Perch is the name given to any fish that comes from the genus Perca. They are freshwater fish that can be found all over the world, including in North America, Europe, Asia and other places. There are three main species of perch: the European perch (also known as the red fin or English perch), the Balkhash perch and the yellow perch (also known as the lake perch).
People also commonly fish for what they call white perch, but these fish are not actually true perch. Instead, they are a type of bass also called the silver bass in many regions. Because they're so commonly referred to as perch, however, we'll discuss them in this particular article.
With very few exceptions, most perch have the same basic body type and features. They're most often referred to as being long and rounded and covered in rough scales known as ctenoid scales. The anterior side of the perch's head contains the lower mandible and the maxilla, two eyes - lidless - and two nostrils.
The posterior of the perch is where the gills, opercula series and the lateral line system are found. They have both pelvic and pectoral fins in pairs and two dorsal fins, one that's soft and one that's spiny. Depending on the specific perch, these fins can either be joined or not. Yellow perch are so-called because of their yellow color.
Because the European and Balkhash perch are found in other countries, for the remainder of this article, we will focus exclusively on the yellow perch and the misnamed white perch.
Yellow perch are most often found in creeks, lakes, ponds, slow-moving rivers and sometimes even in brackish water. More commonly, though, they're found in clear freshwater where there's a lot of vegetation. During the spring months, they move further in-shore.
In their natural habitats, they live mostly in the northern parts of the United States, throughout Canada and in the Midwest. However, because they're so adaptable, yellow perch have been introduced into ponds, rivers and lakes in many US states where they were never naturally found before now. These states include many western states, such as Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and others.
They can also be readily found along the eastern coast of the United States, extending as far south as South Carolina up into Canada.
White perch, on the other hand, are more localized as to the areas in which they can be found. They stick mostly to the Atlantic coast and can be found from South Carolina all the way up to the St. Lawrence River into Canada. They can be found most especially in the Chesapeake Bay, the Hudson River and Lake Ontario. They prefer to stick to mostly brackish waters.
So now that you know what they are and where to find them, let's get to what you're really here for: some great perch fishing tips.
The methods and equipment used for catching yellow perch are going to be slightly different from those used to catch white perch. Let's break them both down. First we'll discuss the best ways to catch yellow perch, then we'll move into the white perch fishing tips.
There are a few different things you need to keep in mind if you're hoping to catch yellow perch. First of all, you need to choose your location carefully. Because yellow perch can only be found in certain areas across the US, you need to know where those areas are; otherwise, you're going to be sitting three states away and feeling pretty foolish all day. The regions in which yellow perch can be found are listed above.
Once you've picked your lake, river or pond, locating the schools is your next best bet. Small yellow perch like to stick together in rather large schools. If you can locate one of these schools, chances are you'll be able to reel in fish like crazy. However, if you're looking to reel in a big one, you might have to find areas where the fish are more solitary.
Another thing to remember is that, small or large, yellow perch like to hide. If there's a dock, either floating or stationary, or some other structure where you're fishing that would provide a nice hiding spot for perch, that's a good place to find them. If you know of any underwater features that provide cover - sunken boats, timber, etc. - those are good spots to fish as well.
Perch also like to hang out in sudden drop-offs and under the cover of lily pads and other water-based flora on hot days. In the spring, they'll be nearer to shore, so dock fishing is perfect, but like most other fish, they don't enjoy the heat. Therefore, the hotter the temperature gets, the deeper and farther out they tend to swim.
When fishing for yellow perch, you'll have the most luck using a lightweight spinning rod. The best rods have fast action and a long range for casting. Spinning combo setups work wonders, and rods of about seven feet seem to work best.
As for line, we recommend a ten-pound line, in particular the dark green J-Braid line. Some fishermen argue that ten-pound line is too heavy, but with the J-Braid line, the diameter is only 0.17 mm, which cuts down on the weight a lot. The line also has incredible sensitivity and is extremely durable. We prefer the dark green color because it blends well with the waters yellow perch frequent.
When it comes to bait, tackle and lures, there are a few different options from which you can choose. We prefer live bait most of the time. Yellow perch love live bait, including leeches, mealworms, minnows and night crawlers. Using smaller perch as bait is also a good option.
