“The Chad” and a family friend with a recently caught striped sea perch and redrock crab

Howdy everyone! We’ve had some amazing sunny days in the mid to high 60s here in Charleston recently and while we’re not out of the woods yet in terms of possible winter weather, it’s just getting better and better outside.

The ocean has been giving up a lot of fish but this past week we’ve had a difficult drift that is really making us work for our catch. Despite this we’re seeing some monster lingcod and good sized rockfish including some of the biggest vermillion rockfish we have ever seen.

In the bay, crabbing is good but the rockfish bite has slowed down but that will change soon. Why? Well, it’s that time of year when everything seems to come into place. Rockfish become bountiful, lingcod come in the bay to spawn, and perch come in to live bear their young. In fact we are already seeing a lot of Striped Sea Perch coming in and getting caught.

These little neon beauties with their vertical blue and orange stripes look more designed for an aquarium than the dinner plate but make no mistake they are a good eating fish. Striped sea perch are mostly caught inside the bay and estuaries and are quite different from the surf perch we catch in these parts.

Striped sea perch are known by several different names, such as “blue perch” and “squaw perch” and are sometimes erroneously referred to as piling perch which are in fact a different species. But no matter what they are called these fish exist in abundance and they taste oh so good.

When I fish for surf perch such as pink-fin I usually use a hook as large as a 1/0 or a 2/0 depending on the bait I am using and how picky I want to be on the size of the fish I hook up. With striped sea perch I routinely use hooks as small as a number six and whatever bait I use is always a small piece, perhaps as tiny as a pencil eraser depending on how “nibbly” the fish are that particular day.

Nibbly is now an official word.

A large pink-fin has such a large mouth it can be “lipped” like a bass when holding them, while the striped sea perch has a tiny mouth that better suits its diet of tiny snails, mussels, shrimp and the like.

Striped sea perch range from Baja, California and Mexico to south-eastern Alaska and are easily identified by their approximately 15 beautiful neon blue and orange stripes running the length of their body. Striped sea perch can get into the 15-inch range and live up to 10 years.

I have seen these fish up to a couple pounds in size but unfortunately the ODFW doesn’t keep stats on record sizes of these fish. The California record is two pounds three ounces and the Washington record is listed at 2.07 pounds, I know a lot of you have caught ones far bigger than that here locally so let us know what your personal record is, we would love to brag about it.

Striped sea perch normally lead a somewhat solitary life at depths around 70 feet and down to 300 feet, but appear in large numbers in the late spring to early summer when they come into the bays and estuaries to give birth to their young. These beautiful little fish are “viviparous” which means “live birth;” they don’t lay eggs like a lot of fish and they give birth to three to 40 happy swimming little offspring.

There’s no size restriction on these fish and the limit is 15 per license so grab the kids and head out to catch a bunch when they come in.

Whether you are stalking monster lingcod or perch in the bay, I hope to see you out there!

Rob Gensorek is the owner of Basin Tackle (www.basintackle.com) in the Charleston Marina and can be reached by phone at 541-888-FISH, on Facebook at Basin Tackle Charleston, or email basin_tackle@yahoo.com.

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Most of the sea perch I've caught have been riddled with parasites, from tapeworms in the guts, to isopods and copepods, to some sort of worms that live in the muscle tissues. I'm sure they're safe enough to eat if cooked well – – I certainly would not like to catch a case of anasakiasis -- but seeing them really put me off my appetite. A few sea lice on salmon are just peachy.

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