By Mark Gercovich
Estuary Perch are a very enigmatic species, prevalent enlarge numbers in many waterways from South West Victoria right through to past Sydney in NSW, but often elusive due to their interesting habits. They are a highly mobile species moving from freshwater regions to saltwater estuaries, and their preference for eating only live baits makes them not an option for most dead bait soaking anglers. This preference for a moving target is what makes them an exciting target for the modern style lure angler. Messaging with Daiwa’s David Phan the other day about estuary perch, he asked me what seemed a simple question, “What lures do you use for EP?”
In answer to Dave's enquiry of what lures to use are dependent on the season you are fishing as well as a combination of the location and the prevalent conditions. At the time of writing this blog in early spring the local population of estuary perch were schooling up in the lower estuary sections. They do this as part of their spawning journey. At this time they can be targeted using the same techniques you would target bream when they are schooled up in the deeper sections of the estuaries. Soft plastic style lures on heavy 1/8oz jigheads work a treat with the Bait Junkie 2.5 grubs and 2.5 Minnows perfect for the job. They also respond well to small (30-40mm) metal vibration baits. Interestingly even though the fish are there to school up and spawn in the deep we have also been getting fish in the shallows. These perch are feeding in less than 1m of water and Presso Minnows and Bait Junkie 2.5 minnows on 1/12oz to 1/16oz jigheads are the weapons of choice.
After the spawning season the fish travel their way back up river. In the Hopkins River in particular they can be targeted on the rocks bars that temporarily impede their journey upstream. Bouncing hardbodies lures like the TD Spike off the rocks or drifting minnow style soft plastics into the deeper water below the rockbars work well. Another hardbody technique that does work well on perch, even perhaps more so than bream, is trolling.
Perch are more likely to be found suspended higher in the water column than bream which makes them an easier target when trolling. You don’t need to be quite as on the mark when it comes to trolling depth compared to bream, with bibbed lures that have the ability to dive to around 2-3m the best for this style of fishing. The Daiwa Double Clutch and TD Spike are two lures perfect for this job which is also a good way of locating fish on the sounder as you slowly troll along.
Once the perch move back up stream the soft plastic and hardbodies techniques still work when fished around structure or weedbeds, however when conditions are right it is targeting these fish on the surface that delivers the most fun. Optimum surface fishing conditions are smooth calm water. Feeding perch can be easily located, by hearing the “bloop” sound a feeding perch makes or seeing the surface disturbance of feeding fish. These conditions also help them more easily locate the lure. Low light periods around dawn and dusk are obviously the best times, but surface activity can occur anytime particularly on a heavily overcast and muggy day.
There are two ways of targeting topwater perch. Minnow style lures like a Slippery Dog are sometimes what the fish want but when they are feeding on insects match-the-hatch surface lures like Duo Realis Shinmushi can produce insane surface strikes.
Your traditional bream or trout gear is fine for EP luring however 8-12lb leaders can be required when you are fishing adjacent to heavy structure as they can stitch you up pretty quickly if they get their head down and pointed in the right direction. Estuary perch a fantastic fish to target and catch, while often elusive to find and catch, time on the water, and trial an error definitely help maximise an anglers success.