Fishing for surf perch off the Washington coast is allowed year-round, but the best time to catch them is during the summer.
The surf perch fishery off the coast is heating up.
Surf perch population remains abundant, according to state Fish and Wildlife, and they’re an underfished species.
The summer months offer the best fishing, but they can be caught year-round. The red-tail surf perch is the largest and most abundant species. Their fins have a distinct red color with a silver body.
Red-tail surf perch average 1 to 3 pounds. The state record is 4.05 pounds, caught by Chris Maynard at Kalaloch in 1996.
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Surf perch can be found on all the coastal beach areas. Some of the more popular locations are the Westport and Ilwaco jetties, Cranberry Beach in Grayland, Kalaloch Beach and near the Tokeland jetty.
When fishing around the jetties you’ll also find an array of other fish like flounder, rockfish, lingcod, sea bass and cabezon.
One of the keys to success in surf perch fishing is looking for certain qualities on the beaches.
“Look for depressions, drop offs and deeper cuts in the beaches where the perch will tend to school up,” said Mike Chamberlain of Ted’s Sports Center in Lynnwood.
Because the currents are often very strong, anglers use long, stout fishing rods of 10 to 14 feet and a heavy spinning reel with 10- to 20-pound test fishing line. But a more conventional salmon rod and reel can be used when fishing off jetties or piers.
A slip sinker, three-quarters to 1 ounce, or a pyramid sinker of 3 to 5 ounces with a three-way swivel tied to a leader 20 to 30 inches long will get your bait where the fish are.
Baits of choice are sand or ghost shrimp, sand crabs, mussels, clam necks, squid and pile worms. Soft plastic jigs laced with anise scent or some of the new Berkley Gulp Saltwater Series Baits, as well as Buzz Bomb-type jigs, will attract fish.
Perch will bite on outgoing and incoming tides, but be warned that on flood tides you might encounter plenty of debris, weed and kelp in the water.
A calm surf is the best time to fish. During rough conditions, perch tend to stay farther offshore.
The daily limit is 12 surf perch with no minimum size limit. The daily limit for shiner perch is 15.
Red-tail surf perch school up along sandy shorelines just before spawning in early summer, which is often the best time to hook them.
Safety rules to be aware of while plying the surf and strong current along beaches:
• Never turn your back on incoming surf;
• wear a wading belt;
• fish with a buddy;
• stay away from tide rip lines and never swim against one;
• always be aware of your surroundings.
• Seattle Parks and Recreation is selling low-cost life jackets from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 20 and Sept. 17 at Evans Pool, 7201 E. Green Lake Dr. N. in Seattle. Details: 206-684-7440.
• The Green Lake Small Craft Center is offering a youth sailing camp. Sailors will learn the basics of sailing, rigging, safety and boat-handling. Participants must be at least 10 years old and weigh at least 80 pounds. Seattle Parks and Recreation provides life jackets. Camps run weekly Monday through Friday from noon to 4 p.m. until Aug. 12. The price is $175 for 20 hours of instruction. Details: 206-684-4074.
• The Northshore Trout Unlimited meeting is the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center, 18560 1st Ave. NE in Shoreline. Details: http://northshoretu.blogspot.com.
• Mount St. Helens climbing permits are on sale. Cost is $22. Permits are required year-round to climb above 4,800 feet. Details: 360-891-5007 or www.mshinstitute.org.
• The Issaquah Alps Trails Club hosts weekly hikes and meets in downtown Issaquah. Details: www.issaquahalps.org.
• The Washington Trails Association offers statewide trip reports and trail conditions. Details: www.wta.org.
• The Seattle Audubon Society offers field trips and classes every month. Details: 206-523-4483 or www.seattleaudubon.org.