Until around four years ago, my only real experience of perch was catching the occasional small fish on maggots or worms as a youngster. I’d never specifically targeted the species and a fish of over 2lb was something I could only dream about. Then one day’s pike fishing on a small drain changed all of this. I was wobbling a mackerel deadbait for pike, without success, when I noticed a group of perch following the bait in. I immediately grabbed my lure rod and caught a phenomenal number of perch from the swim, including a fish of 2lb 7oz. It was one of the most spectacular creatures I’d ever set eyes on, and it set me wondering what a 3lb perch must look like. Since then, perch have become one of my favourite species to target and I’ve had my eyes set on landing a perch over 3lbs; on bait, or preferably on a lure.
I’m now quite experienced at catching perch on lures, and it’s surprising just what a range of lure styles they will take. I target perch on all sorts of venues, and lure style generally depends on whether I’m in still or flowing water. Spinners are my staple perch lure and if I had to choose only one lure to take with me on a perch trip, it would be a Mepps Aglia Long, size 3. These are heavy little spinners with a large willow-style blade. They remain stable in fast currents and can be fished either shallow or deep. I’ve also landed many pike to over 15lb on these spinners, which reflects just how much of a “predator-magnet” they are. They’ve been around since the 1950’s and still catch fish! On slow-moving or still waters I also like to use small jerkbaits and crankbaits, whilst on faster water, heavy spoons and spinnerbaits each have their day.
As with most species, lure colours can often make a difference for perch. One day you may catch well on natural colours, then the next day you’ll find bright patterns are preferred. My advice to anyone looking to fish with a minimum amount of lures is to stick to natural colours. Silver, gold and blue would be the main ones, but one thing to remember is that big perch love eating small perch! Some of my best perch (including the 2lb 7oz fish mentioned above), have been caught on a perch pattern lure, and at times it’s a great pattern for selectively targeting the larger fish in a swim.
After a couple of weeks of mainly barbel fishing on the rivers this season, I fancied a change. So I picked up my light lure outfit, an assortment of lures and my new folding lure net and headed for the river. After targeting perch last Autumn, I had a few swims in mind which I had not yet lure fished, but I had caught a few good perch from on baits. Besides the more obvious snags and large eddies, I fancied trying areas of fast, turbulent water, where I thought a few fish may be hunting during the hot summer evenings. Gradually working my way upstream to this fast water, I had a few casts from most of the vacant pegs I passed, but only managed a couple of small fish.
My “fish it first” lure for perch is the aforementioned Aglia Long. If there are fish in the area, this lure will usually at least induce a follow, and I can decide whether to stay in a swim or move on, depending on the way the fish react to the Aglia. On this particular night, it wasn’t really doing the business for me, but because I have such confidence in the spinner, I kept on casting. One particular retrieve, as the lure passed through a slack area between two rapids, the lure was halted with a heavy “clunk”. I struck, and caught a glimpse of a huge, round, golden flank. It was a very big perch, which was easily PB size! I couldn’t believe my eyes, and I immediately reached for the landing net, despite the fish still being in the middle of the river and taking line. I was vastly over-eager to land this perch. My efforts were to be in vain though, because the perch spat the lure within a few seconds, leaving me speechless with equal amounts of frustration and amazement.
I had no choice but to carry on casting, in the hope of re-hooking this fish. I made several fruitless casts and then caught a small perch, which made me laugh, because it was small enough to have been used as bait for the fish I had just lost! I cast the spinner out straight away, and as the lure swung in the current, towards the near margin, another massive perch ambushed the lure. I realised it was of similar proportions to the fish I had lost – possibly even the same fish! This time, with only a short line between me and the perch, I netted it within seconds. I let it rest in the net for a moment, before peering inside, only to be astounded by the size of it! It was definitely a three pounder, but having not seen a perch so large before, I didn’t know if it would go 3 and a half, four pounds, or even bigger! I was shaking by this point and had to steady myself to weigh the fish. The needle swung round and nestled at 3lb 9oz. Finally I’d broken the three pound barrier, and with a pristine, lure-caught fish to boot.
So, now I’ve exceeded my target, what do I aim for next? A four-pound fish is certainly now a realistic prospect. A perch of that size just four years ago would have been beyond my most absurd dreams. As autumn approaches, predators will be gaining weight fast, so I’ll definitely be out there after the fish of a lifetime.
Andrew’s top big perch tips:
- When lure fishing for perch, remember to always use a wire trace. The chances are, if you find a water containing big perch, there will probably be pike in there as well.
- When lure fishing try to travel light. All you need is your rod, landing net, a small bag or box containing your lures and a few spare traces, forceps, scales and a camera! This way, you can travel between swims quickly and easily, and cover a lot of water in a session. The lure net I currently use folds up and clips on my back, to keep me even more mobile.
- Deep swims with weed growth or snags are always excellent perch features. In the warmer months, however, don’t neglect the fast, shallow water, because perch love to feed here too.
- If you find a swim containing lots of perch, don’t keep casting the same lure to the fish, because they will become shy towards it and not see the lure as a potential meal. If you keep alternating patterns, shapes and colours, you should be able to catch multiple fish from one swim.
- Always keep an eye out for splashing and bow-waves in the margins. These are often caused by numbers of perch charging into the shallows, chasing fry. When they’re in this mood, they are thinking of nothing but hunting their prey, so they become less cautious and easier to catch.
Good Fishing to you all
Further information about the history, life cycle and biology of Perca fluviatilis – the European perch – can be found on Wikipedia here: European perch Wiki
And on Fishbase here: European perch fish on Fishbase.org.