Catching Perch on Simple Tackle

Catch Perch on Simple Tackle
It’s been a horrible winter this year, writes Tim Ridge from Chapmans Angling. Cold but prolonged wet weather scuppered my planned campaigns for chub on the rivers great Ouse & Trent and because I was looking forward to these trips so much, I struggled to maintain the enthusiasm to get out on the bankside to fish for much else.

I did muster a few exploratory big roach trips to a very large body of water which had a dim and distant history of producing roach over the magical two pound barrier, but this was primarily out of a sense of duty, a feeling that I really ought to get out on the bankside before the winter was well & truly wasted. Four trips later, and with nothing to show for my efforts but a few chewed maggots, I lost the incentive to continue with the experiment.

Tim with a 3lb 6oz Perch
With my ‘winter of discontent’ now hopefully out of the way, there are few short weeks ahead, when my attention usually turns to Perch. Just for a change this campaign will not involve travelling to opposite ends of the country as there are several specimen perch fisheries reasonably close to my home. Indeed there has probably never been a better time to target these fish as they seem to distributed throughout the country within a variety of different venues.

Though I’m generally quite critical of commercial ‘type’ carp fisheries with their vast and ‘condensed’ stocking levels of permanently hungry cyprinid species, I’m not too proud to fish for the perch which tend to live a life of veritable plenty by eating the never-ending supply of small fish that live in these small ponds. Most, if not all of these commercial fisheries, have a population of perch exceeding 2lbs and many have fish of 3 or even 4lbs or more, though be aware that the numbers of fish in such venues can vary from dozens to just a small handful. One such venue of my acquaintance has produced only four individual perch but what fish they were, range in weight from 3lb 13oz to 4lb 6oz.

Commercial fisheries aren’t the only venues which can produce perch to ‘specimen’ size. Some canals and rivers and even a few ‘natural’ stillwaters have a sufficient wealth of small fish to enable the resident stripey population to grow to impressive proportions. I don’t believe it is a coincidence that competition for food, in the form of pike or zander, is generally either limited or non-existent on waters that produce specimen sized perch.

Perch Tackle & Technique
The intimacy of my venues suits me perfectly because this lends itself to the use of one of my favourite methods: simple float fishing with a ‘waggler’ type float. The hookbait is either a large lobworm or fresh/frozen uncooked king prawn. When I first started using prawns, I suffered a lack of confidence in the bait because I couldn’t see why perch would bother to investigate them. I have no such issues these days, having caught perch from a wide range of different venues on this bait. Also, a huge king prawn does sometimes offer some respite from the often constant attention of ‘nuisance’ carp that can be a problem on commercial fisheries.

Simple Perch Tackle
You can feed regularly or otherwise with pretty much anything a perch will eat. I’ve caught specimen perch in swims baited with Maggots, casters, worm sections, chopped prawns, or bits of finely chopped coarse fish bought from the bait fridge at Chapmans Angling. These have all successfully been included in my groundbaits for perch, however I do find that they attract carp, so these days I tend to restrict myself to a regular ball of finely sieved (unwetted) molehill soil (you can use dampened & sieved black groundbait to the same end). The purpose of this is to colour the water up. Perch have an affinity for feeding during periods of reduced light and the black cloud created by the molehill soil not only reduces light penetration but contains microparticles of the digested lobworms, eaten by the mole!

There is absolutely no necessity for elaborate or expensive rods when targeting specimen perch with float tackle. I personally like float rods with a little extra rigidity in the mid-section. They feel crisper and more responsive than those with a ‘through’ type action. They cast more accurately and using your left hand as a lever placed some way up the butt section such rods provide that little bit of power to stop a specimen perch from reaching the submerged branches and snags that the species is so fond of hanging about near.

Stillwater Matchstix Float Rod
3000 Front Drag Reel
I particularly like the Stillwater Matchstix 12ft float rod though there are dozens of others (inexpensive or otherwise) that I would happily use. Regarding reels, yet again the requirements are basic. I have to admit that I often sill use an old 1970’s Mitchell 300 that has been repaired many times but I also use several modern 3000 sized fixed spool reels. For example a Daiwa Ninja 3000, Korum Front Force Reel or TFG Match Feeder is ideal for Perch fishing. The only specific requirement is that the reel performs its desired function and is filled properly (up to the spool lip) with good quality four-pound monofilament line although some anglers do like modern braids I prefer to stick with mono. If I felt so inclined, I would use a centrepin reel since there is rarely a need to cast far, however battling a centrepin to retrieve the line can become hard work at times and in truth, on stillwaters the only possible advantage of a centrepin reel would be aesthetic.

