Picture this; you’re facing new water in a foreign country with conditions you barely have time to fully understand, plus you’ve got no other options but to fish on the bank. If you think this sounds familiar, we’re talking about Western Europe in the 21st century, where most anglers don’t have shiny new rigs or even johnboats, so to speak.
Well, I can tell you that I’ve been in that situation far too many times, especially when I’m fishing with friends in Western European countries where boat ownership and operation costs are several folds of that in the States, combine that with the ‘medieval’ marine regulations, you end up with shoreline fishing being the only viable option for many anglers. But, that hasn’t stopped the ‘true anglers’ from coming up with alternative ways to catch fish, as we shall see.
In this short feature, let me share with you the story of my day at Port of Hamburg in Northern Germany, a region otherwise known as the jumbo perch factory of Western Europe. Armed with only two setups, a bag of lures and that all-important local knowledge (courtesy of my host Dustin Elbangler), let’s see how we pulled off the ‘bank’ job in this northerly country as we go bass fishing for the native European perch (Perca fluviatilis).
Big water, big fish
From my perspective as a bank angler, perch fishing in Port of Hamburg’s big water is a whole new game to me. Unlike fishing in the structures jammed inner port boundaries, just where do you even start when you’re on the banks in the big water tributaries? I’m sure that you’ve heard of the saying: “big water, big fish”. Though such claims can be downright fictional in some places, the statement holds true for the brackish waters in Hamburg. To catch that jumbo perch, just like bass fishing, you have to figure out where they’re most actively feeding are along the vast water column because during certain times of the year, they can be found in water of mere 6” to depths of more than 60’. And just like bass fishing, establishing a pattern is a priority but that’s often not so straightforward in the sport of perch fishing.
For me, I’ve never been exposed to perch fishing in conditions of this scale and magnitude in England. In fact, any bank angler will tell you that finding fish in areas which lack structure and cover is never always easy. Unfortunately, this is a big disadvantage for most shore anglers because without a graph or topography map, one’s essentially fishing blind. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that boaters with the latest fish finders will always have the upper hand. Case in point, if you happen to be shore bound in big water, just how do you eliminate unproductive waters effectively? Now, this is when you need that all important local knowledge.
As a perch enthusiast living in England, I’ve never been exposed to brackish water with such diverse conditions as those in Hamburg. In fact, Port of Hamburg is essentially a delta system which consists of both natural and manmade waterways. In terms of surface area, it is a massive place, which is why as a non-local you need more than fishing skills to get to the fish holding waters. Without local knowledge, you’ll most probably have to spend days or even weeks just to get to know the place. In all, it’s a great place to fish, only if you know where and when to hit a spot at the correct tide phase. But, perch in Port of Hamburg move so fast, we’re talking about minute by minute movements and you have to be precisely at the right spot at precisely the correct time.
On that occasion, I’ve literally had my work cut out thanks to my friend and Hamburg native Dustin Elbangler. Even with the aid of his knowledge, I didn’t find the fishing there any easy. In fact, despite its immensity, Port of Hamburg receives very high fishing pressure and local anglers are very secretive of their own honey holes. Ironically, it’s also a place where you often hear these two words in the angling conversation, ‘finesse’ and ‘grind’.
The finesse grind
Perch fishing in Hamburg, Germany is all about grinding with finesse bottom contact baits. In fact, this is one of the most reliable techniques and it works all year, with the likes of the finesse jigs, dropshot and Texas-rigged soft plastics being some of the most sought after and commonly used baits by shoreline perch anglers. As for me, I prefer a Texas-rigged finesse worm above anything else when I’m fishing in unfamiliar waters. It’s the one bait I’ll never leave home without if I’m perch fishing in new water. On that occasion, I’ve had tremendous results on the Texas-rigged Tournament Series Squirmin’ Worm 4” by Bass Pro Shops.
But, due to the lack of structure and visible cover out in big water, we could only rely on best guess when it comes to making those long casts. In that, snagging was all part of the game and there’s nothing you can do to prevent that if you’re fishing with light lines on the bank. On that occasion, I was using 8 and 10lb test Sunline Basic FC fluorocarbon line just for that added insurance only because jumbo perch are hard fighters in deep water. Unlike bass, perch can’t jump but a jumbo perch can really put your finesse tackle to the test. Despite losing countless amounts of tungsten sinkers, we were keying in on the right spots where we found nothing but jumbo perch. Over here in Western Europe, it’s customary for anglers to measure the length of the fish as opposed to weighing it. Perch measuring more than 40cm (16”) unofficially qualifies a ‘jumbo’.
‘Bank’ on it
Wherever you fish on the planet, each body of water will have its own nuances and you should gear up according to the situation. Unfortunately, if you’re a bank angler, there’re no shortcuts around that. Finally, just because you don’t own a shiny rig doesn’t mean that you can’t find big fish to catch. Until next time, fish hard, fish well and god bless.
I would like to thank Mr. Bill Siemantel at theBBZ for giving me the opportunity to present to you this short feature about jumbo perch fishing in Northern Germany’s Port of Hamburg.
About the author
Bertrand Ngim, Ph.D., is freelance writer and international columnist for SA Bass (South Africa) and Rod&Line (Malaysia), Lurevision (Shanghai, China) and mechanical engineer by profession. He is also a field staff for Sunline and Majorcraft (UK and Ireland) and TCE Sports Daiwa (South East Asia). He has published more than 60 feature length articles in various sport angling magazines in countries such as South Africa, Malaysia, England, France and China.