad State Beach is known as one of the best areas to target quality spotfin croaker.

South Carlsbad State Beach is just one of the many great surf fishing spots in San Diego County. This state park offers year-round fishing. Located in Northern San Diego, Carlsbad features swimming, surfing, skin-diving, fishing, camping and picnicking. Located at 7201 Carlsbad Blvd. in Carlsbad, this state park offers bluff-top campsites with beautiful views of the Pacific. The large bluff-top campground is very popular, especially in summer and often sells out months in advance.

You’ll find great fishing here for barred surfperch, walleye surfperch, corbina, halibut, both spotfin and yellowfin croaker, sharks and corvina. This area is mostly sand beach with a few small rocks. A light action 8-foot rod matched with a 6-pound mono-filled spinning reel makes for a good setup.

For bait, look on the beach between the access stairs during high tide periods. Many times the crabs will be located near areas of rocks. Other baits like lug/bloodworms, ghost shrimp, mussel and clams all work well here too. Use the Carolina rig with a ¾-ounce egg sinker and a 20-inch fluorocarbon leader. A sharp #2 Owner Mosquito Light or Gamakatsu Split Shot/Drop Shot hook with a slow retrieval toward shore is what gets you bit.

When fishing, the best idea is to stroll the beach and fan cast for fish. There is very little structure here so most fish will be in holes or the inshore trough.

You will many times encounter kelp here. So much in fact, you won’t be able to effectively fish. But don’t fret! Fish this area from low tide to high tide. I like to start about one hour after low tide (especially in the early morning) and fish as the tide rises. That way most of the kelp is still on the beach. Both the rising tide, which attracts fish to the crab beds on the beach, and the reduced amount of kelp and eel grass make this a fun place to fish.

Try casting to both the inshore trough at medium and high tides and to the outside trough at peak low tide. A good place to get a view of the beach is from the cliff-side campgrounds above. Take a few minutes during low tide and scan the beach from above. Look for troughs and holes then line those spots up with something above the cliffs so you may go back at high tide and fish right in that trough. Some of the biggest surf fish on the coast will be found here.

And one last thing: Just south of the campground is Ponto Jetty. Although the inside of this estuary is closed to fishing, the outside jetty provides some great fishing for perch and corbina. This spot is also known for kicking out a few orangemouth and shortfin corvina commonly taken on a Lucky Craft Flash minnows, Rapala X-RAPs or Krocodile spoons. To get more information about the park, call (760) 438-3143 or (619) 688-3260. 


AT CARPINTERIA STATE BEACH, late summer produces huge corbina.

BESIDES BARRED SURFPERCH, Carpinteria State Beach offers halibut, bass and corbina.

Carpinteria State Beach is just south of Santa Barbara. This is one of my favorite places to camp and fish. It’s the only place I’ve ever camped where you don’t need to take a lick of food. Within a short walk from the park you will find Linden Ave. This is the “main street” of Carpinteria, where there’s dozens of restaurants, galleries and stores all laid out on a beautifully landscaped avenue. sports bars, food establishments and entertainment are just a short walk from the campgrounds.

The park itself is large and has over 200 campsites. Camping here is great for both motorhomes and tent campers. The park offers interpretive programs weekly, where you can learn about both the history and the environment of the area from park rangers. As with most of our state parks, camping fills up quickly and a reservation is required.

Carpinteria State Beach is located between the Salt Marsh Reserve to the north and the Cliff Bluff Open Space area to the south. The beach that runs between these ends offers three miles of great surf fishing for perch, bass, shovelnose guitarfish, seabass, corbina and an occasional silver salmon.

Fishing here is great for a variety of surf fish. The beach is made up of both rocks and sandy areas. Fishermen hike in both directions from the park to look for fish along miles of beach. To the north near the Salt Marsh, you will find good fishing for both perch and halibut. The estuary opening to the ocean is an especially good place to target halibut at peak low and peak high tide. Use a Krocodile, Rapala or Lucky Craft here.

