Mallards rest boat ramp on the
locked by a pressure ridge of ice.
Corbina in the Surf
An short excerpt aken from Doc's
Guide to Salt water Fishing 1985*
Corbina and California Sea Bass
Southern California surf anglers, be
they fly or bait fishers, relish the opportunity to catch these
two species of fish. The corbina, the smaller of the two, extends its
normal range further to the north and this territory reaches in the
late summer to the area of Point Conception. The California sea
bass on the other hand, only comes up the coast (regularly) to the
beaches of La Jolla. However, during the ocean condition known as El
Nino, when the warm southern waters of the central Pacific coasts
surge northward, these two can be found searching the surf washed
beaches for tidbits as far as Morro Bay and Point Magu (respectively).
Some stragglers, or maybe I should call them the adventurous, will
travel up the coast as far as Monterrey Bay.
The sea bass, which I’m including in
this section because it has provided a great deal of fun in the past,
normally roams the surf below the Mexican border. In actuality the
western coast of Baja California is where to spot these fish. They are
periodically caught and released (as of this writing they are protected
by US law as a measure in conservation for the specie.) Coastal boaters
will periodically catch these fish in deeper water and along the
islands which dot the coast (the Channel Island chain.)
These bass are big, commonly
up to fifty pounds. Coast fishermen who are outfitted to catch
stripers (see Striped Bass) are ready for an engagement both in tackle
as well as knowledge. But, enough writing on this fish. I think it
would be best to concentrate on the corbina, a fish that during the
warmer months is readily available to anyone who is ready to walk the
beaches of Southern California.
The corbina, not to be
confused with the Mexican corbina which is actually a weakfish or sea
trout depending on your terminology. This surf patroller is a
member of the croaker family of fishes and normally averages 18 - 26
inches long and weighs in the neighborhood of 2-4 pounds. Its
normal feeding habits are straight forward and direct. (I will also
mention here that I have also hooked these fish in port and at dockside
while launching watercraft.)
The corbina, is a sandy beach surf
feeder, and to the observant angler, a visual sighting will be the
catalyst for most hook ups. These fish will eat small crustaceans such
as sand fleas, crabs and shrimp. They will also feed on mollusks
which have been caught above the sand. Because of this varied menu,
corbina will be seen in the surf in very shallow water. As the wave
rolls into and up the beach the corbina will , as an individual or an
entire school of twenty or more fish, begin to hunt the thin
water for morsels. Sometimes their entire back and tail can be seen
streaking through the water and foam lines. In essence the fish simply
darts in just behind the advancing water, roots around a bit, eats
whatever and tries to ride the surge back to deeper water and safety.
This is where the observant angler will make contact.
Spin fishing enthusiasts
Light tackle using six pound test is
commonly deployed. Usual surfside baits of clam strips, shrimp, sand
fleas and very small crabs can be used in the angler’s pursuit. I
normally use a “fish finder rig” if a weight is needed to fight the
inshore breeze, or just my preferred method of just a free lined and
baited #6 hook. The angler will then cast into the areas where
the corbina have been seen as they darted into deeper water. This
safety area for the fish is just beyond the contact area between
receding and stationary water.
When the corbina takes your “soft
bait”, such as a clam or squid strip, set the hook quickly. Any delay
in the angler’s strike will yield nothing. The average corbina
will feel the hook or the line and quickly spit out the bait. However
if you are fishing with a shelled crustacean this time to set the
hook can be delayed for obvious reasons.
Fly fishing Enthusiasts
Fly rod anglers can catch a great
amount of these fish using the same methods as the spin fishers. A
small amount of a durable bait such as squid is put on a #6 hook
using 9 feet of leader. I have used crab imitations and have had good
results but these fish do hunt using smell as the principle sense. A
small #6 or #8 crab pattern tipped with a strip of anything
stinky will get you into fish. Rods as light as four weights can be
used but a six or seven weight might be needed to get the fly or bait
through the breeze and before the fish. I suggest with these fish you
do not act as a purist and attempt to fish without tipping the fly with
bait. You will be wasting a great amount of your time. Yes, it is
possible to send a weighted crab or baitfish pattern into the area just
beyond the cut formed by the receding surf but have you ever put
on a swim mask and snorkel and attempt to watch the bottom in this
area? The drifting and settling sand will cloud the first foot
from the bottom so tip the hook.
