Golden perch might not have the prowess and cult following that their bigger cousins the Murray cod have, but they are way more common, regularly encountered, targeted more, caught more and most importantly, they are more widely spread around the country.
I'm all about the adrenalin rush of sportfishing and promote and practice catch and release with all the natives that I catch. These magnificent and often prolific little natives go great on the plate as well. More often, this is why most people target them. Add to this the fact that golden perch are a schooling fish and when the right strategy or technique is used on the right day, you can catch massive numbers. Days with 50+ fish are more than possible.
It's easy to see that if you don't already specifically target them, then you have been missing out on a heap of fun. Golden perch fishing has become very popular all over the country. This is largely due to the tournament scene where golden perch now make up the most targeted species in freshwater tournament fishing - something many bass anglers said would never happen.
My love of golden perch started way before the tournament scene came along, but once it did I went and fished a bunch of these competitions. I was lucky enough to have won a lot of them. Here's a heap of helpful hints, tips and tricks that helped me to win as well as land crazy numbers of these golden delights. These tactics should help you be more confident and catch golden perch more regularly, no matter where you fish around the country.
Having had several golden perch in a massive aquarium at home for many years, I took great interest in their habits and moods to help me become a better angler. One of the standout things I noticed about golden perch was that when it came to feeding, they really only liked to hit and eat bait like yabbies or worms as they were sinking to the bottom, either as you put a yabby in or when it would kick and then free fall back to the bottom.
Around 90% of the time, if the bait got their attention but didn't get eaten or hit on the drop, they would hover right over the top of it for up to ten seconds then they would quickly lose interest. This alone is one of the main reasons that hopping lures works so well.
I made another key observation of my pet golden perch when I added baitfish of any description to the tank. I did my own tests and would make sure my goldens were as full as possible before the release of my baitfish, but even when full, the goldens knew if any of the released bait fish were wounded or dying and these sick or injured baitfish would be devoured as soon as they were released into the tank. The fit and healthy baitfish were left alone until the goldens became really hungry again.
It was with these observations in mind that I sought out the right lures and then employed some retrieval strategies to help replicate what I observed and catch more golden perch in the big water. What I wanted from the lures and the way I worked them was to try and replicate either a fleeing yabby or shrimp or a dying baitfish. Whichever of these they take it for, it is a natural instinct of predatory fish like golden perch to eat anything that is dying or fleeing, whether the fish is full or not. I have caught countless fish over the years that are that full they have food items hanging out of their mouths and they still tried to eat my lure, due to exploiting these fishes' natural instinct.
Having a good quality sounder can save you time locating, but it is not essential for success. I have never owned and still don't own a good quality sounder but I never struggle to catch golden perch. I go off the topography of the land above the water and reflect on my own experiences and observations to help me to choose the right area. I then find the fish with my lures while fishing. These days if you have a good quality sounder and you know how to read it then, you don't have to go off the method that I use. You can just sound around until you find fish then employ the techniques I'm about to explain.
The technique of hopping lures for golden perch or any predatory species can be as simple or as difficult as you like. If the fish are really on, a simple 50-100cm lift and drop that replicates a dying or fleeing baitfish, yabby or shrimp will catch fish, whether you keep in touch with your lure or not. On tough days there are a few things you need to do right to get fish to the boat. Honestly, if you don't get it just right, you won't catch fish. If you get it right, often on those 'tough days' anglers around you can be catching nothing while you catch a fish almost every cast.
Searching for golden perch on any new day or a new session, I start by sitting my boat in about 30-35ft of water. I cast to the bank and hop my lure back out to right under the boat to try and find where the most fish are holding. Some days they spread out from the bank all the way to 35ft of water, whereas on other days they will be concentrated at one particular depth.
I have found that year round the fish sitting close to the bank are quite active and are there for a reason - to feed. They actually seek out anything that looks like food, so the first few hops from the bank I like to make quite aggressive. Big and high hops get any active fish's attention that hasn't already seen it on the initial drop. I generally only let the lure sit for a split second on those first few hops and then as I get further out from the bank I start to pause the lure just a little bit longer between each hop.
The fish that are holding in deeper water are often a little less active and can take a little more work to get them to bite. So after the first few large hops close to the edge, it pays to make your hops smaller and less aggressive the further you get from the bank until you get the lure directly under your boat. Don't give up on it once it's under the boat, whether you can see fish on the sounder or not. Quite often after 20 or more small, gentle hops under the boat, a golden perch that was following or showing interest won't handle the hopping lure in its face anymore.