May is the Premier Month for Surfperch

Guide David Castellanos of put his clients on some large lingcod and vermilion rockfish last week, photo by Larry Ellis.

by Larry Ellis

Surfperch have been the red-hot ticket to fish-taco city, even in the past 3 months when the weather has been cold and rainy.  But when the month of May rolls around, the mottled flat-siders often school up with noticeably flat-calm seas, especially the large females, giving surf anglers a run for their money.

There are two main varieties of surfperch that anglers have been catching.

First, and the easiest to catch is the surfperch designated Embiotoca lateralis, also most commonly known as the striped surfperch.

Striped surfperch also go by other names such as striped seaperch, blue perch and pogies, but the 'striped' designation sets them apart from the rest of the surf perches.

Striped surfperch are most commonly found in rocky areas that adjoin sandy areas, and inside the kelp itself, since kelp is attached to hard, reefy areas.

The eating quality of the SS is quite good, although in the 38 serious years I have spent cooking them, they are in my opinion a little on the mushy side.  So extra care in the frying pan is of paramount importance.  Some people skirt around this issue by leaving the skin on their fillets.

Striped Surfperch fight like crazy and can easily grow between 2 and 3 pounds.

The other surfperch that anglers have been catching is Amphistichus rhodoterus, most commonly known as the redtail surfperch.  Redtails also go by the names, pinkfin, redfin, porgies and rosy pink fin.

Redtails are in my opinion the premier esteemed food fish of the surfperch kingdom. It is definitely the most sought after of all the surfperch. Their flesh tends to stay intact inside the frying pan and remains fairly firm when it is flipped over.

It commonly averages between 1-1/2 to 2 pounds, but 3 and 4 pounders are definitely not unheard of. Their fighting qualities are second to none and they have been known to break surf leaders on the initial strike.

Right now, surfperch, especially the redtail variety, have been caught in copious quantities in the surf zones of Brookings and Gold Beach.  Redtails prefer staying away from rocky areas and gravitate toward a sandy bottom with underwater dips, ditches, hills and valleys.

In other words, if the beach is covered with hills and troughs combined with having a steep, sloping beach, chances are that these types of cover extend into the water.

"Redfin perch are still continuing to give anglers a lot of action, with a lot of big fish being caught," said Jim Carey, owner of the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach on Thursday.

With the Gold Beach jetty south spit still continuing to develop, Carey is recommending that anglers try their luck at Kissing Rock and down the beach from the Nesika Beach Wayside.

As far as bait goes, Carey is recommending that anglers try the live sand worms, which have been a surfperch waiting for a strike to happen.

"We even have these new lugworms, which are like a sand worm," notes Carey. "They're the real deal, they're real and they're live. They're good for about 40 days in the refrigerator, then as long as you keep them cool, they'll hold up on the beach.

Both the Rogue Outdoor Store and the Chetco Outdoor Store sells these fishing dynamos.  They're a little spendy at $8.99 a box, but you get 36 of the wiggly critters which makes up for the price.

Lugworms have also been the hot ticket for surfperch in the Brookings area at Crissey Field, McVay Park and Sporthaven Beach.

Springer Fishing on the Lower Rogue
Fishing for springers has slowed down somewhat from last month's action, but there are always a few guides who have intimate knowledge on how to unhinge a springer's rusty jaws.

"So are we seeing a bunch of fish? - No, we're not seeing a bunch of fish. But we are getting some schools moving in every day," said Carey on Thursday.  "We have fresh fish but no big runs 'per se' at this point.

But there are a few guides who are getting a fish or more per day. Like John Anderson of Memory Makers Rogue River Guide Service.

"I got one last night about 20 pounds, and I got one this morning that we had to release," said Anderson on Thursday.

I really hate to name names as far as who are the best fishermen, however there are some guides who have a knack for catching fish even when the fishing is slow.  Anderson is one of those elite types of guides who really 'gets it', and seems to have a secondary knowledge as to how to get them to bite.

"There were 9 boats fishing the lower Rogue today with two fish, and I had one of the two," noted Anderson while he was on the water.  "And my clients told me that they weren't going to let me leave until 8 pm."

Anderson always provides his clients with hot grub while they are fishing on his boat to help ease the sting of a slow fishery.

"I fed my clients a steak dinner with tater tots and a salad," noted Anderson.  "And they're still talking about how good it tasted. And if I don't hurry up and make them Tollhouse Cookies, I'm going to be in trouble."

Anderson noted that the water levels have been on the low side for his liking, with Thursday's reading at 3,820 cubic feet per second, but he would prefer it being at least double that flow.

"Anything between 6,000 and 8,000 cfs and we'd be in hawg heaven," noted Anderson.

Along with everyone else, Anderson says that they need more water and more concentrations of fish.  But even with the slow fishing, he's only pulled a skunk one day this week.

Perhaps this is the end of the first springer run, while the second run usually kicks in from mid-May through July.

Brookings Bottomfish
Fishing for rockfish and lingcod out of the Port of Brookings Harbor has been second to none, with most anglers getting their limits of the bottom-grabbers.

The best baits have been soft-plastic grubs, twin-tail Scampis and 5-1/2-inch jerk baits in the colors melonback and nite glow.  Leadfish have also been puttin' the hurtin' on the lings and rockfish as well.

Pacific halibut fish has gotten off to a slow start, however there were at least a half dozen of the flat-siders caught, with one 50-pounder being the top flatfish, reported one of the Brookings Port Samplers.

There were also five chickens in the 25- to 30-pound category caught last week.

Remember that the ocean salmon season in the Oregon KMZ will kick off in one week on May 19. So sharpen your hooks and buy plenty of bait.

Tight lines!

Larry Ellis, author, writer, columnist and photographer has had a 50-year passion for fishing in California and Oregon's saltwater and freshwater venues. He is a well-known writer for Oregon, Washington and California Fishing and Hunting News, Northwest Sportsman, California Sportsman and Pacific Coast Sportfishing. He currently writes monthly for Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine, and is the author of two books, "Plug Fishing for Salmon" and "Buoy 10, the World's Largest Salmon Run."  Both books can be bought from Amato Publications (, Amazon and eBay. Ellis particularly loves living in his hometown of Brookings, Oregon - The heart of salmon country and gateway to fishing paradise.