LocalFish Rap

Everything You Need to Know for Beach Fishing on the Orange County Coastline

Beach fishing (also known as surf fishing) is an option for anglers in Southern California with many locations to choose from. It is land-based game fishing while standing on the shoreline or wading into the surf zone. Beach fishing can be done by casting from sandy and rocky beaches.

Surf fishing isn’t a complicated fishing method to learn, with tactics changing depending on factors like location, seasons, tides, weather conditions, and the type of fish you’re hoping to get on your line. However, for those just starting, simple basics will get you on the right track. If you’re new to beach fishing, the first thing you need to do is understand how to surf cast. Surfcasting is much like regular casting, but with more emphasis on distance and accuracy to land your bait in the surf. Generally speaking, you’ll do well with a primary overhand cast straight out. For an overhand cast, hold the rod in your hand, bend your arm to a 90-degree angle and quickly flick out the pole, straightening your arm to launch the bait into the water. The trick to surf casting is learning the speed and power you need to perfect your distance and accuracy when tossing out the line.

Once you have that down, you can start to learn different tactics, such as using other baits or fishing at a different time of year, that will help you target specific fish species. For example, while shrimp will attract most species of fish, you may want to use live bait like Mullet for Flounder or Herring for Mackerel. It also helps to understand the habits of your target fish species based on the seasons, tides, and weather conditions.

Different Beach Features:

  • Sand bars are a critical part of figuring out where fish could be, letting you know whether the fish are behind it chasing bait fish or closer to the shore. Sand bars frequently change with the waves, but you can locate them by determining where the waves begin to break as they come in.
  • Outflows, or rip currents, are breaks in the sand bar where the fish will often come to feed in the surf. Since fish may also feed to the left or right of an outflow, you may also want to try casting your line to either side of the outflow.
  • Areas of the beach with coarse sand and shells are more likely to be near deeper holes that will hold fish, so look up and down the beach, for these areas to increase your chance of getting a strike. Remember that these subtle differences can have a huge effect on surf fishing.

As for Southern California beach fishing, rules still apply. A license is required by the State, and you can only beach fish at public beaches that are not within a marine protected area that prohibits it. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has an interactive map that shows anglers where marine protected areas are located, and where fishing is prohibited.

According to outdoortroop.com, in Orange County, anglers are permitted to go beach fishing at public beaches in Newport Beach and Newport Bay, Huntington Beach, and the San Onofre State Beach.

“The same fishing regulations that apply anywhere else apply on beaches,” said John Ugoretz, Pelagic Fisheries and Ecosystem Program Manager for CDFW in an email from Sept. 1. “Note that at certain times, “shorebased” angling is allowed when fishing from boats is closed.”

When beach fishing, anglers are most likely to catch fish in the early morning or an hour before dusk. Incoming tides also bring in catches. The rising water level dislodges small invertebrates in sand bars and stimulates fish to start feeding. Mild to moderate surf is another good time to go beach fishing.

Peak Months and Coinciding Species for Beach Fishing:

  • Sept. – May: Surfperch
  • June – Sept: Yellowfin Croaker
  • July – Sept.: Spotfin Croaker and California Corbina
  • June – Oct.: California Halibut

Rod and Reel Tips:

  • For heavy bait fishing or “plugging,” try a 10- to 12-foot rod rated for 2- to 8-ounce casting, with spinning or conventional reels. The reel should be capable of holding 150 to 200 yards of 20- to 30-pound test line.
  • For fly-fishing, try a 9- to 11-foot rod, rated for a 6- to 8-weight line, with a matching reel. Use a sinktip or shooting headlines. Stripping baskets help manage line in the surf.
  • For light bait fishing or when using Carolina rigged grubs, try a 7- to 9-foot rod with either a spinning or bait casting reel. Use 6- to 12-pound test line that can comfortably cast a one-ounce egg sinker, depending on surf conditions

Before you Go Beach Fishing Checklist:

  • Bring waders, a hat, polarized sunglasses, and sunblock. Besides protecting your eyes, polarized sunglasses will help you see fish in the shore break and run up. Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device if wading.
  • Pack for fish, tackle, tape measure, and needle-nose pliers for removing hooks.

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