Greater Seattle Surf Perch

Ben Kesling catches a redtail surfperch on a Seattle fishing trip.

Most of Washington’s coastal beaches have decent surf perch fishing within a few hours drive of Seattle. These fish are fun to catch and are quite tasty.

There are several different set ups that will work, but a rod that will distance cast a 1 to 2.5 oz sinker well gets you out to where the fish are without having to wade too far into the surf. A 10 ft. medium to medium heavy spinning surf rod with a matched spinning reel (especially those reels with a longer length spool) spooled with some 15 to 20 lb. braid will really let you whip it out there a good distance. The braid will also have less drag in the water and your cast will stay put better in the waves. Using a weight that is designed for sand like a pyramid or better yet a sand claw will also help with this. I like to have a top shot or topping line on the end of my braid that is 5 feet of clear mono or fluorocarbon line with the weight attached to the bottom of this. 30″ above this a tiny 3 way swivel with an 8 or 10″ leader coming off it and a small bait hook. 16 or so inches above this another 3 way with another leader and hook.


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Many baits will work to catch surf perch. I prefer natural baits that are tough and will stay on in the surf and may even survive a missed strike. When you clean your razor clams the top 1/2 inch of the neck just below the dark tip, snip these off and save for perch bait, mussels and other clams work well also. Some people use a 1 to 1.5″ piece of berkley power bait sandworm.

Good perch fishing can be found all up and down those sandy clamming beaches, anywhere. Avoid the places where you can see the big tide rips. Look for calmer water. Cast past the waves breaking near shore into the water between the shore break and the next break out. I think calmer seas are better. After casting let it sink for a moment on a slack line, then reel enough just to take most of the slack out. Reel a little more as needed as the waves wash your line a bit while holding your rod at a 45* angle with much of your line out of the water but still room to set the hook. Adjust your weight as needed for surf conditions using just enough to maintain a fairly good hold that will move a little.

Remember that perch can be a schooling fish. Don’t stand in one spot fishing all day waiting for them to come to you, go find them. If after a few casts you are not getting bit walk down the beach a bit. Pay close attention to see if others are catching fish. If there is no action go back to your car and dive down the beach to a new spot. You are looking for a school of fish where you will catch one every few minutes. Wear a vest with more tackle, bait, needle nose pliers. stringer to hang from you belt everything you need in it so when you find a school you can stay right there and fish before they leave.