I received the following email from David Wrenn. After some correspondence I decided it was worth posting, to share some helpful tips and the kind of warm exchange that often happens between fellow surf casters. I hope you enjoy reading this. If you like this sort of thing, please join our Facebook group California Surf Fishing (CSF). Come ask your questions and share your fishing reports.
So, I guess I'm reaching out to give you some positive feedback and to let you know that you've connected with me. I follow you everywhere, but I don't post anything as I'm pretty private. I've asked for access to the FB group and will contribute if it means connecting with people with this same love. Does love really explain it? I feel that you are similar to me in that it's therapy. There is a zen about fishing, becoming one with the water. All the troubles in the world disappear when I have a line out. OK, so enough of that!
I've fished all of my life, but growing up in AZ meant lots of travel to reach water. I spent my youth chasing stockers and small native trout in mountain streams. I moved to CA four years ago. I live in Santa Clarita, so I started bass fishing at Castaic Lake and learned how to target LMB. Ventura is my closest beach. Over the last few years, I started surf-fishing.
Silver Strand was my first, but I've since gravitated to 5th Street and Ormond. I've only caught perch, croaker, and a single calico. Almost all of my success has been on the C-rig. I had my first jerk bait catch at Tajiguas and landed 5 on the LC.
I read your letter to Jaime Diamond and it resonated with me. I guess this is why I'm writing to you. I've watched your videos and knew that you used to fish in Ventura and have since moved north. Reading about your journey fishing 5th Street to Carpenteria is exactly where I am!
My '24 goal is to catch a halibut. I don't even care if it's legal. In the last 6 weeks, I decided to always fish at least one new beach every time I go out, and I've started fishing low tide. I always went out 2 hours before high tide, because that was what the web said. I've started to see what structure gets exposed at low tide and I've started to pay attention to wave strength. I'm still searching for that halibut.
In my quest, I read Kazazian's book and have started using Google Maps to search for structure, but I think I'm still doing something wrong. After reading their suggestions, I fished many beaches from LA to Santa Barbara. I own one Battlestar 115 Jerkbait in Glow Cherry Chovy, but so far I've not done well with it. On Monday, I was in Ventura and stopped by Hyun's Tackle and bought XLS Weighted Swimbait Hook in 3/8oz and 1/4oz along with some 5" Rib Baits in Shiney White Minnow. It seemed like that was the hot color from your update. Anyway, I am all for supporting small and local businesses, and I don't expect you to respond to every random request for help that comes across your feeds, but I guess that over time I might prove myself genuine. I'm not expecting anything from you, I guess all I wanted to do was introduce myself and let you know that you are an inspiration. Seeing you evolve from where I am at 5th street, to landing legals, creating content, and becoming a manufacturer is really amazing.
So, if I were to have an ask, what advice would you give me? I am starting to think that the Ventura, Oxnard, Malibu areas are not good halibut territory. Maybe I'm wrong and am just unlucky. Santa Barbra is not much further, but Jalama and Pismo would require more planning. What am I missing in reading structure? I watched your video on slow rolling the TX Rig along the bottom and will try that next time.
I'll end by saying, keep it up. I like it and I'm learning. I look forward to seeing the FB group and getting to know the others. Thanks for reading this and here's to a great '24.
Thank you so much for this heartfelt email. Man... when you say "zen about fishing, becoming one with the water." This resonates with me 100%, it's a big part of what draws me to the shoreline. And I want to say that receiving an email like this and connecting with someone who sees and appreciates what I am doing, is just as satisfying. The love I am receiving from the community is filling an emptiness I lived with over decades of searching for my community and purpose in this world. So thank you!
