The white perch is the bane of anglers and fisheries managers because they are not native to South Carolina, and they push out other, more desirable species. As a result, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources stripped the white perch of its gamefish status last year, allowing anglers to keep an unlimited number of them with no size restrictions.

On Lake Wateree, white bass has virtually been eliminated, reportedly by the aggressive behavior, feeding habits and reproductive prowess of the white perch. Anglers are finding schools of white perch while fishing for largemouth bass, stripers, and crappie, causing concern among many that the white bass isn't the only fish being misplaced by the white perch.

Robert Munn of Lugoff has been crappie fishing on Lake Wateree for decades, and he has seen a decline in crappie numbers and said he can't go crappie fishing now without catching some white perch. Some days, he catches more white perch than crappie. When that happens, he goes with the flow. While he'd rather catch crappie, he said catching white perch isn't so bad.

 

"I keep every white perch I catch now that they removed the limit," Munn said. "They are fun to catch, easy to filet and good to eat. And it makes no sense to throw them back, knowing that they are hurting populations of other fish."

 

And catching them, said Munn, couldn't be easier. "Simple electronics can help you locate brush piles, and white perch love brush piles. And if you're crappie fishing on Lake Wateree, you will catch some perch."

 

Munn said he catches most of his white perch on live minnows and crappie jigs. He uses old-fashioned cane poles, and sets the depth of his bait 2 to 3 feet above the brush piles he locates on his depth finder. "If I find a brush pile 15 feet deep, I'll set one cane pole at 13 feet and one at 12 feet, and I'll adjust my depth until I start catching them," he said.

 

Lynchburg's Steve Lowder has similar feelings about the white perch. While his favorite quarry is largemouth bass, he finds the white perch worthy of pursuing, especially when his son Jackson is with him.

 

Like Munn, the Lowders catch white perch around brush piles, but they also catch them along drop-offs and ledges. And spoons are their preferred lures.

 

"I just find brush piles, ditches and drop-offs on my depthfinder, and we drop green spoons and silver spoons straight down, then jerk them up and down," Lowder said.

 

Known as "perch jerking," this yo-yoing technique can be just as effective for white perch as using live bait.

 

On a recent Wateree outing, the Lowders caught dozens of white perch, and kept several of the bigger ones which were about 16 inches long and on their way to the filet table.