I would bet that before the advent of commercial fisheries one of the first fish most anglers ever caught on rod and line was the humble Perch, these accommodating fish were always so willing to take our baits thus making a small child’s day on the bank a memorable one. There are not many fish that look better than a big Perch and when caught from a clear water rather than a muddy puddle they are beautiful to behold.
The good news is that putting a Perch of specimen proportions on the bank is to a certain extent just as easy especially if they are not being targeted by other like minded anglers.
When Perch are in the mood to feed they can be caught very easily and even 3lb+ fish still have there suicidal moments as I am sure many a Pike angler would testify after catching them on absurdly large lures or live baits when targeting the larger of our fresh water predators.
There are times however when like any other fish of specimen proportions they can be very hard to catch and it is then that a balanced and well thought out approach can pay dividends.
The hard part of finding large Perch is much easier in this day and age with all kinds of waters readily throwing up Perch over 3lb in weight which in my eyes qualifies as a “Specimen”, Rivers, Gravel Pits, Canals, and even the dreaded Commercials are venues that regularly feature in the weeklies reporting large Perch captures and you can take your pick as to which one will produce the next record Perch, which I might add “will probably fall in the next year“ .
Once you have found your big Perch there are a few ways to target them and the easiest, “especially on uncaught fish” is in my experience “Fishing the Lobby”, you just cant beat the humble Lobworm in these situations although they can become very hard to tempt on them as has happened on one of my waters which has received a great deal of pressure over the last couple of years.
Lobworms can be fished down the edge on a float or on the feeder or bomb incorporating alarms, (in my case Delkims) fished with light bobbins on a long drop, the latter is my preferred method if the area is close enough to feed by hand or catapult, if the fish are further out then a small maggot or ground bait feeder is the way to go.
Lobworms can be picked of the lawn or any short grass field at night especially after rainfall, all that is required is a head torch a bait tub a bit of stealth and a steady touch when extracting the worm from its hole although even if I break them they still go in the tub as I collect and use them when needed and don’t store them for any length of time, if you are planning on saving them for a longer period make sure you only keep the whole worms as any dead ones will soon spoil and kill the good ones.
In times of dry weather or frosts when collecting them becomes a problem I buy in my Lobworms but they are expensive at around £15 per hundred worms, there are a few companies providing a mail order service just google Lobworms and all will be revealed. Even though they are expensive the worms wont do you any good if they are still in the tub at the end of the session so don’t be afraid to cut some up and get them in the swim the smell and juices will attract Perch from afar.
One option that should be considered is Pole Fishing, any one who has seen Catching The Impossible will have seen the monster Perch caught by Martin Bowler proving the versatility of the pole. When the going gets tough and the bait needs to be kept in a tight area you cant beat the presentation a pole gives you especially when combined with a bait dropper, a change to a Dendrobaena worm and Caster and smaller hooks fished with a pole can mean all the difference when conditions are harsh and the Lobby is not working. Any of the Carp type poles are suitable for specimen fishing of this type when coupled with a suitable strength elastic.
Another benefit arises from using Lobworms and that is in the form of BONUS fish which can be caught on this fantastic bait, I have caught specimen Chub, Carp, Bream and Roach like this one at 2lb4oz from a local canal on the Lobby, incidentally caught while using the pole, the only other bite resulting in a Perch at 2lb15oz, fish I am sure I would not have caught using normal ledger gear.
As I said earlier my preferred method is the Bomb and I use the flat disc leads in as small a size as I can get away with, I know large leads are said to provide a more sensitive set up but I have caught quite a few large Perch on this rig and my motto is “if it aint broke don’t fix it” so I will continue to use it with confidence.
The lead is fished on a short six inch sliding paternoster and to keep every thing light the other end is attached to a small plastic bead with a large hole where it slides on the 6lb main line. The hook length is either 4lb or 5lb flouro carbon and about 18 inches to 24 inches long with a size 6 Drennan super specialist hook at one end and one of the Korum quick change beads at the other, again being plastic they keep the weight down nicely and are great for changing hook lengths if the need arises.
Another reason I like using small leads is because I like to periodically twitch the worm along the bottom in the hope the movement will provoke the Perch to attack the escaping worm, this I do by winding my bobbin up to the rod and then pulling it back down thereby dragging the bait toward the rod, this little tip will certainly put more fish on the bank.
