The Fish Sniffer - Feb 11, 2013 Perch Fishermen Unite To Raise Money To Restore Salmon And Steelhead
Feb 11, 2013 Perch Fishermen Unite To Raise Money To Restore Salmon And Steelhead

Written By: Dan Bacher, February 11, 2013
Species: Panfish
Location: Santa Cruz,

The 9th Annual Sand Crab Classic Perch Tournament, one of my favorite California angling events, is set for March 9, 2013 at the Portuguese Hall in Santa Cruz.

This event is limited entry and fills fast. “The event draws anglers of all ages and is considered the largest one day event for the smallest game fish, although some of these perch are not small,” quipped Mike Baxter, who with Allen Bushnell, organizes the event.

“The Sand Crab Classic has a cult like following with anglers looking for a fun time this time of year. It is a great way to meet up with friends do some fishing and have fun while raising money for a good cause,” said Baxter.

The event includes a huge raffle, a great Tri-Tip Barbeque meal with Mexican food trimmings for the best Tri-Tip taco you have ever had. The price includes food, T-Shirt and a Raffle ticket. At $35 for an adult and $25 for kids this is a bargain.

“We have had great success with the event, all money raised goes to The Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project,” said Baxter. “The local hatchery in the Santa Cruz Mountains puts salmon and steelhead back into our rivers and ocean. Thanks to people participating in the event we have donated up to $4000 to the hatchery some years.”  

I have covered and/or fished in every one of the derbies except for one since it began in 2005. Baxter, Bushnell and all the volunteers work hard with the sponsors and contestants to continue to put on a first class fishing event.

Every year I have been amazed by the variety of fish caught in the classic. For example, in 2005 when the best action took place on the Santa Cruz Pier because of rough seas, I saw fishermen nail barred, rainbow, striped, black, rubberlip, walleye and calico perch. Anglers landed a similar array of perch during the 2012 event.

Justin Morris, who has won the junior division three times, won first place in the adult division last year by catching a 2 lb. 13 oz.  rubberlip perch measuring an amazing 17-9/16" while drop shotting a Gulp Bait Sandworm in the Monterey area.

Tom Larimer placed second with a 2 lb. 8 oz. black perch measuring 14 1/16" inches, taken on a bloodworm off Carmel. 

Patrick Valine finished third with a 2 lb. 1oz calico perch measuring 13-3/8" inches caught on a sandcrab off Scott's Creek.  

Kira Eccleston won first place in the women’s division by nailing a 2 lb. 4 oz. pile perch measuring 15 3/8" inches long while fishing a bloodworm off Carmel.

In the youth division, Matthew Jimenez of Watsonville won first place with his 1 lb. 14 oz. 13-15/16" striped perch. He was using a bloodworm off Monterey.

Ken Oda caught the biggest barred perch taken on an artificial lure, a 2 lb. 1 oz. beauty. He was working  a motor oil grub off Manresa when he bagged the fish.    

Entry forms and event details can be found on line at

The money will go to one of the best fishery conservation groups in the state, the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project (MBSTP). Founded in 1976, the 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. The organization’s operations include:

Coho Salmon and Steelhead: The MBSTP operates a hatchery and rearing facility to supplement natural production which has been reduced due to habitat degradation.

Chinook Salmon Enhancement: The MBSTP operates salt-water net pens in Moss Landing and Monterey harbors to acclimate Chinook salmon fingerlings obtained from the Feather River Hatchery into the ocean.

Salmon and Trout Education (STEP): The MBSTP currently supports the STEP program in over 155 classrooms from San Bruno to Gonzales (elementary through high school grade levels).

If it wasn’t for this organization, Carmel River steelhead would have gone extinct. During several years in the early 1990’s when the river was dry, due to drought and over-pumping of water in the Carmel Valley, the project operated a captive breeding program that kept the brood stock alive until the river flowed again.

The project has also been essential in preventing Central Coast coho salmon, the southernmost population of the species, from becoming extinct.

Have great time perch fishing while contributing to a great cause by attending the Sand Crab Classic on March 9! 

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