mallard's rest under ice
Mallards rest boat ramp on the Yellowstone
locked by a pressure ridge of ice.

Corbina in the Surf
An short excerpt aken from  Doc's
Beginners 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 the beach.

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 he stood.

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.

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