White perch aren’t just catfish bait at Lake Gaston

Good days will produce up to 100 fish for interested anglers

Boiling summer temperatures can wreak havoc on an angler’s favorite fishery, but at Lake Gaston on the North Carolina-Virginia border, one species unscathed by the scalding water is white perch, which have taken up residence and taken off in numbers.

Guide Zakk Royce of Gasburg, Va., targets this panfish for light-tackle fun and excellent table fair. Although he usually targets perch as one of his favorite summer catfish baits, he admits that catching baiting is more than just a chore — it’s a good time.

While the typical white perch runs about the size of a bluegill or crappie, it’s most closely related to the striped bass and just as spunky. Boating more than 100 in a day’s fishing is fairly normal at Gaston, and fish that run from 1 to 2 pounds are not uncommon.

An angler only needs to know where to look.

“During an average July, without high water, perch will be moved out of the shallows and in big schools on the main lake and in the mouths of the creeks,” said Royce (252-398-7192), who runs Blues Brothers Catfish Guide Service. “The depth will be relative. On the upper end, which is shallower, they’ll be in 10 to 15 feet of water. On the lower end, you’ll find them in 20 to 30 feet.

Guide Zakk Royce loves white perch, especially when he’s catching them to eat and not feed catfish as bait.

“Humps off the main channel are going to be the best bets, but they’ll also be on main-lake points and points in the mouths of the creeks.”

The trick is that perch will often hug the bottom so tightly that they are difficult to pick up on a sonar return. Royce recommends studying a lake map before fishing to find areas to target.

“A lot of times, I’ll start out with a blank screen on my sonar, but after I catch a few, it’ll light up,” Royce said. “They’re a very competitive species, and sometimes leaving a hooked fish on the line will bring in more.

“I use a bottom rig with a 1- to 2-ounce bell sinker tied to the bottom with one or two dropper loops tied above it to No. 4 panfish hooks,” said Royce, “or a Sabiki rig. I like to cut night crawlers into small pieces and thread them onto the hooks, but you can use red wigglers or minnows. Perch aren’t too picky.”

When Royce has difficulty finding perch, he’ll come off anchor and troll the area. Bandit 200 and 300 crankbaits in shad color are his first choice, but he’ll also use Beetle Spins. Two miles per hour is a reasonable speed to cover a ton of water. Although this isn’t the best technique for numbers of fish, it will often yield the biggest.

Dusty Wilson
About Dusty Wilson 239 Articles
Dusty Wilson of Raleigh, N.C., is a lifelong outdoorsman. He is the manager of Tarheel Nursery in Angier and can be followed on his blog at InsideNCFishing.com.