From stunning sandy beaches to powerful ocean waters, Oregon’s coastline is home to thousands of fishes, and it provides an excellent opportunity for surf fishing.
Any angler with the right gear and technique can enjoy a productive day of surf fishing along its shores and beaches. But with the myriad fish species available, what kind of fish can you catch surf fishing in Oregon?
The most popular and abundant fish you can catch while surf fishing in Oregon is surfperch. There are over nine species of surfperch, but the most common target is the redtail surfperch and Barred perch. Other types of fish you can find include the cabezon, lingcod, and rockfish.
In the rest of this article, you’ll learn more about surfperch and other fishes you can catch while surf fishing in Oregon. We’ll also discuss the best time to go surf fishing in Oregon, how to catch surfperch, as well as the fishing regulations.
Fishes You Can Catch While Surf Fishing in Oregon
You can find several fish species along the beaches, shores, and estuaries on the Oregon coast. Here are some of the most common ones you can catch surf fishing and where to find them.
With a blend of various colors plastered on a disc-shaped body, this small fish’s aesthetic variety is astonishing. Surfperch is the most popular option for surf fishing in Oregon, and they can generally grow to approximately 15 inches.
The Redtail surfperch is the prevalent and most dominant species of surfperch. Redtail surfperch has an oval-shaped compressed body, with reddish fins and tail, which is topped with brownish vertical bars.
Silver surfperch also commonly roams these waters, but are generally released by anglers due to their smaller size.
Lingcod is a Bottomfish or Groundfish, meaning they are generally found nearby rocky areas, nearshore reefs, and jetties. This fish can reach lengths of up to 5ft (152cm), but those found in Oregon waters are generally 2 – 3ft (61 – 91cm).
They grow in various shades of grey and have a large mouth filled with sharp teeth. According to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW), the daily bag limit for lingcod is 2 per day, with a size of 22 inches (56 cm).ld
When catching lingcod, anglers fish from jetties and rocks using 20-pound line, 16 – 18-pound line for leaders and dropper lines, and snelled bait holder hooks. The leaders and dropper lines should be attached with 3-way swivels.
Bounce some bait near the bottom, or use live bait. Popular baits for these fish include ghost shrimp, pile worms, Herring, and squid. Lingcod are also attracted to lead head jigs with rubber worms and other lures.
This Bottomfish roams in variations within Near the Oregon coastline. Distinguishing between genders is easy with this fish, as females are light brown or gray with fine orange spotting and yellowfins, while males are brown with blue speckles and black fins.
Rock greenlings are usually a darker brown shade with red speckling patterns and have a distinctive blue-colored mouth.
Greenlings are daytime feeders, so this should be considered when attempting to catch them. They have relatively small mouths compared to many other Bottomfish, so a No.4 – No.6 hook may better catch these.
These fish can grow to over 2ft (61cm), its smooth scaly skin grows in a range of reds, browns, and greens, and is a member of the sculpin family. It’s also a Groundfish, which means that these fish are ideal for surf fishing around rocky areas.
To catch Cabezon, anglers fish from jetties and rocks using 15 – 20-pound line, 2 – 4 pound lighter than the mainline for leaders and dropper lines, and snelled bait holder hooks.
The leaders and dropper lines should be attached with 3-way swivels. Popular baits for these fish include ghost shrimp, pile worms, herring, and squid or lead jigs with rubber worms.
As the name alludes, these fish are flat, and there are many kinds of fish that fall under the description of this flatfish.
While some flatfish are generally caught offshore by boat anglers, sand soles roam nearshore and are lured by shore anglers. These flatfish are dark on the upper right side and lighter underneath.
When anglers attempt to catch this fish nearshore, it’s possible to drift a small jig or bait 2 hooks, a 2-ounce sinker, and a 10 – 15-pound line over a sandy bottom. Preferred bait for luring this species includes shrimp, marine worms, and mussels.
This fascinating Groundfish species can be either communal swimming in school or solitary choosing to roam alone. A surplus of 24 species of rockfish roams the Oregon coastline’s waters, and some live to be over 100 years old.
It’s otherwise referred to as sea bass and rock cod, and these fish exist in an array of colors ranging from black to oranges and reds.
To catch rockfish, anglers fish from jetties and rocks using 15 – 20-pound line, 2 – 4 pound lighter than the mainline for leaders and dropper lines, and snelled bait holder hooks.
The leaders and dropper lines should be attached with 3-way swivels. The spines of rockfish are poisonous, so beware when handling.
Anglers should keep an eye on the line’s condition when fishing close to rocks, as the contact with rough terrain may cause the line to fray. Popular baits for these fish include ghost shrimp, pile worms, Herring, and squid. Rockfish are also attracted to lead head jigs with rubber worms and other lures.
This fascinating fish lives to over 100 years old, and the species only spawns once every 2 – 8 years, which makes it quite a special fishing experience. Green sturgeon and white sturgeon both abide cohesively within Oregon’s waters.
