Surf fishing is one of Oregon’s most underutilized fisheries.
There are plenty of places to fish and lots of fish to catch!

There are nine different species of surfperch found off the Oregon coast. The most popular surfperch is the Redtail.  It is popular because it is very tasty and frequently caught.

Redtails are found from Baja California northward up into Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Redtail surfperch are predominantly surf dwellers off sandy beaches.

Surfperch fishing (courtesy of ODFW)

Typically, they live in large schools in the surf zone about 30 feet from the shoreline (or between the second and fourth breaker row. They are attracted to the deeper holes and areas with high sand erosion.  

These fish concentrate just before spawning in the spring and early summer in sheltered waters such as estuaries and protected bay areas. Large numbers of these fish can be taken at this time. Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife regulations are usually very generous and this fish can be released with minimal harm.  

Surfperch and Seaperch are sometimes confused. Seaperch live in kelp beds in deeper waters.

Identification

The Redtail Surfperch is a slim, oblong-shaped fish that is about twice as long as high and can weigh in at over three pounds and grow to around 16 inches long. The average size is about two pounds.

Redtail surfperch (courtesy ODFW)

This silver to white fish has eight to eleven reddish brown vertical bars on the sides. The red or pink fins have both rays and spines, and the tail is moderately forked. Coloration can vary depending on the time of year (breeding season) and age of the fish.

Prey

Surfperch prefer small crustaceans and will also dine on small crabs, shrimp, mussels, and marine worms. Sand crabs; sand, kelp, and tube worms; or clam necks and mussels can be used for bait. They will also take a shrimp pattern fly off of a flyrod.

Breeding

Surfperch breed in the fall and give birth to live young between June to August. A female will typically birth an average of 27 miniature replicas of the adults. Maximum number of young can reach 51.

Harvest Techniques

Scout out potential fishing locations ahead of time during low tides. Look for steeply sloped beaches where the waves are breaking hard, rocky areas near sandy or jetties, and places where the shore cuts inward. The best time to fish is an hour or two before high tide.

Fishing gear can be rented if desired. If you have your own set up, choose a #4 or #6 hook and secure it 24-30 inches below a 1- to 2-ounce sinker on an 8- to 10-pound line.  Sturdy flyrods can also be used.

Enjoying them

These are tasty fish and taste similar to their distant cousins (rockfish, snapper, and sea bass). Recipes for the ‘cousins’ will work just fine for surfperch. Typically, the fish is grilled whole, crispy-fried, or steamed Asian style. Filleting anything less than two pounds will waste too much meat.

You can also find these fish in West Coast Asian markets all year long whole or scaled and gutted. They may be referred to by other common names such as rosy surf fish, redtail seaperch, porgie, or Oregon porgie.

REFERENCES:
–Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (https://myodfw.com/fishing/species/redtail-surfperch and …/how-fish- surfperch)
–Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species
–The Spruce Eats (https://www.thespruceeats.com/cooking-with-pacific-surperch-1300660)

Your life has been changed by a Sitka spruce.
You may not know how, yet, but read on.

A tree with no name

Sitka spruce was originally collected in 1791 and again in 1896. It was not named until 1827.

And even then, it didn’t stick. The last change was in 1855, the scientific classification to its current name (picea).  

You have probably seen it

Sitka spruce is the largest species of spruce and the fifth-largest conifer in the world. Trees that are larger include Giant sequoia, Coast Redwood, Kauri, and the Western Redcedar. 

RG# 95-GP Records of the Forest Service General Subject Files Negative Number:473081

Growth Characteristics

These giants can grow over 300 feet high and huge. Many large trees were harvested before careful measurements were made. Today, there are only a few large Sitka spruce located on the Pacific Coast.

Currently, the largest spruce in the world, the Queets Spruce, is located in the Olympic National Park. It measures 245 feet high and has a dbh (diameter at breast height – a standard tree measurement) of 14 feet. The Queets spruce, for instance, adds more than a cubic meter of wood to the trunk volume (estimated to be 12,200 cubic feet) each year!

