Tim Jacklin's Specimen River Perch Fishing Guide
I'm delighted that Tim agreed to share his river perch fishing experiences gained over the last 25 years. Tim is quick to give credit to the anglers who passed on key information and tactics to him. As well as this being another example of what a good guy he is, it also proves that this information can be picked up and used with GREAT success. Just check out Tim's gallery of big perch from his favourite rivers below...
Also see the "Rigs" sections for diagrams to help you reproduce Tim's results for yourself.
3lb 11oz River Perch caught on a trotted worm
What's so good about perch anyway?
Richard Walker famously described perch as ‘the biggest fish of all’ which seems a bit odd for a fish which has a maximum weight of around 6lbs (2.7kg), but as with a lot of things in life it comes down to expectations. Perch figure prominently in many anglers’ early experiences because small ones are abundant, very obliging and not particularly tackle-shy.
As anglers we quickly become conditioned to see perch as small, so if and when we do encounter a big one, maybe 15 to 20 times bigger than the norm, that pit-of-the-stomach excitement is guaranteed. Given their rarity, it’s impossible to become accustomed to catching big perch, so that excitement never wanes.
How I caught the river perch fishing bug
Often that first encounter with a big perch is a fluke. It certainly was for me, about twenty-five years ago on the River Trent near Nottingham. Lure fishing for pike with a heavy baitcaster outfit and a classic Shakespeare Big-S silver plug, I landed a 2¾lb perch. Hopelessly outgunned by the tackle, there was no chance of a memorable battle but the jaw-dropping proportions of that fish compared to any perch I’d ever seen before opened my eyes to what was possible. Here's that fish...
Catching the bug 25 years ago...
Being on my doorstep, the Trent was the obvious place to continue and my perch fishing has been centred on this river and its tributaries in the intervening years. I’m not an expert by any means and my fishing has been heavily influenced by the writings of others, in particular Archie Braddock, veteran Trent angler and true angling innovator.
Tim's Top 4 River Perch Fishing Methods
A word on Lures
My first steps towards catching big perch by design were using lures. Following in Archie’s footsteps, my mate Ian and I tried spinning with Veltic bar-spoons with moderate success, catching fish to about 1½lb.
The problem was these lures had to be fished s-l-o-w-l-y close to the river bed to be successful and that meant a lot were lost to snags (this is before braided lines and jig hooks hit the UK scene!). This meant we probably didn’t fully commit to fishing the lures properly which likely limited our results.
A few years later I did try the Veltics again in a different part of the Trent resulting in a new PB of 3lb 2oz (photograph below). Although out of fashion, Veltics are still a cracking lure in the right circumstances. However, MOST of this article is about river perch fishing using bait...
A 3lb 2oz River Perch on a Veltic Spoon - A new PB at the time!
Before we get to that, though, I need to mention the advent of the light lure fishing boom. I started to experiment with these methods and got some great tips from another thinking angler, Eric Weight, via his blog.
I now countdrop-shotting and small shads (2 – 3”) as very effective perch fishing methods.
It's particularly suited to a mobile approach (obviously) and to short sessions.
3lb on the nose: Drop shot rig and small shad
Best 3 Bait Methods for Specimen River Perch Fishing Success
A few years later, the next development in my perch fishing involved two quite different methods. The first, again influenced by Archie, was his livebait paternoster with a short hooklink and long bomb link.
The paternoster approach is great in the warmer months on venues which have a decent head of silver fish.
Start by float-fishing for the silvers and building up a swim which undoubtedly attracts predators, then drop in the paternoster rig.
Often the take is instant and I have had the line pulled from my fingers before I can get it in the indicator clip on several occasions.
** Never delay the strike as the perch wolf the bait down headfirst **
I use Archie’s ‘hair rig’ with size 16 baitholder bent over to avoid hook-ups and a size 8 barbless main hook; the ‘hair’ is simply an extension of the 10lb nylon hooklink (see "rigs" section below).
A 2lb 13oz Specimen Perch which took a roach livebait
MONSTER 4lb 2oz perch on a roach livebait/running paternoster rig "Serious Face" time!
The second method was simply trotting a lobworm under a loafer float and covering lots of ground. This came about after spotting some decent perch close-in in clear water. A roving approach was great fun, produced some nice perch (and chub) and identified a number of good swims.
3lb 6oz on trotted worm: With the centrepin trotting reel and rod "tools of the trade"
Three and a half pounds of perch-angler's happiness courtesy of the trotted worm
Laying On with a worm
Initially I adopted a trotting approach in late summer, but continued it into the winter when it evolved into fishing one or two swims in a more static manner, using a baitdropper to introduce chopped worm and maggots then laying-on or edging the bait through over-depth (see rigs section below).
I had essentially discovered for myself the winter method that Archie has described in his writings.
3lb 9oz Result of "Laid-on" Worm Tactics (see rigs section)
Movember doesn't get in the way of big perch (3lb 2oz) when laying on with the worm
River Perch Fishing Rigs
Here are the main rigs to match to the methods described already. There's a separate article on Drop Shotting for Perch coming soon...
Archie Braddock Paternoster/Hair-rig Livebait Rig:
Close down the bait-holder hook with your pliers. The single (size 10) exposed hook is barbless - easily shed if a pike bites it off.
