Sunday, July 26, 2009

Surf Fish

While whale watching at the cove last week I got to watch a group of Asian men fishing the surf. I was surprised to see what they were keeping. No matter what size or species of fish was, if they brought it in, they kept it. One fellow reeled in a crab. He removed it from the hook, looked around and then stuffed it into his bag.

These guys were catching all sorts of fish. Within 45 minutes they must have taken in enough fish to fill a small freezer.

I need to learn more about surf fishing here. It seems pretty productive. I remember fishing the jetties in New Jersey. The majority of fish caught there were blow fish also known as puffers, but I never wanted to go the Fugu route. However here there are ling cod and starry flounder. I may be fishing again.

If any of you readers are familiar with the surf fishing in Oregon I’d like to know what is good to catch and eat out here, and what isn’t?


Blogger Tango said...

Why is it called "surf" fishing?

4:42 AM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

Hmmm... can't help ya there, big'un. The only thing I ever caught in the surf there was jellyfish. And I only caught those with my legs. If ya know what I mean.

5:39 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Tango, it's a special type of fishing when you ride a surf board and troll a line behind you. It also gives the sharks something else to chase.

Darev, we aren't talking jellyfish kiss are we?

6:08 AM  
Blogger Tango said...

lol...stop playing!

6:14 AM  
Anonymous Pam said...

Guy, stop taking the Mick.

Surf-fishing. Sheeeeeeeet.

I knew an old man who used to surf fish and caught loads of Perch. But I am pretty sure that if that crab was small enough to put in his pocket, it wasn't legal sized.

I suppose any kind of thing you caught as long as it was large enough would be okay to take. You might get small sand sharks, bullheads, flounder and sole and perch.

Check to see if you need a license. You prolly do.

7:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aw man...seeing that spool sure brings back some memories for me...growing up in a beach front house I was always out in the mornings before school to see what had washed up during the night..must'a found a hundred of those things over the years..never really found much practical use for'em until I got a little older year it just hit me that, with all the washed in crab pot lines I'd collected, that I could make a rig out of beachcombed materials that could be put to good use. So, one day I rolled a recently found spool back to our beach front property and wrestled it up the foredune into the tall grass...then I dug two postholes about five feet deep and just a little more than the width of the spool apart and set some pretty hefty 10-12 inch logs in....then, sawed off the tops so they'd be even with each other and cut a deeep V notch in the top of each. Got a short piece of 2 plus inch of iron pipe to serve as a shaft, then mounted that spool up on the stanchions. It was sturdy and heavy duty, alright, and spun pretty easy empty, but I wondered how it would work full. I had tons of line, I mean a lot of it-several hundred fathoms worth for sure. And during the winter more could easily be had and spliced onto the others and spooled on. Once in awhile someone would come along on a beach walk and wonder what I was doing. All they saw was a huge spool of line perched way above the highwater line. I'd tell them it was for getting fire wood-I'd explain to them that if a log I wanted washed in and grounded within a couple of thousand feet of our trail, I could lash on to it when the tides were in my favor and move it a few feet up and over with the lift of every wave that came in. It works, yeah, and no one I remember ever doubted my explanation or prolly had any reason to. But I never pulled or floated one log with it, or told anybody what it was really for, except for a couple of my friends who were in on it, for that matter....for it was the business of the warm summer and early fall dark nights that I was interested in.....

8:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

During August and September the weather, tidal and surf conditions were best for what I put it to use for. There was fish out beyond that surf that time of year. Big salmon. Salmon cruising up and down the beach waiting for the call to head into the rivers and make the fall run. Not just Salmon, either, but also various other kinds of tastey seafood that was valuable. That is what I was after and that is what I got....

I had a few shackles of shallow gillnets-30 to 50 fathoms long-twelve feet in depth- 6 1/4" mesh. Each was kept in a gunny sack and easy for one man to carry.. When the surf was non existant or close to it and the tides were right for maximum soak time-all was ready. What was best was an even or runout tide with slack low water right at or within 90 minutes of sundown and the required amount of covering darkness. When those nights came, the nets would be packed down to the beach. Once it was good and dark and we were sure the beach was deserted of beachwalkers the work began. The end of the line on the spool was taken in hand and I'd walk due west dragging that line as it came easy off the spool. The lower the tide, the more line it took to get to the water's edge but that was good and I had plenty of crabline on that thing. I imagine sometimes it was an easy 300 yards or more on big runnouts. Then the gunny sacks were taken down, the nets carefully debagged, and snapped shackled together to make one net out of three pieces with a combined length of nearly 100 fathoms. Then with one hand on the end of the corkline tow line, and the other with a six foot piece of one inch waterpipe, into the surf I'd go dragging the net behind me. When I'd get a little more than waist deep, and hopefully up on a sandbar, I'd sink that piece of pipe as far down as I could in the soft sand. I'd already secured a loop on the high end of it and too that was attached about three feet of pretty stout twine. Stout enough whereas the gently surging surf and current couldnt break it, but weak enough so that one or two men giving it a sharp pull would break it easily. The towline on the seaward end of the corkline was clipped to the breaking strap and then I'd wade back to shore. On an even tide perhaps one third of the net was in the water when set, the rest of it high and dry at the water's edge. But not for long. The flood of the tide would soon get it floating and at half the flood she was all out there beyond the surfline. So with the end in the ocean secured and the end on the beach secured above the high tide line, that net had no chance of washing in, out, or away. It just stayed there and at full highwater it was way out there-all that could be seen from the beach was tight crabline leading out into the surf. We were set gillnetting the ocean and it worked perfectly. Never had one bust loose or get away except for once when the surf was too big for the breaking strap-but I was there right when it happened and hauled it back no problem....

8:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

..the longer it would soak the better-never did it unless I got the full flood, either, and sometimes let it go longer. Regardless, always had to start getting it in an hour before daylight at the least. Didnt wanna be seen doing that shit in the daylight, no way. So before the sun was up, regardless of the tide, we were down there pulling the gear back up on the beach and picking out the catch-bagging it, then disconnecting the shackles and stuffing the nets back in the sacks and hauling it all back up the trail to the cover of the pines-the line was wound back up on the spool and when the beachwalkers came out for their morning strolls they would see nothing of the night business except some foot prints which meant nothing to them.

Sometimes I was really amazed at how much seafood poundage could be collected doing that. It was great. Never got skunked and sometimes really did well. I dont know how many salmon, flounders, Red Tails, Pogies I hauled off of there but it was a lot to carry. And crab? Jesus, somethimes we'd take hundreds of Dungeness Crab out of that net when they were around. And they were around a lot that time of year.... The rest of the morning was spent butchering, filleting fish-and cooking and picking the crab. Sometimes we'd get so much crab it would take most of the day to get it squared away, but it was worth it. Since crabbing is closed officially then fresh crabmeat brought a good price at the back doors of the restaurants my friends owned and ran. The salmon sold well, too. Cheaper than they could get it from the distributers and a hell'vua lot fresher. The restaurant people loved me. We had an understanding that was profitable for both of us. We never even came close to getting caught by Johnny Law-on the beach or at the kitchen door. A warm Indian Summer's night spent on the beach generally put a couple of hundred illgotten dollars or more in my pocket. It was happy times all the way around.
I loved fishing the beach back could get away with murder.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Peter Huhtala said...

Besides the other fish mentioned, you might catch small rockfish and cabezon. Hey, if those guys were catching lingcod, that's a good reason to take up the hobby! You need a license and there are limits on most fish. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website has the regulations.

10:30 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Pam, one reason to fish is to avoid work at home.

Anon, sounds elaborate. I'm surprised you never got caught. I'm glad to once again bring on your fond memories. I really wish you would blog.

Peter, I do find it odd that one needs a license to fish the ocean here. That was one thing about the East Coast that I liked, the ocean was free to fish. One of the things that convinced me to stop fishing here was that I felt I needed a lawyer along side me with every cast. Every river has different laws of what you can catch, where you can catch it and what you can catch it with, if at all. Like the Lewis and Clark river you used to be able to fish up to Bridge 11, but bridge 11 isn't marked as Bridge 11. One fortunate thing is that I've never seen a game warden, so I should just get my license go out and fish. There's a good chance I'll get skunked anyway.

5:36 AM  
Blogger richpix said...

I'm not familiar with all the regulations on the East Coast, but in NJ many of the beaches require the purchase or possession of beach tags before you can set foot on them from Memorial Day to Labor Day. And the tags are only good for the location in which they are purchased. It's a real clusterfuck. I think people who want to surf fish can do so in off-hours without a tag or badge, but it probably varies from place to place. Surf fishing is generally not allowed when swimmers are present on bathing beaches.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Guy said...

Rich, generally if the beach is maintained by a municipality they require badges for any beach activity. That's how they pay for beach maintenance, but licenses are not required for fishing. Here the beaches are all pubically owned so you can drive on some of them, ride horses, swim or surf if you have a wetsuit, but fishing is licensed. No license required if you use a boat...
Funny, it seems the fishing was better back there. I never had a problem catching my limit in fresh water, but here I constantly got skunked in fresh water, which is another reason I gave up fishing here.

2:16 PM  
Blogger richpix said...

Yeah, it's an interesting dichotomy. Free access to the beach in Oregon but charge for fishing. Free fishing in NJ but charge most people a fee to burn their feet in the sand and up the incidences of skin cancer.

Maybe the West Coast fish are smarter. I dunno. The last time I caught and ate a fish was in Cortina, Italy. It was a stocked pond full of trout. Almost every cast yielded a fish and then you paid for what you took with you.