My usual plan of attack when I roam
the beaches of Southern California is to start fishing at first light
(so the people traffic does not affect you) and then fish the incoming
tide. The fish constantly roam and sometimes you will find them when
you least expect it. So how about a little story to go with this? This
is a true story and may help you visualize the situation.
A young neighbor, Karl, and I
decided that Sunday would be a great time to hit the corbina right. We
fished the beach where the Los Angeles Airport meets the water of Santa
Monica bay. At times the noise can be kind of loud but this area was
fairly close to home and the corbina were there throughout the warmer
months of summer and until the cooler water drove them south.
We decided we would leave in
darkness and arrive at the nearest parking area at first light. We both
traveled light; a spin rod and reel a pocketful of hooks, some slip
weights and a small amount of bait, which was clam cut into small
strips. Karl hadn’t found the occasion to fly fish quite yet in his
life so my fly rod would be left at home on this occasion. But today
was different and special right from the start.
I parked my jeep and the two of us
walked through a thick coastal fog to get to the water’s edge. Karl was
already rigged and was quick to wet his line. I walked down the beach
maybe fifty yards and I saw his form disappear into the fog. I then
began to study the water.
There I was in this sphere of
growing light, with the water washing up to my bare feet. Before me I
saw a colony of sand fleas digging their newly exposed bodies back into
the wet sand as the wave receded from the beach. It was a good sign. I
baited a hook and readied my rod then waited for perhaps three
waves to come and go as I watched the shallow surf regress. Then,
thirty yards to my left I saw the revealing wake of a corbina as
they made their way back into the sanctuary of deeper water. The
game was on. I walked closer, waiting for another wave to scrub
In the quiet of the fog, I heard the
faint sound of Karl’s reel screaming through the fog. I knew he was
solid into a fish. I looked back in his direction and saw his form
emerge from the fog cover. His rod was arced as he followed the fish
down the beach. He stopped and put the brakes onto his fish. “It’s a
good one ,” was all he said as he continued to play the fish from where
I looked back into the surf.
The wave rolled up the beach and in its water were three corbina
darting to a fro in the frothy water. They followed the receding wave
and I cast. It was on target. I waited a moment and took the slack out
of the line. My rod tip then dropped and I set the hook. The fish took
off for Redondo.
Technology won out and the fish
slowed after taking forty or fifty yards of line. The fish surfaced and
splashed a bit. He then ran toward Santa Monica. I quickly retrieved
the slack line as fast as I could and then the line straightened
and the reels drag system engaged. The clicks were stead with their
pulsations. Minutes later the fight was over. Karl and I had our first
fish of the day. We released the matched pair of 22 inch fish and
within ten minutes we had another double running us in opposite
directions through the fog.
Things then seemed to slow. The next
twenty minute produced nothing. We elected to move. Did you get
that? I said we moved. The rest of the morning’s incoming
tide was periodically interrupted with strong fish making valiant runs
as they tried to rid themselves of our hooks. Then as suddenly as it
started it was over.
The two of us covered maybe a half
mile of beach and we both caught and released eight or nine fish
apiece. It was a good simple morning which anyone, with a desire to
fish can duplicate. And, if you can get further south the numbers of
these fish will increase dramatically.
Patterns for the fly rod: crab,
shrimp and worm patterns. Small weighted epoxy body minnows
or weighted feathered flies simulating baitfish i.e. surf candy
or glass minnows will take these fish. I will also suggest
that the flies be tipped with something.
* -PJMPress /LA,CA-
1985. The Beginner's Guide to Salt
Water Fishing was written to enlighten novice anglers as to
what is to be expected when
fishing for a specific specie of fish or fishing at various regions of
the United States.
It covered fishing from Maine to
Florida, around the gulf coast and then up along the Pacific beaches to
the salmon areas of the northwest.
Alaska, Hawaii and the Virgin
Islands were not included.