If you're unused to using live bait, throw on a bobber as a strike indicator to help you know when you've hooked something. Yellow perch have a very light bite, so even experienced anglers have been known to use bobbers when fishing for them. There's no shame in it, and it will keep you from missing out on the most subtle of nibbles.
If you don't want to use live bait, there are other options available. You'll want to use lures or bait on the small side for yellow perch fishing. Jigs work best, but spinners and small spoons can be effective as well. If you have a small piece of fish or an eye to stick on the lure, it will greatly increase your catches of attracting perch.
As far as hooks go, you'll need to use small ones. Yellow perch, like most other panfish, have very small mouths. Their mouths are made for catching even smaller food, such as insects, shrimp, leeches and minnows. Putting a large hook into your bait or lure will make it almost impossible to hook a perch.
Instead, use small hooks with short shanks. We like to stay in the four to six size range for our yellow perch hooks. If you drop down to a two, you've gone a little too small. Your bait will be small too, so match your hook to your bait, and you'll likely be fine.
Keep in mind, too, that all this information is for catching yellow perch in open water. If you're ice fishing for yellow perch, there are a few additional things you need to know.
Some of the same tips listed above will work for ice fishing for perch. For instance, you can still look for the schools and fish them with great success. Furthermore, even in ice, perch like to hide, so if you have some type of cover over the water, it's a good bet that you'll find the perch near it.
Additionally, when ice fishing for yellow perch, your best bet is still to use live bait. If you can't or won't use live bait, you'll have much better success with artificial lures if you add a small bit of fish or a fish eye to the hook to help entice the perch to bite your lure.
The equipment used for ice fishing yellow perch is largely the same as fishing in water, but you'll want a rod that has large eyelets for ice fishing. This is because of the potential for line freeze. If you're ice fishing, it's a safe bet that it's really, really cold outside. In freezing temperatures like those, a wet line passing through eyelets can cause line freeze.
With rods with large eyelets, this isn't as much of a problem. The large eyelets offer more surface area, which makes it harder for ice to accumulate in one spot. If ice can't accumulate, it's unlikely your line will freeze and potentially break. Blowing warm air onto your gear occasionally can also help prevent line freeze.
In addition to those things listed above, you'll also want an ice drill, and as opposed to ice fishing for other species of fish, when it comes to yellow perch, you'll want to drill several different holes. The more holes you have, the more chances you have of running across a school of perch.
Bringing along an electric fish finder is also advisable. These include underwater cameras, flashers, sonar units and more. Flashers are probably the most popular of these, and they're also relatively inexpensive. If you can use an electronic unit to find the perch, you won't have to drill quite so many holes to locate them.
A nice cozy hut is also beneficial. Fishing on ice with no shelter is nice for a while. It gets you out in the sun and allows you to breathe the fresh air; however, you can't do it indefinitely. The cold and wind are just too painful. You'll want a hut to which you can retire to warm up and fish in relative comfort.
In addition to providing you with shelter and warmth, though, a good ice fishing hut - which you can usually get for about 100 dollars - also has other benefits. For one thing, it's nice and quiet inside your hut, which means there aren't a lot of loud noises to scare away the fish.
Furthermore, it's darker inside the hut, which allows you to see into your fishing hole better than you could in the bright sun. Finally, the shadow of the hut will also be seen by the perch under the ice, and as we already know, yellow perch love to hide. The hut will give them some cover to hide beneath, and you can take full advantage of that.
Now that you have some good ideas on how to successfully catch yellow perch, let's move on to our white perch fishing tips.
As we've already discussed, white perch, which are actually bass, can be found along the eastern coast of the United States, starting as low as South Carolina and moving all the way up through the United States into Canada's Nova Scotia region. Within these areas, there are further ways to narrow down and find your perfect location.
While white perch tend to favor brackish water, they can be found in a wide variety of different environments. You can usually locate them in streams - both moving and quiet - and tidal waters. You'll have the most luck, though, in open water, near shorelines.
Like yellow perch, white perch also enjoy staying in covered areas where they feel hidden and safe. They seek out structures, both natural and man-made, that provide them with the most cover. These can include fallen trees, docks, piers and lighthouses. They particularly enjoy hiding under the cover of structures built in water between ten and 12 feet deep.
