Redtail and Silver Surf 10/15


Well-Known Member
Late report, but I figured I may as well break the radio silence.

Since graduating, I have settled down (somewhat) and started working in the Central Valley in fisheries (to nobody's surprise). Lately I've been fishing mostly freshwater for the usual suspects, but every now and then I feel the urge to fish the salt. I made the 2 hour drive to Bodega Bay for a two-part plan: 1. Do some surf fishing, and 2. Visit some friends and UC Davis colleagues.

By 7 am, I arrived at my chosen beach north of Bodega Head and started fishing. I fished the incoming tide with 4-6 foot swell, using a Carolina rig with a Gulp!® camo sandworm on 8 lb fluoro leader and a 1 oz egg sinker. After a bit of walking, it didn't take too long to get a couple pecks in a nice trough, resulting in a just short redtail by 8 am.

Probably some of my favorite fish up here, their scales almost glow in the early morning light.

After getting on the board, I decided to do some experimenting. Inspired by a blogpost by a fisheries biologist in Oregon, I tested two lures, the sandworm, and a bright orange curlytail grub. In the blogpost, the author ran a (somewhat) controlled experiment that found that redtail and silver surfperch had a strong preference for orange lures over all other colors or lures and even natural baits. I gave each lure 15 (ish) casts, and got three bites on the sandworm, and none on the grub. Given this was a relatively pressured beach, it's likely that these fish relied on both vision AND scent to discern potential prey.

After plying that area for a while for no more bites, I moved further south and found a hole next to a point, which yielded a decent silver by 8:45.

Another one of the beautiful surfperch species on the North Coast.

I continued to get short bites for another half hour or so, but with no further luck. I backtracked my steps and found some more structure. In about 2 more hours of fishing, I managed to pull four more short redtails and a much smaller silver. I stopped fishing around 12 pm; although the tide had just turned, and the fishing should have been picking up, I had some friends to visit and a class field trip to crash.
I've never caught a redtail surfperch, even though I spent 4 to 5 years in Arcata/Eureka, and fished Humboldt Bay often. I was surprised by your description of short redtails. I wasn't aware that any perch had size limits. Checking the regulations, I found that redtail surfperch have a minimum size of 10½ in. Thanks for the unintentional notice.