One white sturgeon has been historically listed as weighing in at a whopping 1,500 pounds (680kg) with a measurement of 20ft (610cm). But, the general size of those found in Oregon waters measures up to 12ft (366cm).
When it comes to catching these beauties, it’s important to note that these fish are mostly available for catch-and-release, as there has been a limitation on the season, which allows for white sturgeon.
These are anadromous fish, meaning that they migrate from oceans to freshwaters to spawn. Their bodies feature sharp bony plates along its sides, which should be carefully considered during handling.
In order to land a catch-and-release with either green or white sturgeon, shore and boat anglers utilize smelt, Herring, or shrimp paired with a 6/0 or 7/0 hook, a 2 – 8-ounce sliding sinker, and approximately 30 – 40-pound line.
Other Marine fish species: Herring, Anchovy, and Sardine
All three of these fish species are well-known as great sources of nutrition for predatory fish and humans. The combination of blue-green, shades of silver, and pale brown flash streaks in the Oregon waters as these species swim around in schools.
With anchovies growing up to 9 inches (23cm), and Herring growing up to 18 inches (46cm), they’re quite popular catches.
Herring, anchovy, and sardines can frequently be caught throughout respective spawning seasons, and can usually be found, lured, baited, and caught in bays with multiple-hook herring jigs.
Surfperch Fishing Regulations and Licensing in Oregon
Of course, the fun of fishing will commence after the paperwork has been checked. Any angler attempting this would need to refer to the current issue of Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations, as there may be in-season regulation changes.
Individuals aged 12 or above need an Oregon Fishing License to fish for personal use, and a separate Shellfish License is required for the personal use of shellfish.
Any individual will need the appropriate tag to fish many species, and further license details are available in the current edition of the Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations.
One can also make inquiries by calling the Licensing Department at (503) 947-6101. You will face serious consequences when caught fishing without a valid license or tag.
You can purchase tags and licenses online, through a licensed agent, or from ODFW offices.
It should also be noted that many fish in Oregon have very specific restrictions due to species protection.
Many can still be caught as catch-and-release, but it should not be assumed most of these fish can be kept or cooked. Species available for retention should be checked in relation to the size, depth, and daily bag limits.
Also, fishing enthusiasts venturing out to the Oregon waters should beware that the waves can be rough, and sneaker waves can throw anyone off their game.
Ensure safety precautions are properly followed, always wear a life jacket, wader with wader belt if necessary, and embarking on this trip would be best done with the company.
Once all of these bases have been covered, you should now be able to venture out and achieve great heights, depending on which permits you’ve obtained, of course.
There are many kinds of fish off Oregon’s coast, all of which are special and require simple catch techniques—as with most species, fishing with ideal lighting conditions during the 2 hours around high tide is generally more advantageous.
Best Areas To Surf Fish in Oregon
Surfperch are the main attraction for the Oregon coastline, but the natural inclusion of rocky areas and its habitual nature makes it something quite special.
For other fishes caught nearshore, like greenling, sea bass, lingcod, and other species, the bait setups are generally the same with a few exceptions.
Generally speaking, within any specific environments, and across the species of available fish, clam neck, raw shrimp, and sand shrimp are considered excellent baits.
Of course, there are other viable options as well, and plastic bait could even work if conditions are suitable. Baiting is mostly ideal threaded on No.2 or No.4 hooks, as lines and leaders are dependent on the species being lured.
Some require sand sinkers, while others prefer heavier fixed weights into depressions and cavernous areas within the waters.
These would usually be darker, bluer, and deeper waters, and the goal here would be to leave rod holders down driven into the sand. Casting shouldn’t be done beyond the surf or perch line.
When it comes to surf fishing in Oregon, in addition to considering the needs and requirements for each kind of fish being lured, the location will play a key role in determining the outcome of your surf fishing trip.
Fish being lured for a surf angler will predominantly live around nearshore natural or manmade structures.
Natural and manmade structures:
Structures such as these would include rocks, jetties, and rocky reefs. Groundfish and Bottomfish can commonly be found swimming in schools around these areas, as it provides suitable conditions or their habitats and for feeding activity.
Beaches and Shores
The surf and incoming waves can potentially provide great surf fishing conditions. Most surf anglers target surfperch and attempt to lure redtail surfperch in particular from the shoreline.
Using pyramid or sand sinkers is best along beaches, and many seasoned fishers prefer slinky styled steelhead weights.
This enables the various kinds of baits to shift and move around in accordance with the surf’s ever-changing current and moving up and down the beach.
Fishing along the beach is usually best when there are inclines as opposed to long, flat stretches.
Water Bodies and Bays
Some fish species enjoy roaming in bays with moderate tidal waters, as relatively mild water movement is suitable for feeding activity with many fish species.
Where Does Each Kind of Fish Live?
