Perch were once the species of fish most familiar to Britain’s young anglers. Disease wiped out perch in some waters and in many others they have been very slow to regain their former numbers. The slow recovery from disease is surprising because perch are extremely prolific breeders. Like the roach, perch will tolerate and adapt to all kinds of environment from ponds to fast flowing rivers.

The perch is a distinctive fish with black bands along its green flanks. The dorsal fin is large with sharp spikes on the top. The edges of the gill covers are also pointed and can stick in your hand if you handle them carelessly. When you handle a perch, gently stroke the dorsal fin down fiat and keep the edge of your hand away from the pointed gill cover. Small perch feed on insect larvae and crustaceans but when they reach a certain size they become very pre-datory. Small to medium sized perch are shoal fish, but the very large ones lead a solitary existence.

In small ponds and lakes with a poor food supply perch may be present in large numbers but seldom grow very large. The point at which the size of the perch in the population becomes limited depends a great deal on the richness of the water. In acid waters perch seldom grow larger than 40Z (1 i3’4g), but in a richer environment the fish may not become stunted until they reach a size of 12 oz (339 g).

A 12 oz perch is not very large but at least it is large enough to oiler good sport when hooked- In waters like this there is always the outside chance that a few perch may have outgrown the rest and reached specimen size. I have known several waters where the average size of the perch has only been 12 oz but it has suddenly Small perch are easy to catch but larger ones produced a magnificent fish of 3 lb (’35 kg)- The poor waters where perch seldom grow larger than 4 oz and unlikely to produce any bigger fish. Small perch are easy to catch and are splendid for building up the confidence of the young angler. Perch seem to be almost oblivious to clumsy casting or such as these fine fish are more difficult the bad presentation of tackle.

Perch spawn in early spring and the eggs are laid amongst reed stems or the feathery roots of bankside trees which grow into the water. Perch eggs are laid in long, thread-like ribbons which are woven in and out of the reed stems. In appearance they are not unlike the ribbons of toad spawn.

Locating perch

Perch like lots of cover and will congregate near weeds or water lily beds. Therefore, in rivers, fish near weedbeds or beds of bulrushes. Failing this try the lengths of river which are heavily overgrown with willow bushes or where trees have fallen in and been washed up against the banking. During the summer, masses of tiny fry will congregate around these and perch will not be far away. Gaps in thick weed beds are good spots to locate shoal perch.

Baits and tackle for catching perch

On hot, sunny days you can often get the perch feeding madly by baiting up a gap in the weeds with maggots. Begin by feeding a few loose maggots into the gaps in the weed. If the water is clear and you are using Polaroid sunglasses you may even see the perch leave the weedbed and begin intercepting the slowly sinking maggots. Use a 12 foot (3.64 metre) float rod with a small quill float attached to the line by float rubbers at (he top and the bottom. Lightly shot the float with most of the weight immediately below the float. Throw in a few loose maggots followed by your float tackle. The perch will swarm through the gaps intercepting the falling maggots, including those on your hook. These tactics work equally well when fishing at close range in both rivers and lakes. In rivers, laying on over depth next to near-bank weed-beds works well in late summer and autumn. Worms are also an excellent perch bait, especially a large, lively lobworm. Large perch will often lurk amongst bulrush beds, and a lobworm trotted down with the current ‘9’ next to these will tempt the perch out into the open to grab the worm.

Legering will catch perch and is often the only way of presenting a bait next to submerged tree trunks or alongside banking reinforcement slakes. When legering with a big bait, such as a lobworm or a dead fish, always allow the perch to run with the bait a little way before striking. In a sluggish river, mount the rod on 2 rod rests raised well above the ground. Mould a dough bobbin on to the line between the first 2 rod rings and pull this down to the ground. When the dough bobbin begins to move up towards the rod, lift the rod from the rest and move it forward slightly.

This will allow the fish to run further before the dough bobbin wedges in the rod ring and the fish feels any resistance. As the line tightens, strike firmly and smoothly. In fast flowing water the best method for detecting bites is touch legering. As you feel the draw on the line when a perch picks up your bait, move the rod forward so that the fish can take line before you strike. When legering small, dead fish baits hold the rod, and if no bites are fortheoming reel in a couple of turns. The sudden movement sometimes induces a perch to grab the bait. Most small fish will attract perch. Minnows are easy to obtain but are unlikely to catch bigger perch than when lobworms are used. Small roach and gudgeon make better perch baits. When using fish baits don’t use a wire trace or treble hooks. Large perch are sure to reject a bait presented in this way.

Spinning is an active way of catching perch, and by using spinning tackle you can search a lot of water. Perch will take many kinds of spinner, such as a mepps or Devon minnow. Don’t be in a rush to lift the spinner from the water as perch will frequently follow it right to the bank and grab hold at the last possible moment.

In winter perch will move into the deeper water. In rivers perch may be found congregated in large shoals away from the full force of the current. Big perch are impressive fish and are strong fighters. Even perch of around half a pound (0.22 kg) put up a tremendous fight for their size. For some reason perch have never captured the imagination of anglers in the way that roach have. Perch are every bit as colourful as roach and certainly fight a lot harder when hooked.