Wintertime in southern California normally ushers in the fishing doldrums. Cold weather, along with cold water, usually means die-hard anglers get to choose between deep water rock fishing or urban trouting. One type of local fishing that is clearly overlooked is surf-casting from the beach.
Area beaches ranging from La Jolla in the far southern sector, to Huntington Beach in the O.C., to Zuma heading north towards Santa Barbara, can provide some really great light line surf fishing all through the winter months.
In recent years, surf-casting gear has gone from traditional 10–13 foot length rods and large saltwater spinning or casting reels to more utilitarian 6½–7 foot rods and reels more suitable for fresh water bass or trout fishing. In past years, most surf anglers preferred to set up metal rod spikes in the sand, make long casts with long rods prepped with live or frozen natural baits, and just wait for often long periods for that occasional strike. Now, West Coast surf fishermen are far more mobile. Armed with this lighter gear, lightweight chest waders and neoprene dive booties, and a small backpack, these modern day surf masters cover a lot more beach than just standing by and watching their long rods in the sand spikes.
Surf fish species like barred perch, yellowfin croaker, halibut, and corbina are notorious marauders. Rarely will you find them isolated or concentrated in small areas of the beach. Rather, these fish will cruise up and down the beach searching for food. Fishermen who are more mobile can move consistently up and down the beach, intercepting the different surf species while they are in their feeding modes.
Typical surf gear can consist of your favorite fresh water rod, teamed with a lightweight reel, and spooled with 6–10 pound test monofilament. Occasionally, using a fluorocarbon leader can often increase your chances, especially when you are fishing in very clear shallow water where the surf fishes feed.
The Owner Mosquito hook is your best option. Needle sharp, these hooks are perfect for live offerings such as mussel, ghost shrimp, blood worms, or sand crabs. The Mosquito hooks also team with a variety of soft plastic artificials. Try tiny 2-inch grubs with curly tails, shrimps, or plastic worms. You can fish both the live and the soft plastic baits on a simple Carolina rig, with a ½–1 ounce sliding egg sinker.
One other option is to cast and wind some of your favorite Yo-Zuri minnow-shaped baits along with a ¾-ounce Kastmaster metal spoon. Halibut and yellowfin croaker particularly prefer these lures when they are feeding on schools of anchovies, grunion, or smelt that are running the waves and swell in the shallow surf zones.