Y BILL KARR/WON Staff WritePublished: Mar 13, 2009

Western Outdoor News

SANTA CRUZ—The weather cooperated for the 2009 Sand Crab Classic Perch Tournament out of here on Saturday, and with an overflow crowd, calm seas, a good high tide and the surf perch on a good bite, everyone had a fantastic time!

How far away did people drive to attend? A group of 8 surf fishermen drove all the way down from Eureka just to attend this annual event, and no wonder: Over 100 anglers joined in to raise funds for the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project (MBS&TP) and to get together for a great day of fishing and an evening of food, fun and festivities.

Hosts of the event, Capt. Mike Baxter and Allen Bushnell of the "Let's Go Fishing" show on KSCO radio 1080 that runs April through September, began the event for the sole purpose of helping out the MBS&TP group, but it's grown into a "must attend" thing for surf fishermen and women from all over the north state.  

The Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project (MBS&TP) was founded in 1976, and is a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration and enhancement of the native salmon and steelhead populations of the greater Monterey Bay area. Headed up by Director Larry Wolf, this past year the group planted 60,000 steelhead in the San Lorenzo River and 5,000 steelhead in Scott's Creek, they raised 250,000 king salmon and as many coho salmon as they can get, Wolf told WON on Saturday.

Anglers all met on Saturday morning at the Harbor Meeting Room near Bayside Marine at 7 a.m., signed in, got their special event t-shirts and instructions and headed out the door….most to go right next door to see Todd Fraser of Bayside Marine and get fresh pileworms, shrimp and other surf perch baits.

Fishing was to be done anywhere along the coast the anglers wished, but weigh-in was at 2 p.m. sharp at the Santa Cruz Yacht Club, where the buffet lunch, awards ceremony and raffle was to be held.

Friend Karen Williams and I bought some pileworms and decided to head south down the coast, but before that we checked out anglers just south of the harbor entrance at Santa Cruz. The beach area here was relatively flat without any particularly good areas that hold surf perch, like ledges, holes or areas being swept by currents, and the one angler we saw had been there hours without success.

We headed down the coast, and pulled off at Seacliff to see what was going on, and found one angler who was not in the derby, Ed Barraco, south of the Cement Ship, and he was using shrimp, anchovies, bloodworms and Berkeley grubs, with no success. So it was off again, and farther down the coast to Rio Del Mar.

Here, we found a good number of anglers, many in the tournament. The surf looked good, with rolling breakers and obvious holes and sweeping currents off shallower points where one would expect perch to be.  The first angler we checked with was Chris Tran of Santa Clara. He was throwing chartreuse grubs, and had 3 nice barred surf perch to about a foot long by 9 a.m. Nearby was Joe Silva of San Martin, using small shrimp for bait, and he also had 3 nice barred perch. He had a nice hole next to a wave sweep and was right in the "strike zone".

We went to Manresa where a lot of the anglers were supposed to be, but rather than pay $8 for parking just to see how the fishing was, we went back to Rio Del Mar and began fishing about 10 a.m. The tide was coming in and the currents were moving, so you really couldn't just leave a bait in the water, so we just used one rod with two hooks above the weight, and half a pileworm on each. We caught two nice barred perch in about 45 minutes.

We headed over to the weigh-in and lunch about noon, to a gathering crowd of successful anglers who were buying raffle tickets and enjoying the excellent taco lunch provided for contestants. There were dozens of raffle prizes--so many in fact that they began pairing them up, and two auction items, one of them a 3.5-hp 4-stroke Mercury donated by Jim Moore of Moore & Sons Mercury that brought in $550.

Overall grand winner of the derby was Zack Mitchell of Santa Cruz with a 15-inch pile perch he caught "south of Santa Cruz on mussles with a "little bit of pileworm." There was a 3-way tie for the women's division and they conducted a "weigh-off" between "Celeste" and her 13-ounce perch, "Baja Bev" Seltzer of Ben Lomond with a 1 pounder and Grace Garcia with a 14-ounce fis.

For the kids division, first place winner was Justin Morris, 2nd place winner was Chris Patterson and 3rd place winner was Anthony Padua. Adult male division winners were Zack Mitchell with his 15-inch pile perch, Mike Barbechia in second place with his 14 7/8th inch perch and 3rd palce winner Matt Michis with a 14 1/2 incher.

Capt. Mike Baxter thanked everyone for their participation and support of the Monterey Bay project, and said that next year they would probably have to find a new site for the awards ceremony, as the number of contestants was growing to big for the Santa Cruz Yacht Club.

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