Big perch can be truly enigmatic characters. At times they seem almost impossible to track down; at other times they give themselves away with seemingly gleeful aplomb. Ignoring baits is an infuriatingly perfected big perch pastime. But when you get the timing right they’ll take anything you throw at them! Frustration will surely take hold, at some point, during every perch angler’s pursuit, but once you see a big perch on the bank, you realise that every moment of woe has been far-beyond worth it.
With the barbel fishing on my local club stretches being very hit-and-miss this season, I opted for an after-work lure session to an area from which I’ve caught many perch and pike, including my perch PB of 3lb 9oz.
I hadn’t fished there since the floods, and I wondered if I would find that this once healthy predator population had been relocated some miles downstream!
When I arrived, the smaller fish were certainly on the feed, and I managed to catch a few perch over a pound and landed a decent pike to boot. The highlight of my session, however, was witnessing a monster perch (It looked to be in the 4lb category!) chasing a chublet across the surface, making four or five high-speed lunges before finally seizing its quarry. I have witnessed such single-minded aggression in perch a few times, but never from a fish so big! I couldn’t resist a cast for this fish, but in my haste I clumsily messed up the cast, resulting in my lure hitting the water a few metres short, with a heavy “smack”, ruining any chance I had of tempting this recently-fed specimen! However, seeing this fish in such a voracious mood proved beyond doubt that there still remained at least one good perch in the stretch, so I decided to fish there for a full day the following week.
This time I arrived fully armed with float and leger tackle, plenty of red maggots and worms, a couple of small dead roach, and of course the lure rod! Overnight had seen the heaviest rainfall since the June floods, and I arrived to find the river rising fast, but only slightly coloured. These were perfect conditions for perch to be on the feed, so I set my stall out immediately, baiting up with dark groundbait laced with generous amounts of maggots and chopped worm. I cast out a deadbait on a light link-leger setup, using a short, light wire trace (in case a rogue pike gate-crashed proceedings), attached to a single size 4 barbless hook. This rod was fished at the top of the swim, in the hope that any large perch following the bait trail upstream would spot the deadbait, close to the baitfish shoal which should be feeding on the groundbait. The other rod was set up with a size 12 hook, and I switched between hookbaits of bunches of maggots and single worms.
Before long I had landed several small perch, up to about 10 ounces, along with a few chublets and a dace. Then I noticed a decent perch hanging around the shallow margins, taking an occasional interest in the fish I was reeling in. I clipped a small jig onto my lure rod, and managed to interest the perch, but not quite enough for it to take the lure.
After watching the fish cruise in and out of the swim several times, I noticed it head towards the deep water near my deadbait. When nothing had happened in a couple of minutes, I clipped a size 4 hook onto my spinning trace, mounted a large lobworm on it and freelined this in the deep water. Within seconds the rod tip jerked, and I had finally hooked this elusive individual! I was pleased to land my first decent perch of the session, at 1lb 10oz, but sensing nothing bigger was around, I reeled in the deadbait rod and set off roving with a few lures. This proved to be the single best decision I have made whilst fishing this year! The next 40 minutes would set a new precedent for my own perch fishing success…
The first swim I stopped at is a shallow, reedy eddy, which I’ve always been convinced would hold a perch over 2lbs, but the best I had ever managed from there in the past was 1lb 9oz. My third cast in this swim was to finally prove me right; as my Mepps Aglia Long spinner was snatched by a fine 2lb 9oz fish, much to my delight! Further casts in this swim produced nothing, so a few minutes later I moved upstream further, to the peg which produced my personal best perch back in June 2006.
To my absolute amazement, on my very first cast in this swim, again with the Aglia Long, I hooked another big perch! I made sure the fish was well up the bank before I dare peer into the landing net, where I saw an even larger fish. In disbelief I weighed and photographed the fish, which proved to be my second biggest ever of the species, weighing 2lb 12oz.
I knew my luck was in when I landed this ferocious-looking 2lb 12oz perch, just minutes after the last fish!
I returned it and quickly picked up my rod to cast again in the hope there would be yet more big perch out there. The very next cast saw me hook and lose another perch of a very similar size, and for the next five or six minutes I frantically switched lures around, and amazingly hooked and lost the same fish on a further 2 patterns of lure! I was torn between feelings of awe and frustration, at repeatedly watching the fish seize the lure, then shake itself free again! Finally I went back to using the Mepps and this time the fish took the hooks right down – there was no way it was letting go this time! An epic session ended with this fish, which was by far the prettiest of the day. It weighed a very satisfying 2lb 11oz, making my lure-caught tally, 3 perch for a total of 8lb 2oz. Overjoyed, I knew I must return to this stretch of river while the going was good, with my eyes set firmly on landing a new PB. Read how I got on next month as I ventured back for a couple more short sessions…
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.