How To Catch Perch
Perch are often a go to species for me from autumn onwards and I’ll spend time specifically targeting them when the river season finishes. I’ll look towards commercial fisheries or match type venues as they provide the perfect environment for perch with an abundance of food going into the water combined with a large number of silverfish that can also offer a reliable food source for a shoal of perch allowing them to grow to specimen sizes.
Stillwaters with a high stock of fish also tend to be coloured which means that perch will happily feed throughout the day rather than just the typical ‘witching hour’ before dusk. I’ll happily fish for perch on a Stillwater throughout the day and would expect bites at any time.
In contrast to a coloured Stillwater I have been lucky enough to see perch feed in clear water giving me a real insight into how I should fish for the. Rather than ‘strike’ into prey fish in the same way that a pike would take its next meal I’ve seen perch manoeuvre into position and gently suck in the bait.
Seeing the gentle way that baits were taken means my methods of targeting them involve minimal resistance to ensure the bait can be sucked in without arousing suspicion.
My perch fishing largely revolves around bait with lobworms and maggots being the baits of choice. If there is an abundance of minnows then I’ll happily present a live minnow underneath a float and work the swim paying close attention to any obvious features such as fallen trees or deeper slacks. These areas are perfect ambush points for perch and a minnow fished through the swim is normally irresistible to a resident fish.
Once one fish has been found, others can follow very quickly and a bag of fish can be put together making them ideal for short sessions.
Whilst obvious features such as snags and changes in the flow of the river are ideal features, I have caught fish in much faster, less typical water so when perch fishing very little of the river is ignored. On many occasions I’ve had a shoal of perch appear when fishing a maggot feeder for barbel, whether they were attracted by the commotion in the swim or the feed going in is not certain but it proves that perch will move to bait and do not remain around cover or features all of the time.
As mentioned, whether fishing a river or Stillwater my baits of choice are very traditional perch baits in maggots and worms or more often a combination of the two with loose fed maggots and a lobworm on the hook.
On a river itll be a maggot feeder with a lobworm and a size 12 hook whereas on a Stillwater where possible I’ll float fish with a delicate pole float to minimise resistance, bites tend to be shown as the float slides away rather than bury. A constant feed of maggots sprayed over the float allows you to build the swim and is not the most selective method with bream roach and carp being caught. However this isn’t a concern for me as I’ve found that the commotion in the swim and other fish feeding on the bait will draw perch to the baited area and provoke a feeding response.
Fishing a light pole float does limit the distance at which I can fish but I’m confident fishing near margins on stillwaters, most of my Stillwater perch fishing is on commercial match and carp venues where perch will be used to spending time in the margins targeting any silverfish that are returned to the water. Paying notice to any match results can turn up venues with solid perch potential. Paying a visit to a fishery at a match weigh in can also show up any venues that should be perch fished. Match anglers will often give information as to any lost fish or perch strikes at fish they are returning or landing. A cloud of silver scales as a perch engulfs a roach is a clear give away for a venue that should receive some attention when fishing for specimen perch.
Whether fishing a Stillwater or a river my choice of rod and reel remains the same, I’ll use an 11ft carp bagging rod as I’ve found this gives the ideal balance with a light tip and an all through action to minimise hook pulls combined with enough power to prevent a specimen fish reaching any snags. The hard mouth of a perch makes sharp hooks and essential piece of kit as well as a reel with a smooth drag, I’ll often have the drag set much lighter than necessary but use my hand to apply extra pressure to any hooked fish that’s taking line.
On a commercial venue I’ll look to fish a float close to the margins, a lobworm tail as bait and a spray of maggots over the top of the float. In effect I’m looking to create the same sort of feeding environment that perch will see on a regular basis whenever there’s a match being fished. The main difference is that my chosen bait will be bigger than what will have been normally used in a match and the hook bait differs from the loose feed. This is one of the few scenarios in my fishing where the loose feed will differ from the hook bait. I am looking to bring perch to the swim with the loose feed but I want them to home in on the hook bait first.
When fishing in this way I’ll look to fish 3lb mainline straight though to a pole float and a size 14 hook. I’ll use a small shot to ensure that the bait finds its way to the lake bed and fish the float slightly over depth. The split shot and weight of the worm is enough for the flat to stand at a slight angle and register the smallest of bites.
