Winter Urban Perch Fishing Tips and Tactics
(England, United Kingdom)
By Bertrand Ngim, Ph.D. | February, 2016
Call it jetstream induced weather swings or whatever you want because mundane weather is essentially part of everyday life for anglers in gloomy England, United Kingdom (UK).
In this latest instalment, let us run through some useful tips and tactics for urban perch in winter conditions which in my opinion are also relevant and applicable to bass fishing under similar conditions. Though winter fishing may not be everyone’s cup of tea, hit the water at the right time, it is one of the best seasons to catch jumbo perch in urban canals. So, do not let gloomy weather dampen your spirits, gear up and check out the following five useful tips.
Where to find urban jumbos
From an angling perspective, unlike rivers and lakes, the seasonal movement patterns of perch in those primarily shallow, urban waters do not seem to be affected by winter conditions in any major way. Whatever the weather throws up, urban perch are pretty much attuned to living in intimidating urban water conditions. Though perch can be caught all year round on baits and techniques that I use for bass under similar conditions, late winter typically marks the start of the prespawn period and is THE season for quality bites.
Unlike schooling juveniles, jumbo perch are mostly isolated, solitary fish and that means they are very tough to find in the primarily featureless urban canals. In order to efficiently cover water and find the best concentrations of fish, I look for areas with hints of access to deeper water, for instance indentations, breaks, boat channels or any irregularities
Timing is everything
Water clarity is an important factor in urban fishing. When seasonal rains intensify, bank runoffs carry sediments into the canals and that affects shallow water areas in a more profound way than they do in areas with deeper water.
Winters in UK are often plagued by persistent rains from late fall to early summer. Rains can literally go on for days. So, you can expect lots of runoff that can muddy and alter the water chemistry of entire canals, causing fish to stop biting for days or weeks if the temperature drops. Cold muddy water is usually tough but not all muddy water conditions are bad. For instance, if you can see your lure 6” under the water, that is not really muddy to a perch. One such instance is snowmelt runoff produced from melting snow due to rising air temperature. Snowmelt runoff produces oxygen-rich conditions that fire baitfish up and gets perch in a feeding mood. However, the window of opportunity for quality bites is short. As you can see, timing is everything. Hit the water at the right time, action is very likely to follow.
Key baits and pattern
A finesse spinnerbait is always my first choice for soggy, winter weather urban perch fishing. Rain is usually followed by falling barometer which makes perch more inclined to feed and chase. Darkened skies and wind-blown ripples that reduce light penetration also encourage perch to move to shallower, open water, resulting in a much enlarged strike zone.
To fish shallow water in steady rain in winter, I use a 1/8 or 1/4-oz single-bladed spinnerbait. I use willow blade, which has less lift, when I am running the lure along the bottom. In urban waters with baitfish-dominant forage base, I use a small paddle tail swimbait as trailer to give the spinnerbait a slight wiggle action and some extra vibration.
I keep color selection simple. For instance, I use trailer colors different from my spinnerbait. Although my color choices may look unnatural, I believe two-tone colors increases hook up ratio in stained conditions. I switch to more natural colors in areas with clearer water. I bomb long casts and let the bait to fall all the way to the bottom and work it with a slow retrieve. The key to getting strikes in cold water is to fish slowly and cover water as fast as possible.
To fish deeper water in windy conditions, I use a small lipless crankbait. In my opinion, it is one of the best lures for perch in cold, clear water. I cast the bait long and let it fall all the way to the bottom. There are various ways to fish a lipless crankbait. Depending on water conditions, I rip the bait high above the water column and let it freefall and then repeat the process. This is an aggressive presentation that works well when the wind is blowing hard.
My typical spinnerbait setup for perch starts with a Palms Elua Molla MGC-66M2F, ‘Searcher Fast Moving’ power-finesse rod, which is a 6’-6”, medium power rated stick capable of handling light to finesse baits. The rod comes with factory-fitted micro guides for added sensitivity and power. I pair that with a Daiwa Alphas 103 baitcasting reel with 5.8:1 gear ratio.
My line of choice for finesse spinnerbaits is either 8lb or 10lb test Sunline Siglon 100% Fluorocarbon. I have tried finesse spinnerbaits with everything from monofilament to braid before finally settling with fluorocarbon. I never use anything bigger than 10lb test fluorocarbon for perch. Fluorocarbon line lets finesse spinnerbaits sink well, has good sensitivity, less stretch and holds up really well in winter conditions. Good quality fluorocarbon lines will last months without having to change.
Winter in UK is a predominantly cold, soggy and windy period that is plagued by persistent rains, cold fronts and ever changing, adverse weather. In fact, heavy snow with the right runoff conditions that sets up critical snowmelt bite is actually pretty uncommon. More so, the window of opportunity for quality bites is often short and only lasts a couple of hours. Therefore, it is imperative that you fish at the right areas at the right time. Urban perch fishing in UK is flat-out tough but a positive attitude can make a world of difference.
Regardless where I fish, I love adverse conditions because it takes half of the competition off the water. I have always caught jumbo perch in adverse winter conditions where others would simply call it a day. Just like the effects of intense heat and humidity in Malaysia’s tropical rainforest climate where I grew up, the effects of intense cold and wind on the human body breaks concentration. Wherever you hail from, if you go into a cold, soggy winter’s day well geared and with a great attitude, you will be years ahead of other anglers.
Be sure to check out those urban canals on your next vacation to UK. Thank you for reading and I hope you find this article interesting. Stay tuned for the latest news and exciting articles on theBBZ. Feel free to leave your comments below.