Perch are a species that are often synonymous with cold winters, yet autumn and the early winter months of September, October and November are a great time to target perch. Often they can be fairly plump at this time of the year as they prepare for the onset of winter and will often feed heavily before the water temperatures begin to drop. Big perch are an easily accessible fish and well within the grasp of most anglers. Here are a few tips on how to catch that fish of a lifetime.
Commercials – Look no further
Venue choice is crucial when targeting specimen fish and when it comes to perch look no further than commercial fisheries. Match venues and little ponds, often stuffed full of carp, have been springing up all over the country during the last decade. These venues, created by the demand of ‘instant anglers’ or those who plainly just want to catch fish, have created the ideal habitat for producing BIG perch. They also have the bonus of being easily accessible and affordable for most of us.
A visit to your local tackle shop should see you right with regard to venues to consider. Matchmen can be a mine of information concerning where to head and will often be open about the information they have. Beware of rogue stories of fives and sixes, fives do exist but until I’ve seen a pic I tend not to favour chasing ‘ghosts’. Keep an eye on your local match report too, these can often give you a heads up where it is worth investing some time.
When it comes to locating big perch, for me venue choice is more critical than location. Commercial fisheries are often small in size and a few exploratory sessions will determine where you need to target. The obvious features that are often written to death about are good places to start. However, an important piece of advice would be to NEVER neglect the margins, as they have accounted for more big perch on commercials than anything else. As long as there is depth (and it only needs to be a foot or two) they provide everything a perch needs.
On pressured venues I have found open water swims can produce some excellent catches. This is something I learnt from good friend Rory Kingerley who convinced me to try it. Whether this is because the same old haunts are being fished time and time again or it picks off moving fish I don’t know, but it certainly works and has accounted for some very big fish, too.
When it comes to the timing of your session, don’t be afraid to stay an hour or two after darkness has fallen. Often most anglers will leave at dusk, yet I have caught LOTS of big perch, particularly in cold conditions, after dark. Bites at this time will often become very positive as the fish have little to fear. If I only had a few hours to fish, into darkness would be the time I would want to be on the bank.
Hookbaits and loose feeding
There are two main thoughts when it comes to targeting perch on commercials, live baits (which are often banned at many venues) or what has become more in vogue in recent times is the use of prawns. Such is their effectiveness, and my confidence in them, that I now use prawns almost exclusively. A trip to the supermarket will see all manner of hookbaits at your disposal, I prefer to use the large king prawns as hook bait and mini or baby prawns as loose feed. Prawns are a very user-friendly bait, I simply hook them through the side making sure the hook point is proud.
When it comes to loose feed I find a mixture of mini prawns, which I like to dice into small pieces, red maggots and chopped worms takes some beating. I like to add lots of the soil that the worms come in into the mix, which had two advantages. The first is that it forms a lovely cloud in the water column and secondly this cloud provides a great marker of exactly where you need to cast too. Whether I am fishing in close or at any range I always introduce my feed via a spod. This helps to keep the feed concentrated. Don’t think that will be scared off by the sound. It’s not uncommon to have action whilst spodding over the top of my hookbaits.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with adding flavours to your prawns to give them an added boost. One particular flavour I have done very well on is Worm and Shrimp from Enterprise Tackle.
Time to tackle up
When it comes to rigs, simplicity is the key. A simple running ledger rig would be my number one choice. One thing to remember is to keep resistance to an absolute minimum. I favour a through action ‘Avon’ style rod for my perch fishing, a rod around a pound and a quarter is ideal, with 5-6lb, which is able to deal with any rogue carp which can take a liking to prawns. My favourite is Hydro Flo from Gardner Tackle. A simple 1oz pear lead completes the setup, running down to a XL Mini Buffer Bead from Gardner Target Range. A size 12 Gardner Target Swivel Kwik Lok Swivel neatly fits into the housing securing the hook length in place. When it comes to hook length I prefer one made from 5lb Gardner Target fluorocarbon. A length of around 12 inches is about right.