ON THE SPOT FEATURE REPORT
SANTA CRUZ --Perfect conditions don’t always mean red hot fishing, but the 260 anglers who participated in last Saturday’s Sixth annual “Santa Cruz Sand Crab Classic” still caught decent numbers of six different species of perch, along with a handful of leopard sharks, cabezon, greenling, and striped bass. The event benefited the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project.
A little bit of drama also included a couple of fish weighed in after the 2 p.m. deadline that would have easily won in at least three divisions, in this sixth annual edition of what may be the largest surf-fishing event in the state. The tally included anglers weighing in with qualifying catches of barred, calico, white, walleye, black, striped, and rainbow surfperch.
Many entrants drew a blank, and only a few reported catching more than a half-dozen fish. There was one brief flurry of activity, right as the tide changed to an incoming at around 9:30 a.m., when several anglers reported that they “Couldn’t keep the lines in the water.”
Catches were made at Sunset, Scott’s Creek, Santa Cruz Jetty, Moss Landing, and many other popular and lesser-known spots. Productive baits included mussels, bloodworms, pile worms, grass shrimp, Gulp! Sandworms [AKA fish crack], and 2-inch Berkley Power Grubs.
Open Division winner Dave McGuire said, “I caught my winning fish with mussels on a high-low rig at Marina. Fishing was on and off, but we needed more wave action. This was my only perch, but we also got some seatrout [greenling] and cabezon.”
Ladies Division winner Rachel Reed of Santa Cruz repeated her victory from last year, and related, “I caught my fish on mussels fished off Davenport. The fishing was challenging to say the least."
Junior Division winner, 13-year-old Matthew Jimenez of Watsonville, also took third in the Open Division, and had to beat out his own father via tiebreaker. Jimenez advised, “Kids who want to do well in fishing should keep trying!”
Veteran event competitor and Santa Cruz angler Jason Hammond drew a blank on the perch while fishing at Pajaro, but observed, “We had textbook perch conditions, but the bite was very tough. We did manage to catch four nice leopard sharks up to 3.5 feet.”
Extremely heavy road traffic due to weekend joy riders caused a pair of potentially winning fish to be disqualified. Reaching the scales several minutes after the deadline was Alana Taylor of San Martin, who caught a 2-pound, 6-ounce barred perch at Pajaro Dunes that would have topped both the Open Division and the Ladies Division. Also tardy was perennial Junior Division winner, 15-year-old Justin Morris of Alameda, whose 2-pond, 2-ounce black perch from Monterey would have been his third division win in a row.
Tournament Director and popular Santa Cruz radio host Captain Mike Baxter said, “Even though the fishing was tough, this event gets better every year. We had over 260 people show up for perfect conditions and weather, and everybody had a great time. The Grand Prize in the raffle was a new 2.5-horsepower Mercury Outboard donated by Moore and Sons Mercury Marine in Santa Cruz, and we raised several thousand dollars for the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project.”
DAVE MCGUIRE of Santa Cruz topped the 260-angler field at the recent Santa Cruz Sand Crab Classic surfperch tournament by weighing in this 2-4 black perch.