Surfperch are mostly found within 20 to 30 feet of the shoreline. Both redtail and barred surfperch ad other species can be mostly found roaming the surf, while striped seaperch, pile perch, white seaperch, and shiner seaperch dwell nearby structures such as jetties, rocks, and docks.
Groundfish and Bottomfish such as Lingcod, Greenling, Rockfish, and Flatfish can commonly be found around nearshore reefs and offshore pinnacles, while Cabezon is commonly found around kelp beds and rocky headlands over hard bottoms.
Sturgeon fish roam near the bottom of cavernous holes in upper bays, while Herring is jigged from docks and piers in the winter.
There are plenty of options for potential catches in Oregon, and this is not to mention some of the other fish species that are available for anglers who are boat fishing nearshore. Some other species which roam the Oregon coastline include:
Rainbow Trout, Coastal Cutthroat Trout, Chinook Salmon (King, Blackmouth), Kokanee/Sockeye spawning colors, Steelhead, Northern Pikeminnow, Redband Trout, Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Kokanee/Sockeye pre-spawning colors, Bull Trout (Resident), and Bull Trout (Migratory).
There is an astonishing amount of opportunity for an iconic fishing day when it comes to surf fishing along Oregon’s coastline. There is also plenty of potentials to experience much more than what lies within the surf zone.
There are so many various fishing opportunities in waters nearshore as well. Of course, with surf fishing in Oregon as it is, there are more than enough options to keep any enthusiastic surf angler occupied or some time to come.
As with any surf fishing trip, the environmental conditions with regard to fishing any species will have to be greatly considered. It’s best to head out when the tide, sun, and wind will be just right for some tight lines and steady sinkers.
Safety, licensing, and relevant checks with regard to restrictions will be the first step when planning a surf fishing trip to Oregon.
It’s best to take extra precautions when planning to surf fish near rocky areas and ensure safety measures such as life jackets, the correct shoes and gear, and other protective means.
The coastline is well-known for ‘sneaker waves’ resulting in mishaps. Waders should be worn if necessary but maintained thoroughly while fishing.
It’s also safer to go with accompaniment, but that’s not a downside. It’s just a chance for a surf fishing day that already seemed like it couldn’t get better.
What Is the Best Time to Catch Surfperch in Oregon?
Although surfperch is available for fishing all season, the best period of the year to fish for surfperch is in the late spring and early summer when they are schooled closer to the shoreline.
The best time to catch surfperch is at the start of an incoming tide, ideally 1 to 2 hours before high tide. The incoming tide and the wave action stir up the sand and expose the nutrients and the food on which the fish can feed on.
Here’s is a good video below on how to catch a Redtail Surfperch in Oregon. Pk (Oregon Life) has been fishing for a very long time in Oregon, and I have been following him for a while. I’ve learned a lot from him, and he’s fun to watch.
Video credit: Oregon Life
As the tide becomes larger, more food is pulled into water columns, and beaches and other fishes are prompted into feeding. This increases their activity at the shoreline and makes it easier to bait them.
You may also surf fish for surfperch in low tide, but it’s not always a good idea. The shallow and stagnant waters drive the fish to deeper areas and places with better water movement at low tide.
As a result, surf fishing at low tide may not be as productive as high tide fishing.
If you have to surf fish at high tide, the water must not be stagnant. It’s always a good idea to fish 1 to 2 hours before or 2 hours outgoing tide. This is because fishes don’t feed when there is no water movement.
Also, the water should be as deep as 1.5 to 2 yards. Most fishes avoid shallow water because they have a lesser chance of escape in case of danger.
How to Fish for Surfperch
Surf fishing for surfperch requires you to have the right knowledge and gear and equipment. Because of the strong waves and heavy surf, you need a sturdy tackle.
When surf fishing, it is ideal to use a 9- to 11-foot rod capable of handling 2 to 4 pounds (1 to 1.8 kg) weight.
Your spinning reel should also be large enough to hold at least 200 yards of at-least 15-pound line. This helps to ensure longer and more accurate casts.You can catch surfperch with different kinds of bait.
Some of the most common baits include squid, sand shrimp, mole crabs, clam necks, marine worms, sandworms, and mussels. Anglers also use plastic baits to catch surfperch. Be sure to keep the bait on the hook, so it doesn’t fall off.
Fishing waders are not necessary to catch surfperch, but if you’re using them, be sure to wear a wader belt to avoid having water fill up your waders in case you fall into the water.
Ocean waves can be extremely dangerous. Sneaker waves can throw you around and into the surf. It is recommended to wear a life jacket if you’re fishing in the surf alone.
Surf fishing on the Oregon coast is fun and easy, as long as you have the right gear and technique. The most common kind of fish you can catch surf fishing in Oregon is surfperch.
While there are more than nine different species of surfperch, you’ll most likely come across the redtail surfperch. The redtail surfperch is preferred for its great taste and size.
You can find surfperch in schools close to the shoreline and areas with a structure such as depressions, jetties, and rocks. To fish for surfperch and other fish, you’ll need to purchase a general Oregon Angling License.