Savannah River perch jerking

PJ Perea of Aiken, SC was fishing with Albert Moody on the Savannah River when he caught this chunky yellow perch. (Picture by Brian Cope)

Yellow perch bite strong in December

One fish that gets little fanfare throughout the Carolinas, the yellow perch, has a strong following among some anglers on the Savannah River and its chain of lakes on the Georgia/South Carolina border.

Albert Moody of Clarks Hill, SC is a big fan of these “other panfish” that many anglers view as a nuisance species.

“They’re a lot of fun to catch, and they are surprisingly good to eat. If most people eat them just once, they’d give this fish their due,” said Moody, who fishes the Savannah River from a pontoon boat within sight of the dam that holds Clarks Hill Lake on the other side of it.

Moody said anglers can catch these fish throughout the year, but the best bite occurs after Thanksgiving.

“The colder it gets, the better the bite. It’s not bad in the fall once the water temperature begins dropping. But come December and into January and February, it can be really good,” he said.

We fished with Moody last year, and while we had a good day, he said it could have been considerably better. The problem, he said, is that it was a bluebird sky day that started off chilly but warmed up nicely. Too nicely for these fish.

“What you really want is a cold, damp, dreary, cloudy day. On those days the yellow perch group up tighter, are easier to find, and the action is fast,” he said.

Light gear, small hooks

This is pretty simple fishing, with light rods and reels. Small minnows on jigheads are great baits, and Moody also catches them on soft plastic grubs on jigheads. Carolina rigs with light bullet weights are also good choices.

Anglers will find yellow perch in a variety of places. Slightly deeper holes in the river, sunken debris, rock piles, docks. If it looks like a good spot for a bream or crappie, you can catch perch there too.

Corks can be helpful, but Moody usually fishes without them.

When the conditions are right and the river’s current isn’t too strong, Moody will cast out and let the boat drift. He slowly – very slowly – reels in as the boat drifts. This allows him to cover a lot of water and different depths and types of structure quickly. When one area produces well, he’ll crank the outboard and pull back up to the beginning of that drift, then do it again.

“This is really an untapped fishery. There’s a few of us around here that love it. But most others think we’re wasting our time. They don’t know what they’re missing,” he said.

About Brian Cope 2653 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at

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