Surf Fishing in Southern California - SC Surf Fishing

Common Fish Caught in the Southern California Surf

You never know what you're going to catch when surf fishing in Southern California. Here are some of the most common catches.

Barred Surf Perch

The Barred Surf Perch (or BSP) is the most common catch off the surf of Southern California. You can tell the BSP apart from other surf perch by looking for the bronze, brassy, or yellow vertical bars and spots on its side. They range anywhere from 3" to 17" long, the most common being around 8". The BSP is viviparous, meaning that it gives birth to live young while spawning.

Yellowfin Croaker

The Yellowfin Croaker (or YFC) will readily inhale artificial lures and offer up a solid fight on light tackle. You can tell these apart from other croaker species by looking for the yellow tint in the fins. It's not uncommon to find a "croaker hole" where you can catch a bunch of them in a row. They usually range in size from about 10" to 16"

California Corbina

The California Corbina, not to be confused with the CorVina, is possibly the most sought after fish in the Southern California surf zone. They're famous for coming right up to the sand line while feeding on sand crabs. Sight fishing for Corbina is possibly one of the most exciting and frustrating forms of surf fishing in the area. Throw out a nice soft shell sandcrab in the path of a cruising Corbina and hang on tight. They are well known for their drag ripping runs. You can ID a California Corbina by looking for the fleshy projection, or barbel, on the lower jaw and for its dark fins. The only other California croaker that has a barbel is the YFC (see above). The average size range for the California Corbina is about 14" to 24".

California Halibut

The California Halibut like to hang out on a sandy bottom while waiting to ambush some prey. They move in tight to the shoreline, during summer and early fall, to spawn. You can tell these apart from other flat fish by looking for a high arch in the lateral line, just above the pectoral fin. At the time of this writing (March 2005), the legal keep limit for the California Halibut is 22". Make sure that you measure it out if you decide to keep it for the dinner table.

Bat Ray

The Bat Ray primarily feed for mollusks and crustaceans on the bottom. These brutes can run up to 180 pounds! They are well known for their long and steady runs and are a blast to catch if you're in the mood for pulling on a tenatious beast. Be careful while handling these fish because they have stingers located on the base of their tails. I've been stuck by one and it's painful!

Leopard Shark

The Leopard Shark is a common type of shark swimming around the surf zone of Southern California. They can get as big as 6' - 7' but they are a relatively harmless shark and will not usually attack people unless provoked (like when you're trying to hold them up for a picture). Don't be afraid of them. Just be respectful. Many say that they are great eating and the current size limit (as of March 2005) is 36" so make sure to measure it out before you decide to keep one.

Shovelnose Guitarfish

The Shovel Nose Guitarfish has a great name doesn't it? These guys are very common in the surf zone and will usually hit larger hardshell sandcrabs. They are surprisingly great fighters and range in size from 1' to 5'. They are truly beasts when they hit the 4' mark. Even the smaller ones offer up a good battle when you accidently hook one on your perch rig.

Spotfin Croaker

Alan (aka WSK) suggested to include this fish on the list. He says, "I usually catch them in the surf zone not in close like I do BSP and Butts.They hit hard and run like a freight train. Ghost Shrimp have been the ticket with these beasts but I am sure most other live/fresh bait will work. They make a great Croaking sound when out of the water." We don't catch too many up here in the LA area but there have been a few catches reported in the area.

Walleye Surfperch

Bigwaverider suggested that I add this fish to the list. He says, "Usually they are very small and I bet they would make great shark/butt bait. I have caught them from 3-7" maybe slightly bigger. They are annoying because you feel a BUNCH of taps then a hook up." These fish are fairly common in the LA area as well. They don't get very big so they're almost a pest fish. However, they'll often save the day if you're facing a zero fish day.

I'm sure that I'm missing some fish but these are the most common fish that I catch while surf fishing in Southern California. Feel free to join in on the discussion below if you have some species to add or want to talk about this article.

Article written by:
Tom Ito (aka Catfish)

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