Perch on commercial waters are fished for with light sensitive tackle so I will avoid anything that’s too heavy and obtrusive to make sure I arouse as little suspicion as possible. A balanced set up can land most fish in a commercial venue and there tends to be less pike in venues like this so that doesn’t become as much of a problem.
Swim choice on a commercial venue can be as simple as the most productive match swim or where the last match was won from. If this information isn’t available, I’ll look for swims with cover, this may be overhanging trees or old lilly beds. Effectively I’m looking for a combination of ambush points for a perch and areas that bait fish will be and where they will happily feed.
Swim choice on a river for me revolves around snags and structures that offer perch a combination of safety from predation and access to food when they need it. Overhanging trees and old weed beds provide the perfect environment as does man made type structures such as weir and mill pools. Perch are normally found around any structure and bites can be had throughout the day when fishing close to their natural sanctuary. As light levels reduce I have caught perch away from their normal ‘home’ as they look to search out preyfish and become more active. At times like this I’ll happily fish in shallower water where shoals of smaller fish are resident.
When fishing a river I will look to present a bait under a float if the chance should arise, not only is the sight of a float sliding away with a perch bite one of my favourite sights in angling it also reduces the number of times perch are deep hooked. A perch can quickly engulf a bait and swallow it so a float allows the smallest of bites to be registered and met with a firm strike, hopefully followed by the un mistakable head shake of a hooked perch.
If float fishing on a river is not practical and the right presentation can’t be achieved I’ll fish a maggot feeder or a simple link leger. When link legering for perch I’ll try and bounce the bait through the swim allowing the bait to cover as much water as possible. This also means I can hold the bait in areas that I think need a little more attention, a link leger allows me to add or remove weight quickly and easily dependant on the swim being fished. My favourite bait for this type of fishing is a large lobworm, this can find a feeding chub as well as perch and its not uncommon for a specimen chub to be followed by a specimen perch on consecutive casts.
When fishing a link leger I will hold the rod as this means I can trundle the bait through and feel for any bites or underwater snags. Bites can be a rattle on the rod tip or just a gentle pluck that’s felt through the line as the bait is intercepted by a feeding fish as it works its way through the swim. This is an ideal method for searching out small intimate venues as a number of swims can be covered in short space of time.
As mentioned once one fish has been found, others tend to follow. I’ve regularly seen a hooked fish followed in by other fish in the shoal as if the sight of a hooked fish winds the others up. Situations like this have been responsible for some of my best catches in a short period of time.
When fishing larger rivers or swims with more than one obvious feature I’ll look towards a maggot feeder to build a swim and create a feeding area to bring any resident perch towards. I’ll still look to use a worm as hook bait but will normally present just the tail of the worm to ensure maximum a scent trail goes through the swim as its not just a visual bait that’s being presented. When fishing for perch on the feeder I’ll fish a hook length of around 2ft as the perch will sit back off the maggots coming out of the feeder and intercept baits that are being washed down the swim or approach any feeding minnows or silver fish that are pre occupied with the free offerings from downstream.
It can take some time to build a swim on the feeder so its not my first choice for a short session but when more time is available rewards can be had and again a bag of fish can be put together.
For me perch have clear feeding spells that can see a number of fish landed in succession but then the swim will go very quiet as if there’s not a fish present. This may be that all of the shoal have been caught or it maybe that they have moved away from the bait. Other predators in the swim can also reduce the number of bites. Feeding maggots into a swim to build a feeding scenario can also attract pike which will in turn cause the perch to switch off. In this case I’ll either move to rest the swim or if I think a pike is in the swim change tactics and try and catch it. A feeding pike will happily take a lobworm worked through the swim which is something that I don’t want whilst fishing with perch tackle.
Short sessions can pay dividends when perch fishing, they are happy to feed in almost any conditions.
Cover as much water as possible when on the rivers as an opportunity can be created with a bait in the right place.
Speak to anglers at local commercial waters and pay attention to match results in magazines and on social media.
Fish light balanced tackle, perch may look aggressive and ferocious predators but they can be extremely finicky and unwilling to accept a badly presented bait!