I always liked fishing but more for the process of doing it than the actual catching of fish. A good excuse for being in the great outdoors.

3:27 PM  
Blogger Guy said...

I've heard it said there is a fine line between angling and standing on the shore looking like a jerk.

I've also heard that fishremen are living proof that fish is not brain food.

3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you never got caught.

Nah, if it would'a been risky it wouldn't have been happening-and of course liquid courage wasn't in short got pretty wild sometimes..more wild than I care to mention here, but perhaps some time over some coffee down at Caf`e Cabal I'll tell ya some stories about beach fishing.

And, if you havn't tried the Red Tail Perch fishing along the Clatsop beach you're really missing some good eating and some serious soul soothing big time fun..the rig up is no big deal-gotta use pyramid lead- minimum of 4 oz-the best in this sand and current-even when there's mild surf, lead less than 4oz wont stick-the standard lashup uses four hooks, but that is a lot of rebaiting when it's a scratch-two hooks is plenty especially when you're in fish- the open beaches this time of year are teeming with the tastey little buggers. Fish booktime low water and the first couple of hours of the flood and you'll likely find some wherever you go. The less surf the better the fishing. When you get into a school of them you'll be busy-they go crazy on the bite-nice big fat perch will go on their sides, like flounder, and scootchie in chasing your bait/hooked fish into an inch of water then turn around and do the same thing back until they're in enough water to right themselves...Remembering back to the '50s & '60s when the oldtimers caught a fat one they would either lay the fish in the shallow water and hit it in the belly with the rod butt-(Surf Perch give live birth so if it's a female about a dozen or so well formed babies hit the salt water and take right on off in the surf)-or you can kind'a hold'em and milk'em out by hand-either way, it's a take one and put a dozen back fishery--good tides all the way well into September

1:29 AM  
Blogger Bpaul said...

I think surf perch are well worth pursuing. I went fishing off the rocks with sand crabs I dug up and caught big beautiful ones. And when I cooked them up an hour later, they were seriously delectable.

One big tip though -- use some thread (nice orange or bright pink) tied to y our hook so you can wrap it around your bait. Keeps bait on the hook much longer, which was the main limiter for me when I fished for them.

I love digging the bait right there and fishing with it. I used a two-hook rig with a weight below. Not a ton of weight, because I wanted the rig to slide around. But some folks have different theories about that.

I've not yet figured out where to catch surf perch actually in open beach surf though. I always fish structure of some kind in the surf, normally rocks. Works great.

12:22 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Those sand shrimp are delicate Thanks for the tip.

5:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clam necks have always been the bait of choice here....tough and durable, they stay on the hook even after getting bit a few times...used little chunks of squid before--with success

Sand shrimp are such a hassle

11:15 AM  
Blogger Bpaul said...

Ya'll are making me want to go fishing. Bad.

I took up fly fishing when I moved to the Pacific NW many many moons ago, but my childhood was all about casting into the surf/ocean. It is one of my favorite things to do.

12:20 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Are you using canned clams?

Bpaul, me too.

6:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

never used canned clams....always used the necks from the local razors..if you're a clammer/surf fisherman around here you save your clam necks in the freezer for the next fishng trip...Used to be Bell Bouy in Seaside retailed clamnecks as well as the local bait outlets...whether they still do or not I do not know

8:37 PM  
Anonymous deFishmon said...

I like to use my 'Slurp or Yabbie' or Clam gun to suck up fresh Razor Clam necks, Sand Shrimp, Sand Crabs and Sand Worms for live baits for Surf Fishing. Of course the 'Go-To' bait at all times is plastic Grubs or Berkley 'Gulp' baits!
A few of my favorite locations are the Cove @ Seaside, the Mouth of the Necanicum River @ Seaside, Both Jetties of the Tillamook Bay and the South Jetty of the Columbia River.
I fish long Spinning rods... longer than most at 13' and 16' for working the Pacific Suds! My 13' is a slow medium action Okuma Graphite topped with a Shimano and my 16' is a fast medium-light action Graphite topped with an Alvey.
Fish from the Surf can vary from location to location with Surf Perch, Flounder, Sanddabs, Sculpin and Kelp Greenling being common of of the Necanicum. The Cove has the same with a few Rockfish, Cabezon and Lingcod showing up in the catch. The Jetties of course have all of these and all of our Coastal waters can produce the occasional Tuna, Squid, Ratfish, Skate, Dogfish, Salmon, Steelhead and the infamous Sharks of the Pacific. I have beached a 6' Blue Shark at the Cove and hooked into some much larger 'unknown' Sharks along Clatsop Spit!
Our Pacific Coast Surf can be a very productive fishery once you learn the in and outs of it!
'Tight lines and Screaming Reels'

4:27 PM  

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