Three hundred people from throughout the Monterey Bay area and beyond participated in the 13th Annual Sand Crab Classic Surf Perch Derby, a benefit for the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project, on Saturday, March 11.
The derby featured both the biggest perch ever taken during the event and the biggest fish of any kind, a striped bass, caught during the tournament.
“We hold this event every year on the second Saturday in March,” said Mike Baxter of the Let’s Go Fishing Radio Show, the co-organizer of the event with Allen Bushnell, also from the show. “The fishing was overall good during this classic. The weather was also sunny and calm with a high tide in the morning.”
Whereas people have come all of the way from as far north as Crescent City and as far south as Ventura to fish the event, Taylorsville, California was the furthest anybody came this time.
Jeremy Peck won the GrandMaster prize with his 3.4 lb. barred perch measuring 16 inches long while fishing shrimp “between Santa Cruz and Monterey.” That was the largest perch of any kind taken in the event.
He reported very good fishing during the classic, catching 10 other barred perch – his limit – off the beach as well.
Ron Martin landed this year’s “Most Exotic Catch,” a 17.2 lb. striped bass, the biggest fish of any kind ever weighed in during the event’s history. Martin is a longtime Sand Crab Classic supporter.
He was fishing for perch off of Manresa Beach with a #4 hook and a plastic grub on 10 lb. test line when he hooked the striper. It took him a good 10 to 15 minutes to get the beast to the sand.
That wasn’t the only striped bass weighed in for the “most exotic” division. Rosie Teresi landed a 5 lb. 8 oz striper while fishing a sandworm off Seabright Beach with her father Nino.
Ken Lagudas won first place in the men’s barred surfperch division with a 3.14 lb. fish measuring 15 1/4” long. He was tossing a bloodworm into the surf at the mouth of the Salinas River when he hooked the monster.
Larzaro Rodriguez won second place with a 2.7 lb fish measuring 14.5/8” while casting out a grub at Zmodowski Beach.
Eric Jumawan won third place by landing a 2.2 lb. 15” perch while fishing a bloodworm at the mouth of the Salinas River. He was fishing with a bunch of buddies, including Ken Lagudas
“Members of our Facebook group, Fishing 831, hooked lots of barred perch during the morning. We also released four leopard sharks under 36 inches,” Jumawan noted.
Ryan Shake won first place in the men’s sea perch division with a 2.3 lb. redtail perch measuring 14-7/8 inches long. He employed a bloodworm off San Gregorio Beach in San Mateo County.
Hunter Anderson placed second with a 2.3 lb. 14 ¼” striped perch caught off Monterey on a bloodworm.
“I hooked the fish with my last bloodworm on my last cast of the day,” Andeson explained. “The fishing got off to a slow start, but then we began hooking more fish.”
Bob Pilgreen placed third with a 2.3 lb. 13-/12” black perch caught on a nightcrawler off Monterey
Carolyn Larimer won first place in the women’s barred surfperch division with a 1.7 lb. perch measuring12-1/4 inches long. She used a bloodworm at the mouth of the Salinas River.
Grace Volz placed second with a 1.6 lb. perch measuring 12-1/4 inches while tossing out a grub off Aromas. When pressured by Baxter to divulge where she hooked the fish, she quipped, “in the water.”
Ginelle Salas placed third with a 15oz fish measuring 11 inches while using a Berkley GULP Worm off the Santa Cruz Wharf.
Kira Eccleston won first place in the women’s sea perch division with a 1.9 lb. 12-3/4 inch perch while fishing off Monterey with a bloodworm.
Rayna Devine won second place with a 1.4 lb. 11 7/8 inch perch caught on mussels off Davenport.
I have covered this derby every year except for one since the event started in 2005 and I have enjoyed myself immensely every time.
On that first day, a big winter storm hit the coast, with lots of rain and wind, accompanied by big groundswells and waves. Yet anglers still caught numerous quality perch all around Monterey Bay.
While I was on the Santa Cruz Wharf on that inaugural day, I witnessed anglers catch seven varieties of surfperch, including barred, black, rainbow, striped, shiner, walleye and rubberlipped perch. A total of 9 perch species were landed that day.
Since that inaugural event, nothing including a Tsumani one year (2011) and torrential rain another, have stopped the organizers and anglers from enjoying the tournament.
An all-volunteer crew puts on the derby each year. The event has raised thousands of dollars to fund the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project, a model project that has fought for the restoration of sreelhead and coho salmon populations.
Besides donating to a great cause, anglers receive the following for their entry fee; a BBQ feast after the weigh in at Portuguese Hall; one Sand Crab Classic T-shirt; and a chance at great prizes and giveaway items from the event’s sponsors.
While many fishing derbies and tournaments focus on boat-based anglers, this is a surfcasting derby designed for shore, perch and pier anglers. The biggest perch in each category wins. There are equal prizes and trophies for barred surfperch and other colorful perch as well.
It is one of my favorite fishing happenings of the year because it so grassroots, low key and different from any other event I attend.
During the event, anglers may fish wherever they want with whatever they want casting from shore or jetties, piers, etc. and within current CDFW regulations.
During the event, Baxter had great news to share with folks – next year the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project will be raising 120,000 Central Valley Chinook salmon in floating pens in Santa Cruz harbor again.
“The relationship we have developed the CDFW, NOAA Fisheries and our organization has never been better,” said Baxter. “The harbor district will also be working with us on the pen project.”
The project is also working on releasing 16,000 coho salmon into local streams, as well as working on getting the approval to raise steelhead at the facility again.
Founded in 1976, the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project (MBSTP) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration and enhancement of the native salmon and steelhead populations of the greater Monterey Bay area.
“Fishermen can be conservationists and good stewards of the local watershed,” said Baxter. “Supporting MBSTP is a way to express that stewardship.”
For more information, go to: mbstp.org
Monterey Bay Surfperch Fishing Facts
Monterey Bay and the adjacent ocean coast features some of the most diverse populations of surfperch (Embiotocidae family) found along the Pacific coast.
Sand Crab Classic Information: Mike Baxter or Allen Bushnell, the Let’s Go Fishing Radio Show, ww.theletsgofishingradioshow.com. Call Mike Baxter at (831)685-0900.
Camping and Lodging: Plenty of motels, hotels and campgrounds are available in the cities of Santa Cruz, Capitola, Aptos, Watsonville, Marina, Seaside and Monterey, but you need to book lodging well in advance, especially during periods of good weather
Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 787 Munras Ave #110, Monterey, CA 93940, Visitor Information, 888-221-1010 (toll free), https://www.seemonterey.com/
Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council, 303 Water Street #100, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, Phone: 831-425-1234 or 1-800-833-3494, Fax 831-425-1260, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.santacruzca.org
Most anglers target perch from piers and beaches, but anglers also catch them from boats. Public boat launching is available at Monterey Harbor, the U.S. Coast Guard Pier, Moss Landing and Santa Cruz Harbor.
You can get perch tackle and information on fishing conditions in the bay at Bayside Marine, Santa Cruz, (831) 475-2173; Santa Cruz Boat Rentals, (831) 423-1739; Capitola Boat & Bait, (831) 462-2208 and J&D Auto Gone Fishing, Monterey, (831) 899-1111.