The Hunt for Surf Stripers
This year we have been blessed with some of the most phenomenal saltwater fishing in a while. El Nino weather conditions have gifted record-breaking halibut limits being caught in the Bay to 100+ tuna landed on 3/4 day trips in Southern California. For the past few months striper fishing has been outstanding in the Bay from San Francisco all the way to Monterey.
I have been fortunate enough to capitalize on this opportunity, and I would like to pass on these surf striper fishing tips that have given me the honor of fighting these drag-peeling surf dwellers.
On the day of my catch last week, the conditions were perfect for the morning bite. High tide was roughly at 9:30 which allowed for the perfect two conditions to align for striper fishing – the sunrise bite and tide-change bite. I got to my spot at 5:00am meeting up with a good friend and infamous striper fanatic, Michael Profumo. (If you have not heard or checked out his baits, please do so! You won’t regret the devotion he commits to making his custom swimbaits. Link down below)
As the sun rose, we instantly spotted boils near the breakline of the waves. He quickly hooked up on his topwater bait that we casted into the midst of the fury but lost it as quick as he set hook. Even with all the commotion, I wasn’t getting blown up on my popper so I switched over to something my colleagues insisted that I use: The Daiwa SP Minnow (Floating Version). After casting it vigorously and trying to hurl it over the break line, I got smashed at the end of my cast. At first, I thought to myself, “just a decent sized fish” because I was quickly gaining on it but within the matter of seconds the fish changed its mind and absolutely booked it. All I could remember thinking was, “Please do not come unbuttoned…” I loosened my drag to about 6lbs of pressure allowing it to run and tire itself out. Eventually, I won the battle and landed my first surf striper within 45 minutes of fishing.
Crucial Striper Fishing Accessories
- Breatheable Waders – Keeps and your valuables dry and warm (Phone, Wallet, etc.).
- Polarized Sunglasses – Allows you to key in on shallow cruising fish and spot boils. Eliminates glare and protects your eyes from hours in the sun.
- Hat – Cuts down the early morning/bright afternoon glare. Protects your skin!
- Small Backpack/Fishing Waist Pack – Eliminate wasting time by having all your gear instantly available.
The Arsenal: Rod & Reel
I own a Daiwa DXS862MHXS – part of the Salmon & Steelhead lineup making it extremely lightweight and provides enough length for long casts. I pair this rod with a Shimano Symetre 4000FL. It weighs only 11.8oz. and features X-Ship Technology along with the capacity to hold 150 yards of 40lb braid, making it the perfect finesse surf reel.
The “Luckiest” Lure
No need to go too crazy with lures. My staple baits are the Daiwa SP Minnow, Spro Bucktail Jig, and Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper. Each bait covers a different part of the water column. When choosing colors just remember to imitate a surf smelt, mackerel, anchovy, or any other bait fish that dwells in the surf. Bone and Red/White are always great colors as well.
Daiwa SP Minnow (Floating Version)
Big Hammer Fish Trap 5″
Spro Bucktail Jig 3/4oz -1 ½ oz.
Acme Kastmaster (1-3oz.)
Other Effective Lures
- Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper
- Bomber Long A
- Gibbs Polaris Popper
- Lucky Craft Surf Pointer 115MR
- Lucky Craft Flash Minnow 110SP
Tips of the Trade For Fishing Striper
Location, Location, Location
Currently, fish are being caught all along the coastline from Big Sur to Marin County. Due to such a broad range of locations, trying dial in your own spot may be difficult as the popular beaches are infested with surf striper enthusiasts. I pick a beach by being involved on the fishing forums and networking with local surf anglers. Having this network gives you reliable intel on where the more productive grounds are. You don’t have to hit popular beaches for the best luck. I’ve witnessed people catching stripers at remote locations where we city-dwelling anglers would never think of going. For instance, I went camping once at Limekiln State Park which is 55 miles south of Monterey and witnessed an angler catch a 24lber. Another time I was talking to a fellow angler at a local tackle shop and he told me he and his friends just came back from a beach in San Gregorio and caught nice-sized fish. Don’t be afraid to test new waters! It may possibly be your new secret if you are successful.
Timing is Everything
You have 2 main bite windows: The sunrise bite and the sunset bite. These are crucial feeding times for the striper, which increases your chances, but if the bite is on at any other time it won’t matter as much! Tides are also important. The most effective time to land fish are the changes in tide – 1 ½ hour before & after a low tide is my preference. Generally anglers fish the entire duration of an incoming tide.
You Have Resources – Use Them!
Use Google Maps! Satellite View will help you understand the terrain of each beach you are scouting. You can observe beach structure easily and narrow down your search for the perfect location.
Most importantly, persistence is key! You can go many trips without hooking up on a surf striper, and that is just the unfortunate truth. However, your persistence will pay off! Keep at it and good luck.