A redtail surfperch, which inhabits the near-shore waters of the Washington coast, was caught north of Kalaloch Beach. (Zorina Barker/for Peninsula Daily News)

WEST END NEIGHBOR: There’s always plan B

PLAN B EXISTS for a reason.

So does Murphy’s Law.

When hiking and camping, my family’s Plan B is hot dogs.

Inevitably, if fresh fish is on the menu for the night, that will be when every single fish knows to stay well away from the Barker family fishing poles.

Plan A dissolves due to the brilliant communication of fish.

Last week, we were camping on the beach south of Sandpoint, the marine side of the ridge separating Lake Ozette from the Pacific Ocean, and surfperch was on the menu for a night.

At the last minute we threw a couple of packages of hot dogs into our packs, certain we would be bringing them home again.

In May and the beginning of June, surfperch had been plentiful.

Clambering down cliffs by Kalaloch, passing greening vegetation under windswept spruce trees, the fisherfolk of my family had been bringing home plenty of perch for meals.

Redtail surfperch may be small, usually less than 4 pounds, but they are tasty.

As far back as anyone can remember, the Barker family’s fishing has honed in on the usual West End species: salmon, trout, steelhead, halibut and ling cod.

However, as the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies tighten fishing regulations, it has become increasingly difficult to feed the fishing habit.

Enter our good friends, the Truong family of Forks.

Minh and his wife, Thao, have raised their two boys, Timothy and Micah, to fish and hunt locally just like we have done raising our two kids.

The Truongs introduced us to surfperch fishing earlier this year around the time they had a super day of seashore harvesting: 60 razor clams and 36 surfperch.

The usual fish caught off the West End is redtail surfperch.

These tough little fish, a common catch off West End coastal waters, usually school within 30 feet of the highest waves, darting in and out of the crashing surf while looking for food churned up by the sea.

The prime harvest season is spring and early summer, but they are there all year-round.

Sometimes large groups of families line the sandy shores of the Pacific in search of surfperch.

Men, women and bigger kids spread out with long poles in hand.

Five-gallon buckets hold the caught fish as well as the attention of smaller kids who can’t seem to keep their hands off the silvery quarry.

If it’s a sunny day, the fisherfolk will be in shorts and barefooted or in sandals.

Gray days have people in shoes and boots.

Either way, people fishing for surfperch are going to get wet, especially if walking into the waves.

The Washington record for redtail surfperch was caught at Kalaloch and only weighed 4.05 pounds, but some people still use heavy tackle simply to combat the violence of the waves.

No big tackle boxes are required, though, and most people fit everything they need into their pockets: A pouch of bait, extra weights and hooks.

From land, the beaches west of Lake Ozette look a lot like those down the coast by Kalaloch — long stretches of sand broken by big rocks holding tidepools.

The high tide comes in, and the lines are cast in the last couple of hours leading up to the tide’s highest point.

Somewhere, perch are darting in and under the crashing waves, gobbling up morsels the surf deposits into offshore troughs.

For the future though, I know the fish will always conspire with the processed meat industry, and we should always bring hot dogs.

_________

Zorina Barker lives in the Sol Duc Valley with her husband, a logger, and two children she home-schools.

Submit items and ideas for the column to her at zorina [email protected], or phone her at 360-327-3702. West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.

Her next column will be June 27.

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