Stillwater Severn Centrepin Reel
I tend to use quite wide diameter pellet-waggler floats with thick visible tips for my perch fishing. Perch have a habit of grabbing at the bait and engulfing it on the move. A strike timed as soon as the float submerges, frequently results in the bait (or part of it) being missing on retrieval (along with the perch responsible). The highly visible thick float tip enables me to track its progress under the water. I usually watch the float go under whereupon it usually halts a couple of inches beneath the surface. I strike when/if it begins to move away again positively and disappear completely from view. Experiments have shown that if the float re-emerges after briefly sinking then small perch or other species are responsible so this tactic of waiting for a positive bite, serves the purpose of enabling the technique to be selective. The length of the float is generally short. Long floats aren’t necessary since the pellet wagglers that I use are fairly buoyant and being ‘anchored’ by a heavy prawn or lobworm, surface skim/undertow is never a problem.

Stillwater Pellet Waggler Floats
The ‘shotting pattern’ couldn’t be simpler. I place a no4 split shot about six inches from my hook with a larger No1/BB shot about eight inches above this. The remaining shot required to dot the float down to about 1inch is all placed around the base of the float as a means of locking it at the required depth. I generally use a clip on plummet to ascertain the correct depth setting, nipping the plummet to the no4 shot and adjusting the float's position so that a couple of inches just submerges it under the weight of the plummet. This dictates that when the plummet is removed, the lowest no4 shot is set a couple of inches off the bottom. I don’t feel the need to ‘dot’ the float down to the merest pimple on the surface. Big perch are surprisingly bold when taking a float-fished bait and as I’ve already hinted, making the rig too sensitive can result in the angler catching lots of nuisance fish.

Sema Plummet 
Commercial fishery rules usually stipulate the use of barbless hooks but keeping a lobworm on a hook with no barb can be somewhat trying to say the least. You will be pleased to know I’ve found a solution to this (I am. That’s for sure). I tie a barbless size 6 Korum Expert Specialist hook direct to the end of my mainline using a grinner knot but don’t trim the tag end too close to the hook (a 4mm knot tag is about right). By threading the worm up the hook a bit like a sea angler does with lugworm, with part of it (the fat end) threaded just past the knot tag, the stiff mono tag end stops the worm from recoiling back down the hook shank. Prawns are simply hooked in the middle, using the same size and pattern of hook. The only necessary precaution is to ensure the hook point is not covered in bait so that it can penetrate the bony mouth of the perch.  For any other venue, the Kamasan B980 Specimen Hook will do the job.

Kamasan B980 Specimen Hooks
Location is largely a matter of trial and error, but there can be some ‘physical’ features to look for. Perch like to herd small prey fish into corners where they can pick of any vulnerable individuals. They also like snaggy areas because these enable the pray to be ambushed from the points of camouflage offered by such underwater structures. If there is a small snaggy corner then this is usually the first place I try. Similarly, perch often take advantage of reed beds, again for the camouflage they offer. I frequently catch big perch in just a couple of foot of water with my float almost touching the individual reed stems. Lastly, perch have an affinity for cover in the form of overhanging tree branches and the like. This is probably because of the reduction in light found in such places. Perch are said to have eyesight that is superior to that of their prey in conditions of low light, and it would seem areas, where light cannot penetrate, are favoured for this reason.

Tim with a Cracking Perch From a Snaggy Swim
As highlighted by Tim, Perch fishing on commercial fisheries, lakes and lochs is ‘technically’ very easy, and within the efforts of just about anyone, it is relatively cost-effective requiring the use of minimal items of tackle that most anglers will already own.  It also requires simple and inexpensive baits. Best of all, there are so many Perch venues around the UK that are within reach of almost everyone, offering some fantastic sport for this truly iconic species.

If you would like more information about Perch fishing tackle, rods, reels and techniques, you can contact us on 0141 212 8880 and our expert team will be happy to help you.