The Great Perch Search (words and images by Mark Gercovich)

Last September, some of Victoria’s most experienced estuary perch fishers helped Fisheries Victoria collect estuary perch brood fish from the Hopkins River and these fish were used to breed and stock 7,000 estuary perch fingerlings into Lake Bolac. This year fisheries repeated and expanded this exercise to acquire more brood stock with the aim of stocking a further five lakes with these fine sportfish.

The Great Perch Search was held on the 7th 8th and 9th of September. The aim was for a team of anglers based at both the Hopkins and the Glenelg Rivers to capture  “running ripe” estuary perch both females and males. These were then going to be transported by plane to Narooma Aquaculture to act as brood stock for a new generation of stocked perch. Perch have been notoriously hard to transport and line fishing/air transport has proved to be the most efficient way. 

Of course the best laid plans are often greeted with distain by mother nature and this certainly was the situation confronted by the “Perch Search team”. Anglers were confronted with storm force winds on day one as well as rivers in flood with anything from 3-6m of freshwater on top of the salt wedge. Tournament anglers will  be well aware of the disappointment of how often a good bream turns into a non scoring perch on tourney days. Seeing this time we were targeting perch we were sure to catch plenty of bream and mulloway. Fortunately, perhaps amazingly, this proved not to be the case with perch comprising a major percentage of all the boats captures.

However by the end of day 2 sufficient suitable fish had been captured and when the conditions improved on day 3 and the fish came on, it allowed for the Fisheries scientist to select the prime specimens for transportation to the hatchery. The perch all arrived safely after their flight and fertilization will hopefully take place during the week.  Most of the perch were taken by anglers fishing vibration style lures just below the halocline in around 4m of water. A few fish were still caught on plastics off the bank despite the dirty water on the surface. The multitude of fish shown holding in the deeper water proved to be unresponsive.

A big thanks to Daiwa who provided some lures to the anglers as well as a rod and reel for the biggest perch for the weekend. This was a close fought affair with a number of prime breeding females between 40 and 43cm being taken. This 3 year project has been funded from revenue from the sale of Recreational Fishing Licences and through the State Government’s Recreational Fishing Initiative. Hopefully in a few years to come we will be enjoying an exciting new sports fishery in Western Victoria due to Fisheries Victoria’s foresight  and the efforts of the “Perch Search”  team.

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