What to use
Fly fishermen traditionally stick to flies or streamers that resemble the bait these resident surfperch prefer, meaning mud shrimp, sand crabs, pile worm, crayfish and minnow look-a-likes.
Check rock piles and kelp beds during a minus tide to see exactly what the fish are feeding on along the stretches of beach you plan to fish most. It’s also a good idea to check in with local fly shops and saltwater fishing outfits to see what patterns will work in-season.
If you’re fishing a remote stretch that you’ve never attempted, a standard Woolly Bugger or Clouser Minnow should work just fine. Streamers with a touch of red, orange or yellow also replicate most shrimp and crabs.
When fishing for surfperch and other smaller surf species, many anglers stick to a 9-foot, 6-weight rod with a sinking line. A standard leader is in the 4-foot range with a 1X tippet.
When and where
It’s recommended that anglers fish knee to waist deep in waders, but try to keep their line high off the water to avoid overshooting the surf zone. If anglers are fishing more than 50 feet out from a beach’s average low-water mark, they’re probably missing fish until later on in their retrieve.
Although surfperch can be caught all day long, it’s best to work breaks early when the conditions are calm. Those morning sessions are even better when tides begin to fluctuate from extremely high (7.0) to a consistent stretch of negative lows.
If the wing picks up, or the weather begins to turn sour, perch often hug the shoreline of inner bays where the water is calm. If the conditions seem perfect and you’re still not hooking fish, downsize your tippet/leader and keep walking the beach until you find a school.
If your timing is right, a five-fish limit could be reached within the hour.