Surf Fishing in Southern California - SC Surf Fishing

One Way to Fish for Leopards in the Surf

There are many ways to catch Leopard Sharks from Southern California beaches. This is what has worked for me.

I have lived most of my 26 years of life in Del Mar California, with a few years in Costa Rica. Growing up surfing and fishing the beaches of Del Mar I have found an almost untapped fishery, which I am about to expose. Spear fishing and surfing the beaches of Del Mar enabled my friend and I to make the Leopard Shark discovery, back in Junior High school days. While spear fishing off the beaches of Del Mar (more appreciating the underwater world rather then actual spearing) we would see numerous Leopard Sharks up to 6 feet in length. We would also see these large gray torpedo shaped fish while sitting on our surf boards waiting for a wave on a clear summer day. It finally occurred to us that we can catch these big Leopards. Below is our Leopard Shark technique.

Leopard Sharks are relatively harmless, but
you still want to be careful when handling

We bring a light six pound spinning outfit to catch small Perch on Sand Crabs or plastic grubs. Piece of cake, generally takes only a few minutes to capture a Perch. To catch Perch using Sand Crabs we fish a 1/2 - 1 ounce slider, a red bead, swivel, 2 feet 6lb leader/flouro, and a small long shank hook (not a live bait hook). We pin on the Sand Crab with the point exiting the roe sack. Cast out and slowly pick up the slack as the waves wash your bait in. When you get bit make sure you are tight on the fish and all bellies/train tracks are out. Swing and reel the bait fish in. Be sure to reel the fish in quickly because if you are winding slow and steady the surf will create slack in your line causing the fish to spit the hook. Reel in as fast as possible without horsing the fish. Gently remove the hook out of the Perch and place the Perch in a bucket or tub with an aerator if you have one. If you do not have an aerator, quickly pin the Perch on your Leopard Shark set up.

We take the stinky live perch and fish it on a 7 - 8 foot bass stick with a Abu Garcia loaded with 15 lb. I do not suggest using an expensive reel, like a CT250 Calcutta, as the beach will really take a toll on your nice shiny gold reel. Choose a reel that is not very expensive but has good drag and casting capabilities, similar in size as the CT250 Calcutta. We use a 1 - 3 ounce slider above a high quality swivel with a 1.5 foot leader of 20lb mono (no need for wire) with a 3/0-5/0 hook. We use a short leader in order to get a good cast without the slider separating many feet from the swivel.

This is the part where the whole beach looks at my friend and I like we are freaks. We have the stinky, hopefully pregnant, Perch now on a 3/0 - 5/0 hook. We only fish Leopards during the summer months, on a day that has small surf. We wade out in the surf until the water is over our heads. Then we doggy paddle farther and farther out. By this time a crowd could start forming. Once we get way out past the surf line we wing the perch out. While in free spool we doggy paddle back in until we can touch bottom again. We prefer to fish in about 4 feet of water. We do not go back onto the dry beach because the shore break will slowly drag your bait back in. So here we are in 4 feet of water in free spool with a perch way out there. Stay alert and wait for a bite.. The Leopards will either pick the bait up slowly and just lazily swim away. Other times they pick it up like a Yellowtail or Tuna, rip... We let the Leopards eat the bait for about 15-20 seconds while free spooling and walking on to shore. Put the reel in gear once you hit the shore. Once the line gets tight start swinging and running backwards up the beach in order to get any bow out of the line, with the surf and all. Keep swinging until it starts sizzling. I never thought that these sharks were tough. They will take 50 yard screaming runs time after time. It is honestly almost like hooking a real nice Yellowtail on a 15lb bass rod from the beach. Now these sharks will take you up and down the beach for up to 45 minutes long (longest battle to date). We have hooked Leopards at 19th st and ended up at 26th st.

By the time you get your Leopard close to shore you will have a huge crowd forming around you with every comment you could imagine. If you have a partner with you have him grab the tail, hold on and drag the shark onto the wet sand or super shallow water. Gently remove the hook with wet hands and if the hook has been swallowed cut the line as close to the eye of the hook as possible. Take a quick look and let him go. We release all Leopard Sharks and I hope anyone that takes my pointers will do the same.

Give it a try. You would be amazed at how much more interesting beach fishing becomes when you are using the target species for bait. Corbina, Croaker, Slab Mackerel, etc. work well also. However, I believe a pregnant perch is the best bait. Surf Perch give birth to live young. Its like a burrito to them or a jelly filled donut. They cant resist.

I just want to remind you to use a reel that you don't really care about. It must have a decent drag. When you are swimming out in the surf your reel will probably be submerged numerous times. The Abu Garcias are the best reels I believe for big game beach fishing in San Diego. They are cheap and work fine...

Get out there and throw the grub if you've never done it before. You'll be surprized at the variety of the fish that you can catch with this simple setup.

Article written by:
Brad Baron (aka ZZZZZ)

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