To the south, there are a great many places to find good fishing. Just in front of the campground you’ll find excellent perch fishing. Throughout the summer, early morning and late evening can be spectacular perch fishing with a bite almost every cast. The beach here is generally loaded with sand crabs, which make great bait for perch. Also due to the large number sand crabs, you’ll find quite a few corbina, especially in late summer.

Farther to the south and around the point (which can be identified by the massive amount of coal tar that covers it), you will find a series of rocks and an active oil pier. Both provide fantastic habitat for perch. If you are really searching for a trophy perch, this is where you will find barred, calico and walleye perch.

I would use natural baits in this area (although halibut do hit the lure here) like ghost shrimp, sand crabs and various worms to target the largest perch. Find rock areas just off shore and exposed by the tide. Cast just in front of these areas with a ¼-ounce sliding sinker on the Carolina rig and a short 12-inch leader. Perch use the eddy circulations around these rocks to find food. Search for the big fish here but be ready to reel fast or they will take you into the rocks.

Great fishing spots are both north, south and in front of the campground. Take time during low tide to walk the beach. Look for the numerous rock piles to the south and estuary features to the north. Find rock clusters at low tide, line them up with a landmark on the cliffs or shore and return at high tide to fish there.

When you encounter kelp, walk until you find where it ends. There will usually be a break between clumps of debris. Fish in between these masses of kelp and along their edges. This is where you’ll find the fish! To get more information about the park, call (805) 968-1033, or (805) 585-1850.

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Bill Varney’s passion for surf fishing is detailed in his how-to book: Surf Fishing, The Light-Line Revolution available at most tackle shops and on line @ Attend CCA California’s upcoming on-the-beach surf fishing clinics at both of these beaches. Sign up under the “Seminar” tab on his site.

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Finding, catching and keeping California sand crabs
Just three summers ago, we were coming off the latest El Niño event in which winter ocean waters were the warmest I could remember. Tuna fishing lasted all winter as the warm water drove finbait north and took the tuna with it. But one of the side effects of warm water was that it drove the sand crabs away too.

Many surf fish, including barred perch, calico perch, corbina and spotfin, moved north too. With a lack of sand crabs, surf fishing in southern California slowed dramatically. But as with just about every cycle in nature, cooler, enriched water returned in the following years and has set up perfectly for a great surf fishing summer.

CRAB BED PRESENTATION — Look for sand crabs to congregate in "beds" beneath rippled water.

I’ve been finding sand crabs all winter this year and their reemergence is a great sign that they are back, along with the fish that feed upon them. During the early months of summer, every surf fish feeds upon crabs. Fish spread out along the beach and look for beds of crabs to forage. This summer will be no exception, so let’s take a look at finding, catching and keeping sand crabs for surf fishing bait.

Female sand crabs are generally larger than males, with females producing as many as 45,000 eggs. Their distinct orange underside is a dead give away for both fisherman and surf fish. Sand crabs reproduce in their first year and have a lifespan of up to three years.

To find crabs , start by looking near the waterline for groups of birds on the beach. Many seabirds use their beak to probe the sand for crabs. Sand crabs like soft sand, they don’t enjoy rock or pebbly areas.

When you first arrive at the beach, begin your search between the high tide mark and the ocean for signs of sand crabs. Look for moving water, receding from each wave. As a wave recedes, look on the wet sand for little “V’s.” This is the characteristic ripple formed by a bed of crabs. Using their extended feather-like antennae, sand crabs feed on plankton that rides the crest of each wave. With practice you will find that they are easy to see grouped in bunches and become exposed as the water recedes between waves. The warmer the water, the closer they will be to the surface.

Sand crabs always swim, crawl and dig backwards. When a wave washes over them they can quickly relocate and dig back in, leaving only their eyes and breathing antennules exposed. These are the appendages that reveal their location as the waves recede. They always settle in looking out to sea. You should approach them from above, on higher ground, to improve your chances of catching them in numbers.

SAND CRAB EGGS — Sand crabs bright orange eggs attract surf fish because of their color and odor.

Beginning in May, crabs congregate near the high tide mark to begin their spawn. As summer progresses, crab beds will appear at both the high tide mark and on sand bars only accessible at low tide. So look for them near the high tide mark in spring and as summer progresses, they will also be found on the outside sand bar, making them easily accessible during low (and especially at minus) tides.

