When talking about EPs even my closest fishing buddies call me sneaky, deceitful, and swampy, and for good reason. Actually they call me a lot worse and I love it! You see, it's all about finding the perch, catching the hell out of them and not saying where. Then share photos with dodgy background clues!
It's simply all about close mates having a bit of fun. There are no real secrets in the fishing world these days and I'm sure everyone has heard or experienced plenty about perch so I won't waste time telling you what you already know. I won't bother talking about lures or techniques either. In this article I'm going to explore perch in a new, maybe even deeper way and pose a few questions to think about.
Here's the thing; the more I catch and the closer I get to EPs, the more they confuse and totally bewilder me. In fact, for someone who has caught so many perch, I'm still in the dark! I thought I knew it all, but 'EP' stands for more than what you think.
The hardest thing about being a perch angler is locating them. For a species so easy to trick on lures they counteract this by being highly mobile. There are times when they are completely shut down like bream or their close cousins the bass, but this is pretty rare. Generally when you find EPs they'll be willing to bite more than most species we know. However, they will totally refuse lures if they get barraged and see too many of them.
You don't need skill to trick a perch, but I challenge you just to find them. EPs can be caught from the ocean entrance right up to the first fresh waterfalls. In fact I've even caught EP well above these barriers, right up into tannin water. Just as I celebrate a bass capture, a big estuary perch stares back at me. EPs have even been caught by anglers surf fishing the beach, sometimes not even close to an estuary mouth.
There's the single greatest perch conundrum: where to find them. I can already hear some of you say, "That's easy! I know where they live." Get ready for a shock, because those perch are going to hurt you one day. I've seen perch completely disappear from snags and sections of rivers or creeks where they once lived in big numbers - even hundreds of fish. But when I say disappear, I mean for good!
And yes there are some areas or snags where they turn up year on year, day after day. As I said, be prepared for a shock. All my keen EP mates have at some stage been wounded. They've told me horror stories of not catching a single perch in the usual hotspots for months on end and declaring them impossible to find, overfished or even worse - dead and netted! Sometimes they eventually reappear for no apparent reason. In other areas they seem to be gone forever.
One thing I know for sure about perch, they can travel enormous distances between estuaries. Just like sheep they will follow each other right down to the very last individual. EP tagging and recaptures have backed this up with perch travelling enormous distances across open ocean.
In a way these mass migrations are a good thing. It means they can also turn up when you least expect it. Just recently I was targeting and catching some ripper flathead to 64cm near Wilsons Promontory, way out in open estuary water. I also caught a couple of pinkie snapper and even a flounder on a lure. Happy with my bag, I was ready to head home when a fish twice plucked but missed my soft plastic lure.
Alarm bells rang in my head and I smelled EPs in the air! I quickly changed to a blade lure and searched deeper into the channel I was near. Another two flathead turned up. As the tide rose I stuck to my instincts and kept looking with my best EP searching tool, large blade lures. Bingo - I found them! Big perch were everywhere and nearly all of them 38-45cm.
What a shock and a mind-blowing new surprise find. Better still I've been back three times now and caught plenty more. There's an example of perch turning up for the first time ever in an area I've fished for over 15 years, with no snags or fish-holding structure in sight.
Even better, on my second trip I landed nine big perch to 45cm on surface lures in the dark! On my third visit I scored 15 EPs again all on surface lures and in the early morning. This time I got it all on film. It was the best surface action on perch I've had in many years. See what I mean? These fish are full of surprises.
Years ago most people were totally unaware of perch living on their doorstep. These days a heap of lure anglers now pursue and are very successful in catching big numbers. It's pretty simple really. With the ever-increasing number of bream being chased on lures, EPs were always going to turn up as a by-catch. In fact, perch are at least 10 times easier to catch on lures than cranky bream!
As I've mentioned, most secrets are now well and truly in the past. In the early days I know most of us kept a lid on the whole deal because we knew how vulnerable they can be to overfishing. Now it seems everyone using lures in estuaries is at least aware of perch if not chasing them on a regular basis.
I've seen the huge growth of perch fishing in the Glenelg River over the last five years or so and some very savvy anglers are now also well aware of the spectacular sport there using surface lures. A more recent development has been the many EPs caught in Westernport Bay, Patterson Lakes and even the Yarra or Maribyrnong rivers. The biggest impact I've seen over the last ten years to the best EP areas I fish, is an ever-growing army of anglers chasing them.
The increasing and constant angling pressure on these fish can really shut them down. I admit in the early days I learnt the hard way and excitedly returned to newfound EP waters every day I could. Eventually those fish totally shut down or even disappeared all together. The water was sometimes crystal clear and I could see the perch reject lures or