So bud, you are 100% on the right track. When you read that book by Gary Kazazian you armed yourself with all the knowledge you need to catch those halibut and other trophy fish you are after. Your hard work; scouting on Google Earth, fishing new beaches at low tide... it's all going to pay off man. I want to let you know that I have been skunked at nearly all of those beaches too. And yet I've gone back and caught there on occasion. Those counties are all loaded with prime opportunities to catch a variety of fish. I recommend focusing your fishing south of Point Conception, like LA, VT, and SB counties for Halibut and the mixed bag. There's more variety and more bites to be had on average. Save San Luis Obispo County and further north for when the water temps drop and fishing is slow down south. Those fish down south are spoiled with warm water and don't play well in winter. But here in SLO, our fish are adapted to colder temps, and our incredible populations of Perch (and now Striped Bass) provide opportunities when the southern bite shuts down. Another option is to switch to targeting Perch when it gets cold down south. Don't get me wrong, you can still catch Halibut and Rock Fish and even Sheephead through winter down there, but it tends to be a lot slower. Those winter afternoon low tides are a great time to scout those beaches and if you get a bite along the way, all the better. But, Perch remain active all year regardless of water temp, so they get me through the winter when I need a fish to fry.
When it comes down to it, catching in the surf is a grind, especially in the beginning as you're just getting dialed in. People see us posting photos and YouTube videos of catch after catch, but they don't see the many more hours, entire sessions where we were experimenting, and grinding. But we keep that up and now and then the stars align, we get on a hot bite, or even just one bite that makes it all worth it. My best advice is to keep it up. Your results will improve. You're gonna catch some really beautiful fish this year.
Also, I encourage you to take a selfie photo when you catch fish. Or get an action cam to record your experience of scouting, casting, and catching, so you can re-live the experience again and again. Memory does not do the experience justice. A fish story is one thing. A video or photo to go along with the story is so much more vivid. We work hard to catch 'em so it's worth recording the experience for posterity. This is the main reason why I make YouTube videos.
Next point... I'm not just saying this because I am biased; The Battlestar 115 Jerkbait, and Battlestar 5" Rib Bait + XLS Weighted Swimbait Hook really are the best baits for the kind of fishing you are looking to do. The Jerkbait, for its superior casting and action, but more so for the slow float which allows you to slow down your retrieve and minimize snagging. The Battlestar Swimbait + XLS Hook because it is indeed the most weedless, snagless bait in the surf. These two baits are all you need. So my second best tip is to SLOW DOWN your retrieve. Slow, low and steady is my motto. Walk that swimbait along the bottom like a crab to get the big fish to thump it. Small halibut are more inclined to chase bait which is moving a little faster, while the big ones wait for the slowest moving, easiest meal to come to them. So when your bait passes over them at a snail's pace, that's when you'll get thumped. And that's just a matter of putting in the time, combing the entire zone, when conditions are prime.
This brings us to my third tip: Fish when conditions are prime. When you see people in the California Surf Fishing (CSF) Facebook group showing us good catch reports in your county, then you know it's go-time. The fish are active when the fish are active, so other fishermen's reports are a huge piece of intel. Some of the most efficient fishermen stay home and watch our Facebook group for this valuable evidence, then they hit the water. It primarily has to do with changes in water temperature and suitable wave conditions. Down south of point conception where you fish, the Halibut and most other species will be most active when:
1- Water temps are between 57-67 degrees.
2- When wave conditions are calm enough to allow bait fish to take cover in the protected pockets around reef rock and vegetation.
So, watch water temp, watch wave conditions, and watch the catch reports in our Facebook group California Surf Fishing (CSF). If you're willing, please contribute your observations in the group for everyone's benefit. You can even post anonymously in the group if you prefer to maintain anonymity. If you do decide to reveal your identity, you'll probably end up making some wonderful fishing friends and valuable relationships, so I want to encourage you to be visible on all my channels (if you want to). I do my best to maintain a respectful and friendly culture, so everyone can feel welcome, and we can #keepfishingfun for everyone.