Veltic Spoon Rig:
You should always use a wire trace with treble hooks (if a pike bites you off, trebles can seal its throat shut)
Trotted Worm Rig (crystal loafer float):
Laying On/Over-depth (Avon Float Example):
“Perch-holding” features & habits in rivers
Where to find perch in rivers varies with the season:
They are mobile and actively hunting their prey. At this time they can be found insurprisingly fast and shallow water, so don’t ignore the pacey glides at the expense of more conventional ‘Mr Crabtree’ spots; if there are prey fish in these areas, the perch won’t be far behind.
In the winter months...
Cover is important and perch will inhabit areas with overhanging trees, marginal vegetation, man-made structures (boat moorings, marinas, bridges) andgenerally deeper, slower water. Prey fish will tightly shoal in the winter, so finding and targeting these areas are is a big help.
Time of day can be critical to success, particularly in the winter when the last hour before dusk is definitely the key time; I don’t know about dawn because I’m not a morning person!
In the summer it seems to be less important and I have caught at various times. Anglers far better than me have reported that the best summer feeding time is mid-afternoon (Archie, River Trent) or that dawn is critical (Tony Miles, Great Ouse); I guess it may be dependent on the venue, or there may be an element of self-fulfilling prophesy. The only way to find out is experiment!
Tim's Favourite River Perch Fishing Venues
Most lowland rivers with a decent head of prey are worth a go for perch...
Look out for venues that produce good silver fish catches (via match reports, tackle shop advice, etc.), rivers where minnows are abundant and/or those with signal crayfish.
The majority of my river perch fishing has been on the Trent and its tributaries, but I’ve also had success on the Witham and fen drains in Lincolnshire (covering water is the key here!) and the Great Ouse.
Rivers like the Great Ouse, Thames and Trent have a reputation for big perch, but you don’t have to follow the crowds – if your local river fits the bill, give it a go and you could be pleasantly surprised!
Links to Resources Tim has used to inform his river perch fishing
Archie Braddock Tactics: Click Here
Eric Weight Blog: Click Here
Don't forget to share this article with folks you know who might need a little help with their river perch fishing!
WORMS. I'VE yet to find a better bait for perch than the humble worm. The only problem is that they can be too good, and on venues with a lot of other fish it can be impossible to get through to the perch. On rivers in particular, though, worms reign supreme.
The best spots for big yellow perch may be inshore near shallow breaks or in water as deep as 30ft / 9m, but most gather near underwater structures such as rocks, weed beds or channels.
Perch fishing is usually best in the early morning or evening hours during late spring and early summer and late afternoon or evening in late summer. In autumn, both morning and late afternoon-evening provide excellent fishing. In the natural lakes, the best fishing is usually from late summer until late fall.
How To Tie a Simple Perch Rig - Feeder or Ledger - YouTube
How to specifically target large perch. - YouTube
Perch eat crustaceans, fish eggs, juvenile fish, insects, invertebrates, and larvae. Perch are carnivores that hunt other animals for food. Adult perch are opportunistic hunters that usually feed on whatever tiny living creatures they can find and catch.
During late spring and early summer, early morning and early evening hours are best. During late summer, late afternoon and evening is best. In autumn, the best times are morning, and late afternoon evening. During the winter, the low light of late afternoon-evening is good.
They are commonly found near features such as overhanging trees, woodwork in the water, rush beds, inlets and outlets. Sport can be especially good when the rivers are up and coloured, as this tends to push perch into the margins where they can be present in large numbers.
Perch typically respond well to bright colors like white and chartreuse, but they may also bite more natural brown and green tones that imitate crayfish and other prey.
Use a smaller #6 or #4 for 1-2″ minnows and small leeches to target Perch and Crappie. Use the medium size #4 & #2 on larger 3-4″ minnows and jumbo leeches for Walleye. Lastly, the 1/0 is great with larger 4-6″ minnows used to target Pike and Bass.
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.
Use lures in the 6cm-9cm range, as these are ideal for perch, and pay attention to the diving depth of the lure. The bigger the vane on the front of the lure, the deeper it will dive. By far the best shape of crankbait for perch is a short, stumpy body that produces a really fast wiggle action.
The best size circle hook to use for perch is size 4 to 6. The circle hooks should be snelled and with a wide gape, and are usually best for live bait (minnows). Circle hooks come with the advantage of rarely resulting in a deep hooked fish, and essentially result in the fish hooking itself.
Another method for finding perch is to troll a small worm tipped spinner rig with a bottom bouncer until you catch some. After you locate them, it's time to anchor up and do a little vertical fishing. Small jigs and jigging spoons tipped with leeches, chunks of night crawlers or minnows seem to work best.
How To Hook Live Bait - YouTube
Lure and Jig Fishing for Perch
It many situations, it's also an effective way to target larger yellow perch rather than small individuals. A wide range of lures and jigs can be effective, and the key is often to use much smaller lures than one would typically use for bass or walleye.
Big perch thrive on neglect, so it pays to search every part of the river you may be targeting, watercraft is key. Look for deep, slow-moving parts of the river, snaggy overhangs, bridges, locks. Keep an eye on the river too, look for shoals of bait fish, if you can pinpoint them, predators won't be far away.
Perch aren't big on scent. Things like the size of your lure and sometimes color will be much more important. Maggots, mealworms, minnows, even perch eyes will all work.
Fishing For Big Perch - A New PB - YouTube