White perch, the renegade cousin of striped and white bass are known for being overly prolific and have infiltrated most major reservoirs in North Carolina. Rather than singing the blues, anglers targeting cold-water crappie can make minor adjustments to load up on the massive schools of tasty perch.
Among North Carolina reservoirs, Norman, Wylie, Badin, Tillery, Kerr, Gaston, Jordan, Falls of the Neuse, Shearon Harris and Waccamaw have populations of white perch worthy of addressing. Greg Griffin of Greggofish Guide Service has lead many clients to overflowing coolers on Shearon Harris Lake, as well as quite a few 2-pounders. He offers these tips for bringing home the groceries.
· Find the bait to find perch. “As the shad go, so go the perch,” said Griffin (919-434-4183). “Once the water temperature drops into the low 40s and gets close to the temperature where threadfin shad start dying off, around 43 or 44 degrees, shad will drop down to 30 or 40 feet.” Griffin relates that shad can be found with sonar, huddled together in huge schools, often in the river channel of the main body of the lake.
· Use a fine-mesh cast net to catch deep shad for bait. “You can catch perch on minnows,” said Griffin, “but they’re usually smaller. The biggest perch are caught on live or cut shad.” To catch shad between 30 and 40 feet deep, you’ll need a net with a mesh size of a ¼-inch at the most or preferably 3/16-inch. According to Griffin, the smaller mesh catches water like a parachute and keeps the net open longer. “You’ll also need to add an extra length of rope to your cast net,” he said.
· Bait up with cut perch. “White perch love white perch,” Griffin said. If you can’t get shad, you can use minnows, red worms or a Sabiki rig to put smaller perch into boat. Cutting the fillet into small strips or chunks and threading it onto the hook will help anglers trade up to a larger version.
· Three-way rigs and Tru-Turn hooks. “These are two things that have changed the way I fish for white perch,” Griffin said. “I use a 24-inch drop from the three-way rig to a ¼- or ½-ounce bass casting sinker and an 8-inch leader to a No. 2 or No. 4 Tru-Turn panfish hook.” Tru-Turn hooks, he said, have an offset in the shank that causes the hook to turn in the fish’s mouth, more than likely hooking it in the corner than being swallowed. The rig is fished vertically, resting on the bottom with a tight line.
· Artificial alternatives. “Spoons and blade baits like a Silver Buddy will catch average-size perch,” Griffin said. A ¼-ounce size is appropriate for perch, and braided line is a must when vertically jigging in depths of 30 feet or more.