Saturday, October 24, 2009

Why Perch are a Favorite Panfish

Perch is a catchall name for several varieties of freshwater panfish. Depending on where you live, they may be called Lake Perch, Yellow Perch, Ring Perch, or just plain old Perch.

Like all panfish, Perch are on the small side. The average fish is less than 1 lbs. and runs about 5-7 inches long. Most will fit in an adult's hand. Even the various state record Perch typically do not exceed 3 lbs. and 15 inches.

Perch or Bluegill?

Some less experienced anglers confuse Perch and Bluegill (another popular panfish species). The easiest way to tell the difference is by shape. Bluegill tends to be shorter and wider from top to mid-belly. Perch usually have a longer, more streamlined appearance. Color is another good indicator. Bluegills usually have a noticeably different color on the front section of their bellies, just behind the lower jaw and gills. The color varies, but is most often a shade of blue-green or pale yellow. Perch often have a white belly that runs from just behind the head to the beginning of the rear fin.

Those Perch Are So Easy

Fishing for Perch can be one of the most satisfying experiences you'll ever have as an angler. Whether you're out in the boat or wetting a line from the dock or bank, once you hit a school of these feisty little fighters, you're likely to be in for steady action, sometimes for hours on end! In fact, more times than this fisherman cares to remember, I've run out of bait before the Perch stopped biting.

Not only are Perch notoriously easy to catch, they fight pretty hard for such small fish. Most freshwater anglers can regale you with stories from their childhoods of an entire summer day spent hauling in Perch after Perch, with nothing more than a cane pole and a can full of worms. In fact, if you took a poll of all American anglers, chances are Perch and Bluegill would top the list as the species that got them 'hooked' on the great sport of fishing.

Perch Fishing Secrets (Hint: There Really Aren’t Any)

All of this begs the question, 'How do you catch a mess of Perch?' Fortunately, even fishing novices can quickly learn enough to become 'public enemy number one' in the Perch world. You need only the most rudimentary tackle: rod and reel (even an old-fashioned cane pole will do), hooks, a small bobber (optional), some worms, and a place to keep what you catch and don't throw back (stringer, basket, cooler, large bucket). That's it.

Perch are schooling fish, which means they tend to travel in large groups. This is a habit that evolved primarily as a defense mechanism against predatory fish. That’s all well and good for the Perch, but it’s even better for humans when we go fishing! Dangling a tasty morsel of worm into a school of perch pretty much assures you’ll get lots of strikes and a fair number of successful landings. There really isn’t any strategy to it.

What makes the entire process even less challenging is the fact that Perch roam all over lakes and ponds. They are just as likely to be trolling near the bank as they are out in open waters. That increases your chances to catch a mess of them, no matter where you decide to cast your line.

Handy Tips if Perch Refuse to Cooperate

If you do run into trouble getting bites, there are a few tips to follow. First, use a bobber and vary the depth at which you present your bait. You might be literally inches too high or too low to catch a Perch’s attention, especially if he isn’t particularly hungry at that moment. Second, change your bait. It’s always a good idea to bring along more than one kind of bait when fishing for Perch (or any other panfish variety). There’s no rhyme or reason to it, but you’ll discover that a simple bait change, say from worms to balls of cheese or the end of a hot dog, is often all it takes to trigger a feeding frenzy. So, don’t get too comfortable with just one kind of bait.

Another common complaint among anglers going after Perch is having bait ‘stolen’ from the hook without getting a real strike. This can be very frustrating, because you know the fish are where you are and are hungry. They just aren’t taking the hook into their mouths so you can turn those hits into catches. There’s a simple reason why this happens and, fortunately, an equally simple solution. Use a smaller hook! It isn’t that the fish are so smart they’ve figured out that a human is up there trying to catch them. (We’ve all had those thoughts, so don’t be ashamed.) No, it’s that the hook is too large for their mouths as they attempt to engulf the bait. You end up with swiped bait. It’s an easily avoided problem: always carry several different sizes of hooks so you can adjust to changing conditions.

by Brent Vanderstelt


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