NOW'S THE TIME FOR WHITE...UH.. PERCH!
It happens, you’re out fishing and you catch a fish you identify as a nice sized white perch. A friend comes along and says, oh are the white bass biting? The debate begins- is it a small White Bass or a big White Perch?”. These two fish do cause confusion, so here's a guide on how to recognize White Perch vs. White Bass. Start with the graphic included in this post- a White Perch, with a White Bass beneath it. First note the body shape: White Perch are deepest in front of the dorsal fins. White Bass are deepest at the dorsal fins. OK, that can be a tough one. So look at the body pattern. White Perch don’t have stripes.. That should clarify things for you. The dorsal fins also are telling- White Perch fins erect together, while White Bass fins erect independently. Lastly, White Perch are
smaller than White Bass. There is no question they look similar, and that is because a White Perch isn’t actually a Perch at all, it is a Bass, just like White Bass.
Aside from the physical differences, it’s good to know where they live if you’re going to catch them. As many coastal anglers have learned, White Perch can live in both fresh and saltwater, often found in brackish estuaries and coastal streams. They also can be found in small to medium-sized ponds and lakes. Unlike Perch, White Bass can’t survive in saltwater. They usually stick to clear, cool waters with lots of space and plenty of water over 10 feet deep. They can live in lakes, reservoirs, and ponds, as well as deep pools in rivers. Ideally, you should look for them in bodies of water measuring 300 acres or more. One thing they do have in common is they’re both tasty out of the fryer.
When it comes to winter fishing, especially from Southern New England to Virginia, white perch, yes, a cousin of the striped bass, is a great target. When regulations or conditions put other species on the sideline, White perch are generally plentiful and active. They inhabit most freshwater rivers, streams and creeks that empty into saltwater in the Atlantic coastal region and, oddly enough, only a few fishermen take advantage of this winter resource. My first brush with white perch came in the Delaware River off of Burlington Island. It was the first time as a boy that I had the joy of eating my catch. Since then, I too have only fished them occasionally, but each time has brought a lot of off-season fun, and a good family meal.
Here are some tips to help you enjoy White perch fishing. They do feed at night, so after work is not a bad time to get out and wet the line. Try lighted bridges, piers and docks. They search for food such as shrimp, minnows and worms, and they will move in and out of saltwater and freshwater following the bait. They are opportunistic feeders, and interestingly, temperature seems to impact whether they are in brackish or fresh water as the warmer the water, the more likely they will be in freshwater haunts. As I mentioned, they can be found in landlocked lakes and ponds, the difference in these fish is that they will likely be smaller than those freely moving
between freshwater and brackish.
This is light tackle fishing, the lighter you go, the more fun you will have with these 1 to 2 pound/8 to 12 inch perch. One major characteristic of white perch is that they have small mouths for their size. Obviously this plays a key role in lure selection- small baits are a must. I like to use my ultra-lights, not more than 5-foot, with a small spinning reel and 6-pound test monofilament- or fluorocarbon, if I think the fish are skittish. If I use fluoro, I don’t fill the spool since a lot of places (like docks) don’t require a long cast. Small Jigs and plastics are the most effective lure choices. I use 1/8-ounce jigs with a plastic, 1-inch curly tail added. My jigs are usually white, black or unpainted. I’ve had good success with
chartreuse, white and pink tails. Bucktail jigs are also effective. White Perch usually forage on the bottom, so it’s important to work your lure right along the bottom (vary the weight down or up if you snag or lose contact with the bottom) with an occasional jerk of the rod tip. Most of the time the fish will grab the lure when it is fluttering down after that rod tip pull. Other options include live or artificial minnows (Gulp), spinner baits, spinner-bucktails, small crankbaits, small, fluttering style spoons. Tightlines, Live The Passion, and Bon Appetit.