When I was about thirteen my local newsagents/toy store got in some fishing gear and displayed it in the front window. There was only a couple of rods and some reels and a bit of tackle. At this stage, I had never fished or had any inclination to do so. I passed that shop a few times every day and for some reason I was drawn to the fishing gear. I remember it was all Shakespeare tackle which was pretty good stuff!
Sometime later that summer I went fishing for the first time with a few friends, we had only one rod and reel between us and a minnow net. Only one of the lads had fished before, the lad who had the gear gave me a few feet of mono, a hook, and either a nut or a washer for a weight. I attached the line to the end of the cane from the minnow net. I think we used worms as bait and amazingly I managed to catch a few perch up to five or six ounces. I remember thinking what gorgeous looking creatures they were, with their proud spikey dorsal and red fins. From that day on I was well and truly hooked and soon got my own rod and reel. Looking back now, I was really lucky to catch those fish. We just happened to fish in the best perch hole in the lake, right beside the sluice gate on the dam wall with lots of structure and shade. It was just meant to be, anywhere else on that lake with that gear, we would not have caught a thing and might not have gone again.
After being thrown off this lake (owned by a private trout club) a couple of times I started fishing on local canals, which were very hard at first, but after a while we started to catch some good perch under bridges and at locks. We mostly used worms and minnows as bait, after that we started lure fishing in the Grand Canal and caught many perch up to three pound on two particular lures: mepps minnow (size 1) and ondex (size 3 and 4). Sometime in the 80’s, perch started dwindling in numbers. I am not sure if it was the same perch disease that England suffered at the time but I started fishing for tench, bream, rudd, and the now common roach. I also did a lot of fly-fishing for trout in the Dodder and upper Liffey but there was an inherent love of perch in me and in the last ten years or so I have gotten back in to them big time.
With the advent of soft plastic and jigs it opened up a whole new world, perch started to appear again in numbers in the canals and rivers. I started catching good numbers in the canal between Clondalkin and Robertstown. I was still using Mepps minnows, ondex and voblex but a few Polish anglers seemed to be catching more on strange little rubber fish and shads so I jumped onboard and began to use them myself. After a few months of improvising and trying different presentations I had started to catch very well on them myself.
The two main methods of using these rubber lures are jigging and dropshotting, and there are specialist types of rods, reels, and end tackle for this. I use two different rods: H.T.O ultra lite (0.5-7grms) for dropshotting and a slightly heavier model (3-15grms) for jigging. The reel I use is a Shimano Exage fd1000, these are well-balanced and enjoyable to use. On the canals I would use 8lb b.s braid, and on the rivers 12lb b.s or even 15lb. There are plenty of good brands: H.T.O, Savage Gear, Shimano, Fox, etc. I like to use bright yellow braid because you can see it enter the water and with winds and drifts sometimes you can’t keep a tight line but you can see bites watching the line which sometimes you don’t feel. At times if a perch takes and comes at you, you can get a drop back effect, if this happens reel in the slack and strike in one smooth action. I would use 6lb b.s fluro with the 8lb braid, any heavier braid can cause more resistance and lessen the sensitivity with light lures which could result in a lot of missed fish you didn’t even know were there. On the river, I would up the braid to 12lb or even 15lb depending on how snaggy or deep it is and up the fluro to 8 or 10lb b.s.
For jigging I would use a 4ft leader and the following lures with confidence: Mikado twisters, Savage Gear mini sand eels and slugs, Daiwa Tournament minnows, and Fish Action lures. There are also some great crayfish lures which work well on jig and dropshot. There is no set rule for how fast or slow to jig these lures or what weight jig-heads to use but a general rule would be to work it very slow when cold, bouncing it off the bottom and speeding it up a bit when temperature rise. In the canals, I use a 1g jig-head in the warmer weather and 2g in the winter, maybe 3g if flowing strongly and a bit coloured. My favourite lure size would be between 2-3 inches.
In the colder months, when the perch are shoaled up tight, this is when dropshotting really comes into its own. The fact that you can keep your lure in the zone for much longer than any spinner or jig is a massive plus. I recall fishing the barrow one day (very bright and cold) and struggled to catch a few perch on worm or maggot, over a bed of chopped worm and caster (which in itself is a deadly method for perch). I then decided to try a bit of dropshotting using both lures and live worms. I fished in the exact same spot and caught about thirty lovely perch one after the other (see picture of perch in net head). That wasn’t the only time this has happened. I normally wouldn’t use a keep net for perch but they were shoaled up very tight and I had anglers both upstream and downstream of me and if I put them straight back in they probably would have moved up or down and I would have lost them. When dropshotting, I have found no right or wrong way as regard to how fast you move, or don’t move your bait. I have caught both holding it in the one place and moving the lure and weight in short movements. You just have to gauge it on the day. The weight itself stirs up the bottom and often attracts fish and sometimes the perch attack the weight itself.
As with jigging, I have some favourite lures: Daiwa d-tails, Savage Gear mini slugs, and 3D bleak, Fish Action attractor shads, various crayfish and creature lures. There is literally thousands of different ones, the American range is huge and any crappy or bass lure will work. But just find a few different lures in different colours between 1.5 and 3 inches that you have confidence in and stick with them, trying the odd new one every now and again. I also use live worms quite a bit and they are very effective, just cut the ends off to release some juices and dropshot the same way. One thing I have noticed is I tend to hook up with more on the lures than the worms which they just break up or take off the hook.
On the canals in particular I have found that the perch don’t follow the rules associated with them, i.e. bridges, structure, etc. In the summer they’re definitely there but in the winter I have found they tend to be at bends, turning bays, large decaying weed bays and for some reason electricity wires running across the canal. Also if fishing an unknown stretch, look out for Dabchicks (little grebes) as they feed on small fry, just like the perch. Marinas and boat yards are also big draws.
One last thing, which colour to use and when?
In clear water, use natural perch, roach, and bleak patterns or brown-ish motor oil types. In coloured water, use black, white, or line green fluro lures and even pinks. Time-wise, late afternoon to dark are best in winter and mornings are good in summer.
I always keep an eye on what American bass anglers are using and the latest fad is a thing called the ned rig which I reckon the perch will love. Basically, it is an umbrella shaped rig with a hook attached and a worm type lure. The effect you get is a little fish feeding in an upright fashion and you bounce it around, I look forward to trying it.
Rig for dropshotting
Four foot of fluro, with hook tied in middle using a palomar knot. You can adjust the weight between two foot and six inches from bottom using clip-on dropshot weights. For the canal, I usually use 3 or 5g weights either column shaped or round. You can even use splitshot. A 1 lb perch or 3 lb pike really fight well on this gear, so go on give it a try, it’s great fun!