Long lives

Queets Spruce is only around 350-450 years old which is comparatively young. Sitka spruce trees live a long time and can exceed 700 years old. The previously recorded largest Sitka Spruce tree is located at Klootchy Creek Park near Seaside, Oregon.

In 2007, the Klootchy spruce was blown down–it was over 750 years old. This tree had a circumference of 56 feet and was 207 feet tall and was considered Oregon’s first tree by Oregon Heritage Tree Committee.

Habitat

On their own, these giant trees provide great habitats for birds of prey and larger mammals. They grow however, very close together creating a huge, dense canopy. The Klootchy Creek tree had a crown spread that measured 93 feet.

The down side to a dense canopy is that the variety of secondary plant growth can be somewhat limited. Common plants found around Sitka spruce include Ferns, violets, huckleberry, rhododendron, elderberry, and more.

At the root

One might think that trees this large and old would have huge root systems. Not necessarily.

Soil conditions, particularly drainage, affects spruce root formation. In very wet areas, this tree will have a shallow root system with long lateral roots. These long roots reach out and graft onto other Sitka spruce tree roots.

While this connection gives the tree great strength and stability, it also makes it more susceptible to root rot. The thin bark makes this tree susceptible to fire and other damage.

Pests and diseases such as rusts, weevils, and beetles are fairly minimal. Animals such as elk, deer, bear, rabbits, squirrels, and porcupines can do significant damaged. Blow down is one of the most common problems.

But this also creates an opportunity

Sitka spruce is known as the “mother tree” and as a female proctor and guardian symbol. In dense areas, such as around Sitka, Alaska, the dense tree canopies could have provided protection from inclement weather.

There is another level of protection as well. Fallen trees create perfect environment for new seedlings and become “nursery logs” during the regeneration process. In some particular poor soil areas, this may be the only viable way to get seedlings to thrive.  

Uses

This fast-growing tree is often used for reforestation. Spruce will thrive on poor soil and exposed sites that other trees won’t.  It is more tolerant to wind and saline ocean air and may out grow native species.

Spruce is fairly clear with few knots. That makes it a perfect wood for creating musical instruments (like piano, harp, lute, etc.). The sounding board on that instrument may have been created from Sitka spruce.

Sitka spruce wood is often used to make stringed instruments (Royalty free Unplash)

Spruce was also used to create ladders, boat masts, and planks (as for ‘walking the plank’).

It was also used for other products where ‘high strength to weight ratio’ is needed. This can include aircraft wing spars, turbine blades for wind energy systems, and more.

The Wright brothers’ used Sitka spruce in their experimental airplane. Sitka spruce which was considered a strategically important aluminum substitute for aircraft built before World War II.

And in a pinch, you have even enjoyed a spruce beer or used medicine sourced from the spruce (Chinese, for insomnia).

Look for

A mixed stand of tall and wide conifers closely grouped together. Sitka spruce will have scaley bark, four-sided, one-inch needles (they are sharp), and cylindrical cones around three inches long high in the tree. Branches on older trees could be 30 plus feet off the ground.

REFERENCES:
–USDA Forest Service (https://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/misc/ag_654/volume_1/picea/sitchensis.htm) and Forest and Grassland Health program (www.fs.usda.gov/main/r6/forest-grasslandhealth)
–Wikipedia, Sitka spruce (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picea_sitchensis)
–Alaska Woods (https://alaskawoods.com/10-interesting-facts-about-sitka-spruce-trees/)
–Woodland Trust Organization (https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk)
— Stilbene Glucoside, a Putative Sleep Promoting Constituent From Polygonum Multiflorum Affects Sleep Homeostasis by Affecting the Activities of Lactate Dehydrogenase and Salivary Alpha Amylase, Wei et al. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29093287/)
–The Oregon Encyclopedia (https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/sitka_spruce/#.XvtjCl-SmUk)
–Seaside Stories (https://www.seasideor.com/seaside-stories/klootchy-creek-parks-sitka-spruce/)

The great wanderer

Peregrine Falcon (Photo courtesy of ODFW)

The word “peregrine” means wanderer or pilgrim. Peregrine is a perfect name for this falcon that lives on several oceanic islands and every continent except Antarctica.

