Filling Up the Larder
It’s easy when white perch practically jump into your cooler
I was going fishing. Not just any fishing mind you, but fishing of the most fundamental kind. No flies, lures, plugs, spinner baits, fancy casting, clever approaches or studied presentations. Just plain old-fashioned worm fishing with one rod, two hooks and a sinker.
The past two months I had worn myself ragged with early-morning and late-evening sorties, casting plugs and crankbaits for rockfish in the shallows. Success was slight compared to the effort expended.
I needed to relax and get back in touch with a gentler form of the art. And I wanted to begin laying up a supply of white perch in my freezer. A good perch fry is an antidote to winter’s cold, rainy, snowy days.
Live-lining still reigns for keeper rockfish, with trolling soft plastics and small bucktails a decent second. Podickery, the Gum Thickets, False Channel and the Hill are the most mentioned hot spots. Bluefish are still roaming the Bay despite the recent cold snap, so chumming remains chancy. It attracts scads of the smaller blues that savage baits and rarely hook up.
Ducks: thru Oct. 20
Sleeping in past 9am was delicious. A relaxed breakfast and a casual preparation, plus a run to the local sports store for bloodworms and a few minnows (just in case), further delayed my start. Finally, just before noon, I got my boat launched. White perch are not prejudiced against late risers and lazy preparation.
Cruising up the nearest river, I looked for marks on my sonar along the edge of the channels. Seeing few, I reminded myself that if the fish were hugging the bottom, as white perch usually do, they often don’t read well on the finder.
So I picked an edge in 15 to 20 feet of water that I remembered had a good, hard shell bottom, put a couple of pieces of worm on the No. 2 hooks on my wire hi-lo rig, bent on a one-ounce sinker and dropped the ungainly affair over the side. The rhythmic bouncing of the weight off the oyster shells was comfortably hypnotic as I drifted with a mild, incoming tide and a gentle breeze. Until a sudden tug.
Giving my rod a flick to set the hook, I was rewarded with a nice stout resistance that increased as I worked the fish up off the bottom. When it neared the boat, I saw the source of the deep bend in my rod: a double.
Two fat 10-inch perch are not a bad way to start the day. Hoisting the flashing duo over the side and onto the deck, I reached for the small damp towel I had readied. Carefully avoiding their needle sharp spines, I got them unbuttoned and on ice.
Continuing my drift, I soon got another nice perch. Then another. I experimented with letting a hooked fish fight on the bottom to attract another to the second hook. I eventually abandoned the technique, as it resulted in losing the fish I had on as often as in getting an additional hook up. Next I tried using a minnow on the upper hook to attract bigger perch. That had mixed results as well.
I have broad 10-inch strips of red tape on my gunnels to aid in culling the little guys out. If a perch wasn’t very close to the length of the tape, back it went. After a half-dozen or so fish were in the cooler, I realized I was into a good bite and raised the minimum size to a bit past full length of the cull strip. My pile of perch continued to grow as marked spots in my drift where the larger fish seemed to be holding. Then some 11-plus-inchers began coming over the side.
With some two-dozen black-backed fatties in my box, I had about as many as I wanted to clean, plus at least a few great dinners. It was about 3 o’clock, and I was feeling pretty pleased with myself.