Grubbing for perch offers an excellent alternative to bait fishing.  You will catch more fish, lose less tackle and, most importantly, remain energized and interested for a longer period.


Equipment is fairly simple: a sturdy pole, less than 8 feet, with a lightweight reel that has a good retrieve and holds 100 yards of quality line.  My preferences are a minimum of 5:1 on the retrieve and a maximum of 10# test for the line.  (I currently use a Shimano Sahara 1500, 6:1 with 6# of P-line CXX, on an Ugly Stik SP1100 6'6".)  But "think light" for better sensitivity, less fatigue, and more fish.  See the setup on the right.  Not exactly rocket science, is it?  But it works. 


As always, I advocate going out at a low tide (minus tide would be ideal) and scouting a location, noting its drop-offs, trenches, proximity to creek or river mouths, little things that define a habitat where fish will be holding when the tide returns.  But this is an ideal situation.  Even so, you can "read" habitats right away.  Observe the beach and look for the spots where the sand seems higher: it usually indicates a nice trench just below (yes, the fish are often that close!).   Is there a stream emptying into the sea?  Frequently there are fish collected about the mouths, feeding where the water churns.   What about the waves?  Are they breaking "differently" somewhere?  Could mean a shallower area, a sandbar, a CHANGE.  This is key: try to fish the changes or transitions.  If you have a choice between wide open beach or an area replete with reefs and rocks, try fishing nearer the rocks--or right in them if you are bold and don't mind losing terminal tackle.  That's where the redtail perch are.   Barred perch tend to be into sandier environments.  Walleyes and silvers are everywhere and in my opinion more of a nuisance than pleasure. 


I use a pumpkinseed grub because it my favorite, but motoroil is good, either red flaked or gold flaked, and I've witnessed others doing well on pink and white tones.  Use what works for you and don't be afraid to experiment.  (For example, lots of anglers like to hook the grub through the nose rather than the way I've illustrated.)  BUT, do keep in mind that constantly altering your approach is going to annoy you more than help you, and most of the time it's simply a better strategy just to move 20 or 30 yards down the beach.  Another key: KEEP MOBILE!  Find the fish, stay with the fish.  You may see that certain currents or tides will have the schools traveling in a particular direction as they keep up with the water speed and the available food.  More often than not they are moving left or right rather than out. 

Do yourself a huge favor and make up at least four rigs, complete with beads, sinkers, and safety swivels ready to go.  You won't lose the action this way. 

Cast out about 50 yards and try to keep your offering behind the crest of a wave.  Yes, this is lots easier to say than do, but it is a good goal.  (The arrow points to the beach.)  You don't need to race your retrieve but you should keep it steady and deliberate.  Be consistent all the way to the very last inch of water.  No kidding, you will often find that there are schools of large perch holding right next to the shore.  It's pretty simple to know when you are getting a strike, but sometimes undertow and rocks can fool you.  Just keep throwing slightly beyond where you felt action and soon enough you'll know if it was a fish or not.  Once you get a fish on, stay with it!  This is obvious but not as simplistic as you might think.  And this is where a faster retrieve will make a difference between a happy angler and a guy swearing his head off and scaring the seagulls. 

One more item.  Waders.  if you are fishing north of Santa Cruz, you would be well-advised to have a pair.  A pair of oversized funky old gym shoes will be perfect footwear. 

Update 2006

People have asked about leader length.  They have seen or used considerably longer leaders where they fish.

There are a couple of reasons why the suggested leader length on this grubbing page is 12-18 inches. One is that this is really a beginner's page, an introduction to the surf perch artificial style. It helps to start out with a manageable leader, one that makes tossing less of a challenge and forestalls tangle. Once the angler feels comfortable casting a carolina rig he can innovate. The other reason for shorter rigs is turbulent water. Since my site is based in the SF bay area, the ocean waters I cover are typical of central and northern California conditions, big waves and busy water. I feel that short and compact does do better under these conditions; the leader does not "get ahead" of itself and tangle if it's short. South of Santa Cruz I tend to go with a much longer leader. And if the water is calm up here, same deal. Also, the speed of your reel's retrieve will have some bearing on the length of the leader. If you can't keep up, go shorter.

Update 2007

Rod size is a matter of personal preference.  {In Fishing, anyway.}

I'm a selective angler and look for likely spots or quick openings, a new pocket or pool created by
a sudden change in the current, for example.  I need to get to them with fast and perfect cast.  Distance is less important than accuracy  So a shorter pole suits me.  In fact, my current one for grubbing is a  6 '6" light Shimano freshwater trout rod, sensitive and manipulative at the same time.   If you need a long cast, you'll need a longer pole--but to be honest, I wonder what the point is when the fish are most often found close by. 

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