Perch Fishing – Fishing For Perch
Fishing for Perch was once the most common types of fishing in UK waters, but the arrival of a killer disease caused by a bacteria Aeromonas in the late 1960s hugely reduced their numbers to the point where they have never really recovered. Furthermore, regeneration of perch stocks has been brought to a sudden halt by further outbreaks of the disease. River perch seem to have been less affected by the disease I than their Stillwater counterparts and it would appear that the faster flowing the river, the less is the incidence of disease. Perch are shoal fish, but, as in many other species, they become progressively more solitary (and wary) the larger and older they get. Their shoals can be hard to locate, for river perch tend to be very localized. Yet, once found, perch swims can produce sport for many seasons, provided disease doesn’t rear its ugly head. Perch are primarily fish eaters, though they will eagerly pounce on any worm that comes their way. Maggots, too, are taken confidently, particularly by smaller fish.
Shoaling perch hunt as a pack, often rounding up groups of baitfish before hammering into them for a meal. A good indicator that feeding perch are present in a swim is the sight of small fish scattering at the surface. The small tail possessed by the perch shows that it is designed for short spells of rapid speed, rather than long chases after its prey. Additionally, their superb coloration of olive/brown flanks broken up by a series of vertical black bars is a very effective camouflage that allows them to lie up alongside the underwater stems of bulrushes and reeds from where they can launch attacks on any small fish passing by. They can also be found lurking amongst the stems of lilies for cover, with the floating pads at the surface reducing the amount of light that can penetrate the water.
Perch, like the roach, are very sensitive to light levels and will hide away on bright days in such places as undercut banks, below overhanging bankside foliage and under weed rafts. Peak feeding times are early morning and into dark. In the half-light of a summer or autumn morning, they can be found in mere inches of water harrying small fish that have moved on to the gravel shallows under cover of darkness to feed. At such times the perch can be seen bow-waving across the shallows with their spiky dorsal fin erect and slicing through the surface. Such feeding sprees do not last long, ending when the perch begin to feel vulnerable in the increasing light of dawn.
Although perch will make forays out into the current in pursuit of food, they much prefer to live their lives on the edge of the flow in slack or slower-paced water. A worm, freelined or float fished between the lilypads or trotted down the stream as close as possible to the bulrush stems, will usually quickly be taken by perch if they are present. Bites are generally very positive with the line twitching, then pulling tight, or the float plunging under. Use hook sizes 6—10 and line strengths of 3—61b. Small fish are also an excellent bait for perch. Lip-hook them alive or dead (hooks sizes 4-8) and fish them below a float, or twitch them back towards you on a freeline or one that’s lightly weighted. Line strengths of 3-6 Lb are all good. Perch are also confirmed cannibals and many specimen Perch have been caught on their smaller brethren. Do make sure that whatever species you use it comes from fresh water, for perch show a marked dislike for saltwater fish.
Early in the season, big bags of perch can be taken in weir pools on minnows trotted from near the sill down through the white water as well as into the eddies at the sides. Fish either one or two minnows, lip-hooked on a size 8 or 10, and be ready for savage bites. When using bigger fish baits for perch in streams and rivers where pike are also known to be present, it is best to use a wire trace. You may catch fewer perch because of their reluctance to pick up baits attached to wire, but this is better than leaving a hook in a pike that has bitten through the line.
One interesting characteristic of perch is their scanning ability to communicate with each other. When Perch fishing, should a perch come adrift after having been hooked, it will put the rest of the shoal off feeding. The same situation will occur if perch brought to the net and landed are returned to the swim after unhooking. It is better to use a big sack or keepnet for the retention of every fish caught during the session or to return each fish caught a long way up or downstream after unhooking. Spinning with small spoons can be a productive method for catching perch, though lures do tend to attract the smaller members of the shoal. Notwithstanding this, spinning can be very useful in revealing the location of perch shoals, which can then be fished for at a later time with worms or fish baits. Again, where pike inhabit your chosen perch river, use a wire trace when spinning.
On some days, when Fishing for Perch, perch will not take confidently and will, instead, simply give a series of plucks or pulls at the rod tip or a bob of the float each time the bait is cast out. When this happens, the perch can often be induced to take the bait properly by pulling it away from them. Grasp the line below the butt ring and pull it back, smoothly but sharply, about six inches then be prepared for a thumping bite! Perch like to lie below undercut banks and particularly so from the autumn onwards when flow rates increase and they can tuck themselves away in sheltered water. They will hold up here, often amongst a tangle of tree roots for safety and cover, expending the minimum of energy, but forever on the lookout for small fish swimming nearby or for some other food item being washed down past their domain. In times of high water, good concentrations of sheltering perch can be found in such swims. Try trotting a whole lobworm along, and as close as possible to the undercut. Bites are normally decisive. Man-made structures, such as bridge piers and jetty supports on bigger rivers, also attract perch. Adopt a roving approach when seeking the species. Take along a selection of fresh baits and try as many different swims as possible. River perch can be localized but they are not usually long in betraying their presence when you do come across them.
Good Luck with your adventures when Fishing for Perch 🙂