Targeting Estuary Perch

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It is that time of year again that the estuary perch and bass start moving up our river systems after their spawn run.

To target estuary perch you first must know what you are looking for as the bass are often mixed in with the estuary perch at this time of year.  There has been many times where I could not decipher whether I had caught a bass or an estuary perch.  Some of the key differences you should familiarise yourself with are:

  1. The estuary perch have a slightly larger mouth and more scooped forehead.
  2. The perch also have a slight dip in the bridge of the forehead where the bass have a longer tapered snout & concave in shape.
  3. Bass have white fingers on the ventral and anal fin where a Perch tend to be dark throughout.
  4. Estuary perch spend most of their time in the salt and brackish water, very rarely entering the fresh.  Bass will spend most of their time in the freshwater and come down to the brackish to spawn.
  5. The estuary perch has smaller scales than a bass.

Bass or Estuary Perch?

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Where should you look?

First of all before you start to fish for Estuary Perch it is important to know that there is a closed season from June to August inclusive in rivers and estuaries.  This is because like the bass they spawn this time of year.

The bag limit is only one over 35cm and 2 in total or 4 in possession.

They are found anywhere from the Richmond river in northern NSW, as far west as the Murray River in South Australia and as far south as the Arthur & Anson Rivers in Tasmania.

Depending on the time of the year you are targeting estuary perch will have a big influence on where you find them in the river system.  Through the summer months they will be spread out throughout the system and as it approaches their spawn run you will find they are looking for more salinity so they are likely to be heading towards the lower reaches of a river system.

Perch are renowned for sitting on snags such as sunken trees.  They are school fish and it is not uncommon to pull 20 odd fish off the one snag.  Other area’s to look for are deeper holes usually towards river bends and creek mouths, bridge pylons, rock walls and rock bars.  You will find them on the sounder usually all stacked up.

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It’s not always a rule but I have also found in faster moving water when you are targeting rock walls or bridge pylons that the tide has played a role.  I prefer to target Estuary Perch on the lull of the tide.  So when the tide has stopped or slowed ready to change I have found a better success rate.

Lure Choice

I don’t think there is one particular lure that works best.  The other week we catching them on 100mm Squidgy White Lighting Shad on ¼ ounce jig heads.  It amazed me that they would take such a large lure but in the right feed mode I don’t think it matters.

Usually my go to lure would be the Squidgy 80mm Bloodworm or Wasabi Wriggler.  I have also caught them on the Squidgy Lobby. The jig head I would match it with would be either a 1/16th or 1/8th in weight.

As you can see I do prefer soft plastics to target “EP’s” but that’s not to say you can’t target them on blades and hard bodies.  I have just caught them more consistently on plastics.

The retrieve is important.  You will find when you are lifting and pausing a soft plastic you can get a short tap as if they are either tasting the lure or trying to move it out of its territory.  If you find you are getting a number of small taps start slow rolling the lure.  They will come and grab it nearly every time.

If fishing from a boat or kayak it is a good idea to sit down current from them and cast up current bringing your lure back through the school.  If you start catching them and your intention is to release them catch your limit then move off the school and release them.  As with bass when released they go tell their mates what just happened and the bite can stop.

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Hardware

They can certainly fight hard to try and pull you back into their snag/home but if you keep the pressure on, you are normally successful in landing them.

I like to fish 10lb Daiwa Tournament PE .  You may think that is overkill but  I use it on all my reels these days as it has a really thin diameter and is much like using 3lb braid but you know you have the strength to back you up.  I also like to use 4lb or 6lb Daiwa Brave fluorocarbon leader on a Daiwa Freems 2500 reel.  Team this up with the Daiwa Black Generation rod, Drunknmonkey that is 6/10” Fast Action and you can throw 0.5 – 4 grams.  Although it is only rated 1-2kg it has become my favourite rod catching a lot of great fish on it.

You have all the information now go and put it into practice and start catching those estuary perch.  You won’t be disappointed they are a lot of fun.

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