On that note, it's a good idea to avoid showing landmarks in photos or naming beaches or specific fishing spots. This is because it offends a lot of fishermen who prefer to keep the same spots as secret as possible. It's a matter of securing the resource for themselves, and also maintaining a certain amount of solitude and peace at their favorite fishing spots. I think most fishermen can relate to that. Some stretches of beach are incredibly public, ie... like up here in SLO county we have Pismo/Oceano, Avila Bay, and pretty much all harbors are fair game for everyone because they are already high traffic to begin with. And, there are extremely remote, hard-to-access spots that are unlikely to ever see much traffic at all, so I am comfortable revealing these spots too. But, if I think there is a chance that a spot is sensitive to locals, because it is easy for them to access and tends to be productive, and it is not a well-known spot, then I will cut and crop and heck out of that footage to respect the locals who treasure it. There are plenty of other spots I can showcase while keeping these sensitive ones private. This practice will help you avoid conflict and keep fishing fun for yourself and others. That's why it's so important. If you ever run into any conflict around this in the future, I'd like to be here for you to chat with and provide empathy, advice, and support.
Thanks for reaching out. Stay in touch. I want to see those pics/vids of your success on reef or sand.
Fish safe, fish legal, fish hard,
Thank you so much for your reply. I'll do as you say and keep on keeping on. I'm still waiting for FB access but I'll get on and contribute when I do. The surf looks too big for the next week or more so time to do other things. I'll also try and comment on your YouTube videos as I think that helps your account too.
Maybe this would be better as a reply to a video, but I would like to see how to care for the catch if you're looking for content ideas. I mean, do you call it a day after landing a big fish or do you keep fishing? If you keep fishing, do you put it on a hoop, do you bleed it, or do you head straight back and get it on ice ASAP? What about gutting it? It seems like in some shots you've removed the gills. I've seen some blood, but is that accidental or purposeful? I understand that imagery could outrage a segment of the population, but I'd like to know because when I catch that legal, she's coming home with me!
Again, thank you and you'll start to see me around.
How to care for fish after catching. This would make a good video, or YouTube short... Maybe I'll do that.
Well, no I do not stop fishing. I cut the gills to let as much blood out as possible. You could also cut the tail nice and deep to let more blood out.
If it's small enough, I put it in my Hook2Cook Perch Pouch. It can hold a limit of small perch or half a limit of big ones. I will keep them soaking as I wade and fish for up to 4 hours, then I just walk back to the car, chuck it in my plastic tub so no drip in the car, and drive home.
When I get home I dunk them in a bucket of fresh water and scrub off the sand by hand. Then they go into a small plastic tub and into the fridge for 2-48 hours before I fillet them. Fish are easier to fillet after they are stiff from being in the fridge. The sooner you get the guts out the better. In fact, yes, sometimes after cutting the gills on the beach I remove the guts right away, that is a good thing to do.
I have friends who carry ice packs inside a plastic bag, or small plastic trash cans in their backpacks so they can put fish on ice as soon as an hour or so. I've decided this is not critical tho. It dawned on me one day that when we go rock fishing on charter boats they put your fish in a gunny sack and they sit there sometimes 4 to 6 hours before they get refrigerated so I started to experiment without the ice.
One time I caught a big halibut early in a session, and hung it off the back of my backpack with a carabiner clip for nearly 4 hours while I continued to fish. It was perfectly fine when I got home. I did not notice any difference at all. So since then, I don't even worry about it at all. I have been thinking about getting a small trash can with an ice pack in my backpack, but like I said, after all my experience I find it unnecessary. Clams are another story. They need to be kept alive in salt water for many hours while they purge out the sand. I think as a general rule, most people don't want their dead fish off ice for more than 2 hours. I don't mind 3 or 4 hours personally. But theoretically, the sooner you get the guts out and put it on ice the better.
Good luck, David.
-Vincent Alexander PS - I have now approved your request to join our Facebook Group ;)
I hope you enjoyed reading this correspondence between David and me. If you have questions, comments, or fishing reports, please share them in our Facebook Group. And if you'd like a free California Surf Fishing (CSF) sticker, you can get one here.