Watch carefully as the waves roll out for anomalies on the beach that appear as ripples on the surface of wet sand. Dig here. This is where you will find the crabs.

The best way to catch crabs is with a galvanized crab net. Promar makes an excellent galvanized crab rake that can be purchased at your local tackle store. Make sure all parts are well galvanized and rinse thoroughly with fresh water after each use.

Crab rakes trap crabs against the galvanized netting as a wave recedes. Look for white or light gray crabs. Touch each suspect crab to see if it is soft and pliable. I’ve found that medium-soft crabs (those with a shell softness equal to pressing in a pop can) are the best bait but there are exceptions. Over the last two years (and in previous El Nino years), the best crabs to use have been those that are the size of your big toe nail and as soft as possible. Test the waters by trying different hardness and sizes of crabs to see what fish in your area are foraging on.

After finding a patch of “V’s,” approach slowly and wait for the water to rush in and over the area before standing on it. Once covered by water, step forward and place the net in the water and allow it to settle to the bottom. A surprise approach means crabs will be less likely to dig deeper into the sand and they will be easier to catch. Continue as you “crab” to look up and down the beach to find more V-shaped clusters.

KEEP THE SAND CRABS in a plastic container and cover them with kelp to keep them cool and moist.

The most effective method of using the crab rake involves digging sand into the net with one foot, or both feet alternating, as the water recedes. This breaks the crabs loose from the sand and yields larger catches. Incoming and outgoing waves can both be used for catching crabs, the latter being preferred. Always remember, water must be running out through the back of the net at all times or your contents will swim, crawl, dig and disappear back into the sea in the blink of an eye.

Other effective ways to catch sand crabs are by hand digging and by using a colander or a clothes washing bag. A clothes’ washing bag is something your mom may be aquatinted with: a bag the size of a pillowcase that is made of netting and is used for cleaning fine washables. Simply, unzip the top, scoop sand into the bag and then pull it to the water’s edge where the sand washes away and leaves a net full of crabs.

Another excellent tool for catching crabs is the Ikea galvanized utensil holder. This is nothing more than a galvanized cup cut with dozens of holes in its sides and bottom. Add a handle to the holder and it becomes an easy colander to use when scooping crabs.

Two good times to catch crabs are on a large incoming high tide and at peak low tide. Peak high tide is going to be your most productive time. Time of day is not usually important unless there is excessive beach traffic that may drive crabs down. Peak low tide is when you will find congregations of crabs on exposed sand bars.

When you first walk on the beach near the water, feel the sand with your bare feet. As you walk you’ll notice that the sand varies from soft to firm as well as coarse to fine grain in different areas. Crabs prefer soft fine-grained sand that is easy to burrow into and rely upon it until their hard shell develops.

Here are a few tips on how to keep your sand crabsfresh and lively. Keep and transport your crabs in a waist bait bucket. A small piece of wet kelp helps to keep the temperature down and the bait fresh. If you plan to keep the crabs overnight, place them in a dry plastic container (no lid) and cover them with damp newspaper or a moistened cloth.

Be sure not to crush them. I place the bucket in a cool dry place inside a large ice chest. If you feel they may become too warm (as they like the air temperature to be between 55 and 70 degrees), you may place a frozen bottle of water adjacent to their container. By all means, don’t place them in saltwater or the refrigerator, as they will expire in just minutes. Lastly, be sure not to disturb them. Otherwise, they will be cranky (and dead!) in the morning.

Summer’s almost here and so are the crabs. So take a few extra minutes to search and find sand crabs and you’re sure to find the fish that are looking for them too!

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Learn about equipment, bait and how to find fish at the beach by joining Bill Varney and the Coastal Conservation Association this summer for a series of on-the-beach surf fishing clinics. Visit and look under “Topics/Seminars” for all the details.

IKEA CRAB CATCHER — Without even knowing it, Ikea invented the perfect crab scoop — just add a handle and go.

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special weekly supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

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