They also enjoy shallow waters with muddy bottoms, making muddy ponds a favorite spot for these fish. Brackish bays and the mouths of rivers that can be accessed from the sea are also popular places to find white perch.
They're most active and most easily caught during their spawning season. This takes place between the months of April and June. They can also be readily found in September, October and November, though they aren't as active as during their spawning season months.
The rod and reel setup you'll need for catching white perch is very similar to what you would need for yellow perch. In fact, you could probably use the same setup for both types of fish. White perch respond best to lightweight spinning rods and reels. The perfect rod length seems to be between six and seven feet. Bait-casting reels can be used, as well, but we definitely don't recommend them for beginners.
White perch tend to stay closer to shore or docks, so a long casting range isn't particularly important, but if you prefer long casting setups, that's not a problem. The line for white perch is lighter in weight than that used for yellow perch. We prefer to use somewhere between a four- to eight-pound line. Braided or mono both work fine.
The types of bait used for white perch are also similar to those you would use for yellow perch. The best possible bait is live bait, of course. Fish are just like every other animal in that way; the real thing is just better than a substitute for attracting them.
Also like yellow perch, white perch have small mouths, so your bait will need to be small. The best options are night crawlers, blood worms, leeches, crawfish, shrimp and other, smaller fish.
Other bait options include jigs, spinners and soft plastic lures. Buck-tail jigs, hair jigs and jigging spoons are all perfectly fine options. Be sure, though, if you're using jigs that you use the right variance when it comes to cadence. Each jig has its own rhythm; it's up to you to find the perfect one for your lure.
If you're using soft plastics, try to find something that looks a lot like whatever the white perch are feeding on at that particular time. If you're an experienced fisherman, you've probably heard the phrase "match the hatch." That's what you need to do when fishing with soft plastics.
For those of you who haven't heard the phrase, match the hatch simply refers to matching your lures to whatever happens to be hatching at the time. Smaller fish like white and yellow perch often feed on the young of whatever species is currently hatching, so if your lure matches whatever that happens to be, you'll be successful.
If spinners are more your thing, you'll have the best luck with Mepps or rooster tail spinners. The method for fishing with spinners is different than the methods of fishing with any other type of bait. When using spinners, cast it out and begin a hasty retrieval the moment the spinner hits the water.
The perfect hook size for white perch is either a five or six. Keep in mind that a white perch has a small mouth. If you pick a hook that's too large, the white perch will simply eat around the hook, taking your bait but missing your hook entirely.
Like yellow perch, you can also fish for white perch in the winter months when the water is frozen. If you're fishing for white perch through ice, you'll use many of the same techniques listed above both for water fishing for white perch and ice fishing for yellow perch. Here are a few other things you should know.
In the winter months, white perch typically feed on small bait fish and plankton, both of which can be found in smaller ponds, which makes smaller ponds the best places to fish for white perch. You can find white perch in larger ponds and lakes in the winter months, but it's harder.
This is because white perch are nomads. They travel around a lot, following the bait fish, the changing water temperatures and fishing patterns. If you're trying to fish for white perch in large bodies of water in the winter, the most important thing you can do for yourself is figure out what they're eating. If you can determine their food source and track it, you'll be able to locate the fish themselves.
We recommend starting in water about 30 feet deep. If you're unsuccessful at this level, you'll want to move into shallower waters. If you're fishing in water that doesn't reach 30-foot levels, start at the deepest point in the water and move into shallower waters until you have some luck. It's important to start in the deepest parts because white perch like to frequent steep drop-offs, basins and inside turns.
White perch are more mobile than yellow perch, so if you're ice fishing for them, you don't want to bring a lot of gear along with you. The fish can move off in a moment's time, and you want to be able to jump up and follow them quickly when they do. You can't do this if you're lugging around a ton of equipment; pack lightly for a white perch fishing trip.
This also extends to shelters. If you plan on using a hut of any kind, you'll want to make sure it's easily transportable so you can move it around as often and as quickly as you need.
Other than that, ice fishing for white perch is very similar to ice fishing for yellow perch.
Now that you know all the tips and tricks, go out and catch yourself some perch!