With nearly 165 species in its family tree, freshwater perch just might be the most abundant fish in North America [source: Hocutt]. A popular sport fish, yellow perch, also known as lake perch, can be found in the lakes, rivers and streams of almost all fifty states and most of the Canadian provinces.
That abundance -- not to mention their tasty, firm meat -- might explain why many anglers are hooked on catching the fish that has become a popular main course at Friday night fish fries. Perch feed year-round, so they can be caught year-round, which adds to their popularity.
Lake perch aren't big. The yellow-gold fish with dark-striped sides grow to be 5 to 12 inches (13 to 30.5 centimeters) in length and can weigh up to 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms). When a school of perch goes into a feeding frenzy, the fish can provide anglers with plenty of action, rewarding them with a nice stringer for supper.
The trick to catching perch -- or any fish for that matter -- is knowing where to find them and what kind of equipment to use. The good news is you don't need a lot of expensive gear to get started. With the tips found in the following pages, you'll soon be primed to perch.
Tip 3: Where to Find Perch
You'll find perch wherever there is fresh water. Look for areas with natural structures: weeds, dams, submerged objects, islands, inlets, rocks, reeds and bridges -- any place where plants can grow. Plants attract bait fish and bait fish attract sport fish, so those are the areas you want to look for perch.
Perch school by size, so big perch swim together in deeper water and small perch hang together in shallower water. Catching one perch means there are more in the area.
If you fish from shore, you'll generally land smaller fish. Cast your line toward weeds, lily pads, piles of rocks, pier pilings and brush. Give the first spot you select several minutes; if you don't get a hit, try casting to another spot. Patience and a willingness to try different things will help you find fish.
If you're fishing in open water from a boat, you'll be fishing deep. Perch tend to congregate in deep water most of the year. Even in open water, perch will congregate around submerged objects, so the trick is finding those areas. Try this: Head into deep water, turn the boat off, and drift with the wind. Drop your line in the water to just above bottom (let the hook hit bottom and then reel it up a bit) and let it dangle as the boat drifts. Once you've located fish, drop anchor and cast. You also can try this technique while using a trolling motor.
Technology can help, too. Fish finders use sound waves to detect underwater objects. They display a graph on a screen that shows the depth of the water and any objects between the boat and the bottom. If the sound waves bounce off an object, it will show up on the screen. It could be a fish.
Tip 2: Perch Lures and Bait
Now that you know where to find perch, what do you use to catch them?
Luckily, perch are not picky eaters, especially when they're in a feeding frenzy. If you like to use live bait to attract fish, your choices are many: small minnows, insect larvae (think maggots), night crawlers, wax worms and grubs. Perch also go for cut bait like crayfish meat and perch eyes. When using minnows, try hooking them through the tail rather than through the mouth; they'll provide more action, and that's what you need to attract the big guys.
Lures should be small and lightweight because perch have small mouths. Leadheads (a lead ball with a hook) -- 1/64 ounce and 1/32 ounce -- are often the lure of choice for perchers. Lures come in many styles and colors. Perch are particularly attracted to bright, flashy colors. These are used for still fishing (simply dropping the line where you stand) or casting.
Heavier leadheads (1/8 ounce) are used for trolling and drifting. Slip-sinker setups, metal weights attached to the line and floating jigheads (leadheads with tails made of hair, feathers, plastic or rubber) are used in tandem with sinkers or slip sinkers because they make it harder for the line to snag. Perchers also find success with spinner rigs (a blade that spins around a wire), which create movement and attract fish. Metal jigging spoons are spoon-like lures that resemble small fish and are favored in the fall and winter. Bobbers, floating plastic balls that keep lines set to a preferred depth, are useful when fishing near vegetation or from shore [source: Mayhew].
If you're bored with the standard way of fishing for perch, read on.
Tip 1: Fly Fishing for Perch
Most folks fish for perch with traditional rods, reels and casting techniques, but you can fly fish for perch. Bait-stealing perch inspire many fishermen to fly fish because these rods enable them to feel subtle hits from the fish.
Fly fishing involves dragging light artificial flies over the water to entice fish to pop to the surface and grab the bait. Fly fishing does not use weights to carry the bait under water -- it stays on top.
So what will you need? An inexpensive fly-fishing rod and reel will work. Consider a lightweight fiberglass or graphite rod that's 7 to 8 feet (2.1 to 2.4 meters) in length [source: McNair]. Fly rods have a single line guide at the base with several smaller loop guides along the length to help control the line. Fly reels have a distinctive look, usually a metal circle punctuated with evenly spaced holes.
Fly-fishing line is heavier than other types of line but still comes in a variety of weights. Lighter line is recommended for fly fishing for perch and other pan fish. Plastic-coated fly fishing line is short. Fly fishermen use a longer monofilament line to attach it to the reel; the fly is attached to the fly fishing line. One caveat: The weight of the rod and the weight of the line should match [source: Fly Anglers Online].
Poppers and flies are the lures of choice for fly fishing. These colorful lures are designed to resemble insects that skip across the water's surface. A simple rule of fishing is to "match the hatch" -- use lures that resemble the insects where you're fishing. However, as mentioned earlier, perch aren't picky, so any fly or popper will do.
Once you have the equipment, it's time to practice your technique. Fly fishing requires the use of both hands. Hold the rod in your dominant hand and use the other hand to slowly let out small amounts of line as you flick the rod back and forth. You can start the cast from a variety of positions: forward, right in front of you, or from the back. Try them out and see what's most comfortable.
That's all there is to it! Like most pan fish, perch aren't a big mystery, but they can make for some fun fishing when they come biting.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Ask Crappie Fishing. 11 Nov. 2008http://www.askcrappiefishing.com/editorials/7_perch_fishing_secrets.html
- Fichter, George S. and Edward C Migdalski. The Fresh & Salt Water Fishes of the World. New York: Greenwich House, 1976.
- "Fly Fishing 101 for Beginners." Fly Anglers Online. 11 Nov. 2008http://www.flyanglersonline.com/begin/101/
- Hocutt, Charles H. "Perch." World Book Online Reference Center. 11 Nov. 2008http://www.worldbookonline.com/wb/Article?id=ar422820
- Mayhew, J. Iowa Fish and Fishing. Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Des Moines, Iowa: 1987. 11 Nov. 2008http://www.iowadnr.com/fish/iafish/ylp-fish.html
- McNair, Doug. "Fly Fishing with Doug Macnair: Assembling the System Part 5: Panfish 'n Perch." Active Angler.com. 11 Nov. 2008http://www.activeangler.com/flyfishing-articles/macnair-assembly5.shtml
- "Perch Fishing." Ultimate Fishing Site. 11 Nov. 2008http://www.ultimatefishingsite.net/types_of_fish/perch_basic_techniques.html
- Take Me Fishing http://www.takemefishing.org/fishing