Last month, in our tips column, I talked about the virtues of catching big perch up shallow which definitely happens on occasion but is most certainly not always the case. Generally most perch like to hang out deeper and catching them requires a different approach. Deep water perch are a schooling fish so, where I find one, I typically find a bunch and it then becomes a matter of getting the critters to bite.
I usually do not like to tout electronics as a necessary tool to catch fish because some of us simply can not afford the luxury of having the latest technology, however, for perch the use of an underwater camera, such as the Aqua Vu is invaluable. The camera lets me cover lots of deep water very quickly. I drive to a spot, drill a couple holes, lower the camera down the 20, 30 or 40 feet to the bottom, do a 360 degree scan looking for movement. Typically the bar markings are the first thing my eyes lock onto and then the eyes. Perch, surprisingly, seem to be very curious and given a couple of minutes many will wander over to the camera to have a look.
This is perhaps the best behavioural pattern we could ask for. We can then quickly and accurately determine the concentration and relative size of the perch hanging about. If no perch show themselves after a couple minutes it’s worth moving and drilling new holes rather than sticking to one spot and trying to wait them out. It is my opinion that searching and hunting for perch is far more effective than sitting and waiting for them.
The cool thing is that when I find them, they are nearly always catchable. I like to drill a couple holes a few feet apart, drop the Aqua Vu down one hole while I’ll fish in the other. This way I can see what’s going on around my hook and react accordingly. If the bottom is literally covered in perch I can get picky and pull the hook away from smaller perch and let the bait stay still when a bigger perch moves in for a look. I can also see what mood the fish are in. If they bolt every time I jiggle the hook, I can adjust and slow down my presentation so they don’t flee. It also shows me the exact moment a fish bites and I can set the hook, even if I haven’t actually felt the hit on the line and believe me, that happens a lot.
My favourite bait for perch is maggots as they are durable and stand up to the pecking of many fish while still retaining their wiggly fish attractant qualities. Minnows and meal worms also work well but I find you have to be more vigilant using these baits as the fish seem to have an ability to peck them off the hook more easily.
Not all of us are going to have the use of an Aqua Vu, but take heart; catching perch can still be accomplished quite effectively. The key ingredient to success will be light line, split shot, maggots off a dropper and faith. Yep, faith. Not being able to see the bait in 30 feet of water means having a lot of faith that I’m going to be able to feel a fish bite. So to catch deep water perch while fishing blind I use four pound mono with a couple of hooks on six inch leaders off my main line as droppers. I tie them a foot and two feet from the end where I attach a heavy split shot for weight. This is critical. On each hook I attach a few maggots and I drop the entire rig to the bottom.
I let out line until I feel when the weight hit bottom and then tighten up the line so it becomes taunt. The two hooks should now be slightly less than a foot and two feet off the bottom. From there I’ll slowly raise the bait and at any resistance, tap, bump, wiggle or tickle I’ll set the hook. If there is any feeling of life, I’ll reel steadily and quickly to the surface to land the perch. I’ll do the drop and super slow lift for several minutes and if I don’t tag a fish I move on. This is the faith component. I have absolute faith that if perch are around they will bite this rig and I will catch them. Otherwise it could get a little unnerving hoping that a fish will bite and hoping that what I’m using will work.
The great thing about deep water perch is that they come in schools. Generally if you find one you’ll find a bunch. Don’t be afraid to sit on them until evening because that is often when the big ones show up. Maggots are the go to bait. Light line and split shots are the way to detect the bites. Having said all that, I think it’s time I head out and give them a go myself.