Humans and Peregrine falcons have history. Humans have trained falcons as a hunting partners for thousands of years.

This knowledge and experience became critical between 1950-1970 when populations were wiped out by DDT poisoning. Populations in captivity and handling techniques were used to help re-establish populations and save this species.

After significant recovery efforts, Peregrine Falcon populations have rebounded with an estimated global breeding population of around 140,000.  They are now regularly seen in many large cities and coastal areas, reside in Oregon, and the species was removed from the Endangered Species List in 1999.

Super Bird

Peregrine falcons have such amazing skills they dwarf comic book super heros. To start with they are, without a doubt, the fastest bird alive.

SPEED: General traveling flight is only around 25-34 mph, In pursuit, these numbers dramatically change to nearly 69 mph, with spectacular skydives reaching speeds of 240 mph.

These skydives, called stoops, begin 300–3,000 feet above their prey. The falcon tucks its pointy wings tightly to the body to maximize speed. It then either strikes or grabs the prey hard enough to stun or kill.

Peregrine falcon hunting (royalty free Unsplash)

HUNTING TECHNIQUES: Other hunting techniques include selecting birds out of a large flock, level pursuit, and ground hunting. If you see a sudden eruption of a peaceful flock, a Peregrine is most likely nearby. Some of the flock may be trying to mob the Peregrine and drive it off.

FLEXIBLE DIET: Prey predominantly includes primarily birds, but can include bats, rodents, fish and prey pirated from other raptors.  Falcons consume over 450 North American species. Worldwide diet choices can run upward of 2,000 choices worldwide.

This can include birds ranging from a large Sandhill Crane to a tiny hummingbird. More typical prey species include shorebirds, ptarmigan, ducks, gulls, pigeons, and songbirds.

FEW PREDATORS: Predators include eagles, Great Horned owls, Gyrfalcons, and other peregrines.

SHARED CHARACTERISTICS: All falcons have some shared characteristics that includes: a conspicuously toothed and notched bill, a nasal cone, and pointed wings which may span over 44 inches.

Nesting

It is not unusual to find a 24/7 camera poised on a Peregrine falcon nest perched on a tall building in the city.  Peregrines will perch and nest on any open tall structure such as a skyscraper, water tower, power structures, bridges, rim of the Grand Canyon, in trees on steep slopes, and more.

They typically create a nest about one-third down the cliff face anywhere from 25 to 1,300 feet high. The nest itself is pretty minimal ‘scrape’ about nine inches across and two inches deep. 

In a pinch, falcons will select abandoned nests created by other birds such as, Bald Eagles, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk.

Superstar Chicks

At birth, this baby is entirely helpless with closed eyes. Yet, the tiny falcon chick will work up to 36 hours to peck free of it shell. This amazingly, difficult process has been the focus of many morning  falcon-cam programs. 

Juveniles have many vertical bars on their breasts. Adults also have the barred under breast, with blue-gray feathers above and a dark head with thick sideburns. This barred look is standard across all ages and geographic variation.

Where to find them

Peregrines inhabit open landscapes from tundra to deserts when not nesting. Areas include coastlines, barrier islands, lake edges, mudflats, and cliff sides. They may also be found near concentrations of prey, such as Rock Pigeons.

Peregrines in the Arctic tundra will migrate to South American earning their high mileage discount by covering as much as 15,500 miles in one year.  Their sharp homing instinct will lead them back to favored nesting spots which may have been in continuous use for hundreds of years, by successive falcon generations. 

JUST FOR FUN! Take an amazing virtual ride on the back of a trained falcon named Genghis at https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/p/peregrine-falcon/

REFERENCES:
–Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, raptors (https://myodfw.com/wildlife-viewing/species/raptors
–All About Birds, Cornell (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Peregrine_Falcon/lifehistory)