They Don’t Call ’em Surfperch for Nothing


On November 23 I posted this image on the TOS Facebook Page with the words, “Chilly morning on theoutershores.  Will the fish bite on these?”  I had an interest in catching a few surfperch, but it wasn’t meant to be.  Why did that happen?  Why no fish?  I might be able to offer an explanation.  My explanation starts with the premise that the naturalists, folks who take the time to care about names, know a lot, and they don’t call them surfperch for nothing.

Fine conditions for surfperch angling

Here is yours truly angling under near-perfect surfperch conditions.  The energy level in the surf zone is high.  That means lots of prey getting stirred up as swell surges up and down the beach.  And plenty of sand, bubbles and swirling foam to foil visually-oriented  predators.  These are typical conditions in my home waters.

November 23, 2013 - Not much surf to stir things up
November 23, 2013 – Not much surf

This photo illustrates the conditions experienced by surfperch and me on the morning of November 23, 2013.  The forecast was for a cold east wind 10 – 15 KT, easing to 5-10 KT in the afternoon.  Wind waves 3′ and a NW swell 3′ with a period of 8 seconds, shifting to the W at 14 seconds.  The wind forecast was accurate, but the wave forecast was an overestimate.  This is the surf zone at its lowest energy level.  Weak surf won’t mobilize sand-dwelling prey and placid crystal-clear water shifts the balance in favor of predators.  No surf, no food, no cover.  Under these conditions don’t expect to find a lot of surfperch in the surf zone.  My story makes a lot of sense, but like many a “just so” nature story, it’s open to alternative interpretations.

Symbols on a large fishing float
Symbols on a large fishing float

Fish or no fish, there is always something going on on the outer shores.  Floats for example.  This large float must have washed up in the big surf of the first fall storms.

Symbols and images on a large float

It came with a mermaid.

Unidentified kelp
Unidentified kelp

And this attractive attractive kelp I found in the wet wrack is still kind of a mystery.  Maybe somebody out there can help me identify it.

To check out these and a few other things I discovered while walking, fishless, along the beach, click on Wrack Line 2013 and scroll down to November 23.


  1. Hi Steve,
    Your explanation why surf perch bite on a turbulent surf makes sense. I have the feeling I will learn a lot about surf perch on your blog. Have to check out if there are any surf perch on the west coast of Vancouver Island. With regard to the kelp, it looks to my like sugar kelp (Laminaria saccharina). Its fronds have that crenelated look that reminds me of lasagna noodles. There is a good photo in the Nov 9, 2013, article “Seaweed for your garden” by David Ingram on his blog “Island Nature”.

  2. Great information!!! Been fishing for Redtails down here in central California for years!!! Just when I think I have it down to a science … LOL I get skunked!! Your study provided me with many possibilities to the many questions I have regarding our favorite surf perch!! Would enjoy comparing notes : )

    1. Thanks for checking out theoutershores. You’re right, there is a lot to learn. I’m looking forward to sharing observations and ideas, and comparing notes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s