The redtail surfperch occurs from Avila Beach, California, to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and is the most often encountered surfperch from San Francisco northward. Redtail surfperch are predominantly surf dwellers off sandy beaches, but have been taken in rocky areas adjacent to beaches. They are common in estuaries and protected embayments during the spawning season.
The body of the redtail surfperch is oval and compressed. The upper profile of the head is straight from the snout to the dorsal fin except for a slight depression above the eye. The body is silver with olive green mottling and bars on the side. The tail is pink to deep purple (See photograph above.). This species can be separated from the other two species that live off sandy beaches and have similar color markings (barred and calico surfperch) by the red to deep purple tail and the spines in the dorsal fin, which are longer than the soft rays.
Redtail surfperch school up before spawning in sheltered inshore waters during the spring and early summer. They are frequently caught in large numbers at this time. The average size of redtail surfperch caught can range from 1.8 pounds to 3 pounds.
Surfperch will happily take flies in the surf. Although generally small in size - ranging from 4 inches up to 18, these fish fight much bigger. Warning: hooking and fighting a surfperch can be addicting! Since these fish tend to feed in schools, the hook-ups can come with every cast if you fishing a hole. The take is a light tap, tap, tap - usually followed my a pull.