I usually use two or three rods and my preferred tools are my John Wilson Avon quivers at 1.25 tc they are ideal for close to middle distance fishing and allow the Perch to put up a terrific fight, matched with 5000 size Shimano reels loaded with 6lb sensor they provide a nicely balanced set up. Two of the rods are fished over the top of a bed of red maggots and halved lobworms and the other rod I will fish to one side or the other of the baited spot as I have found some fish will hang back unwilling to come right to on the bait, this rod quite often throws up fish even when the rods on the bait remain redundant. The reason I only half my free offering is that I don’t want small fish to be taking them, they can eat the maggots and hopefully attract the big Perch which will still have something to occupy them and feed them in the swim.
Perch are shoal fish and hang around in groups containing fish of a similar size so if you catch one get your rod back in as soon as possible as there will probably be more in the swim willing to feed, I also employ a keep net when fishing for large Perch as I believe that to return one in to the swim will certainly curtail any further action for a while.
Bites on this set up are generally confident with the bobbin rising steadily to the rod and short staccato bites are usually caused by smaller Perch or Eels etc in my opinion. Bobbins/Hangers need to be light as Perch can be very sensitive to resistance, with this in mind I made my own from a clip and fox pop up ball normally used for popping up dead baits but light hangers can be purchased from most well supplied tackle shops although I would change the cord for a longer length to enable them to be fished on a longer drop.
If the Perch go off the Lobworms my back up method is to fish with live baits and I will use any type of fish with my favourites being Gudgeon, Rudd or Roach in that order. I like to use baits in the two to three ounce stamp (any size Gudgeon will suffice) as any smaller and you may end up catching small Perch all day and that’s not the idea.
If I am fishing close to a feature I will use a float paternoster rig with a single size 8 treble nicked in the baits back with a bait saver over the hook point to keep the bait on the hook, to the eye of the treble I tie a length of weaker line and to the other end I tie on a small bomb just heavy enough to pin the bait next to the feature being tried, this method negates the use of an up trace as the fish cant swim upwards (only applicable if Pike are present )the float which is usually a chubber fished top and bottom with float rubbers can be fished sub surface or on the top which ever you prefer.
If there are Pike in the water you are fishing always use a light wire trace to prevent bite offs, if no Pike are present I like to use a flouro carbon hook length of about 12 inches as the stiffness of this line can prevent tangles if the bait is a lively one.
The other method I employ when live baiting is the “free rover” this is fished using a small chubber or bung type float depending on the size of bait I am using and the distance I am fishing at, I have taken quite a few nice fish on a free roving bait from swims where a tethered bait on a paternoster has remained unmolested for hours so it is always worth trying different methods in the same swim, with my paternoster rig all you need to do to convert it to a free roving rig is remove the bomb link tied to the eye of the treble and maybe add a couple of AA shot to the trace, although this is not always necessary as Perch will take lives off the top with a slurp akin to a Carp taking floaters off the top.
I use the same rod and reel set up for live baiting as I do for fishing the Lobworms but I use 8lb main line so if I do hook a Pike I can put a bit more pressure on to land it quicker. The only other difference from the paternoster rig is the use of a single hook instead of a treble and the bait is lip hooked.
If it’s a barbless hook water I keep the bait on the hook by employing a red rubber maggot as a bait saver. One vital point I should make is the need to strike as soon as possible when fishing lives as Big Perch can inhale a bait in the blink of an eye, (and contrary to popular opinion this could just as easily be tail rather than head first ) and a deep hooked Perch is usually a dead one pretty soon after in my opinion.
Another tip when live baiting is to use a bigger landing net just in case you hook a decent Pike, you can land a big Perch in a big net but you cant land a Pike in a small one, I found this out the hard day after losing a Pike I estimated at 25lb+ after a long fight and to say I was gutted is putting it lightly.
Perch like cover so most Perch swims are obvious to a half decent angler with a bit of water craft “BUT” and it’s a big but do not ignore apparently barren featureless swims as these can be the best of all as I found out when I landed my PB fish of 4lb 6oz from just such a swim on a local canal, that said the usual features on canals such as locks, bridges and structures will always hold a few fish.
Another tip when after Perch is don’t be afraid to fish real close in, “and I mean close” just feet from the bank is where I have had some nice fish including a 3lb13oz fish that took a Rudd live bait that had dragged the float right up to a reed bed, the float being no more than 12 inches from the bank when it buried.