How to Catch Big Perch in the UK: Tackle, Tactics and Tips

Big Perch Time

Come the autumn and the first fall of leaves my thoughts and fishing turn away from the summer species and I go into winter mode. Big perch are one of my targets at this time of year, along with chub and barbel on the rivers.

Perch fishing tends to be an overlooked branch of our sport. I know perch do not grow as big as carp or have the macho status of a big grinning pike with a mouthful of teeth but the truth of the matter is that the perch is probably more important than the pike in keeping small fish populations down. And big perch are now far more common than they used to be.

Predator Perch - Big and Bold!

3lb 11ozs of pure perch aggression
3lb 11ozs of pure perch aggression

One advantage of the ever-growing number of commercial carp fisheries is that they usually contain good numbers of small roach, rudd and bream – making them a good environment for perch to grow big and fast. And seeing as the majority of anglers have tunnel-vision and are obsessed with carp, the perch are often totally un-fished for.

Another advantage is that perch are shoal fish. So if you catch a perch there’s a very good chance there will be others about and multiple catches are very possible. On a cold or wet winter's day, a bag of half a dozen big perch can provide a welcome day's sport.

When the rivers are like this a days stillwater perch fishing can be an attractive option.
When the rivers are like this a days stillwater perch fishing can be an attractive option.

 An added bonus at this time of year is that the banks are far less crowded because the carp anglers fishing them are predominantly summertime anglers. It’s often possible to have an entire fishery to yourself – especially if you fish midweek.

Baits for Big Perch

Despite the fact that perch will take most baits, I tend to fish with baits that are more selective, as the last thing I want is to spend the day catching ‘accidental’ carp or being plagued by small roach.

As perch are predatory, and the waters filled with small fish, that means fishing with their natural diet—small fish. That’s not to say that fishing with maggots will not work. I’ve had several 3lbs+ perch just fishing the margins with a short pole and keeping a steady trickle of maggots going in. But after the 150th or so small roach the attraction starts to wear off and it becomes a war of attrition, wading through the small fish until the perch finally moves in and takes the bait. Although, just to add to the fun there’s always the chance of a carp mooching along and taking the bait!

So I tend to fish with either live or dead fish, or alternatively with lobworms, adopting a specimen-fishing approach that allows me the luxury of sitting back, relaxing and watching the water and the wildlife.

I used to think that perch would not look at deadbaits, but recent experiences over the last couple of years have shown that in the waters I fish they are just as likely to pick up a freshly killed deadbait as a live fish and other anglers I have spoken to say the same. But I think this is something that may vary from water to water so it’s worth experimenting.

It’s a relatively minor point, but if the water temperature is very low and the fish reluctant to feed then I personally feel a deadbait offers more chance of a pick up from the perch as there’s less effort involved for the perch in chasing it.

But if the perch are active then I’ve no doubts at all that the actions of a small tethered livebait, swimming erratically in circles around the line, will arouse the attack instinct in any roving or prowling perch and induce a take.

Other baits that are worth trying are luncheon meat, cockles, prawns and shrimps. Perch are willing to try most baits at some time and will often snap at a bait that has been moved.

If the fishery rules allow for it, there is also the option of using spinners, plugs and artificial flies.

A good perch comes to the net.
A good perch comes to the net.

Perch Fishing Tackle

Let’s face it; perch are not the largest of fish – a 2lb fish being a good fish and anything 3lbs+ being a very good fish. Fortunately perch of these sizes are now becoming more common and are likely to come from almost any fishery that has perch in. Tackle for perch fishing has to match the quarry to get any sport out of fishing for them.

This is not a case for powerful rods and big pit reels. I use Avon type rods with a test curve of about 1lb, coupled with a pair of medium sized fixed spool reels filled with 6lb line. These are more than adequate for casting out a small roach thirty to forty yards or alternately just dropping it into the margins, alongside reed or lily beds.

Bite detection is via a pair of buzzers coupled up to small drop off indicators I made myself or alternately some bobbins mounted on lead core line. I prefer the drop off indicators as I fish the reels with the bale arm open and the line under light tension in the clip.

I could fish baitrunner type reels but I honestly feel that, even set at minimum tension, there’s too much tension on the line for perch.

Moving onto the end tackle, I use a straight running ledger rig for deadbaits and a sunken float paternoster rig for live baits. The ledger rig uses a large bore run ring and bead to minimise resistance on the take coupled with a backstop about three feet above the ledger stop to provide a bolt rig effect that will stop the perch taking the bait down too deeply.

The sunken float paternoster rig likewise uses a large bore run ring and bead. I find a ledger of about an ounce to one and a half ounces the best size – heavy enough to anchor the bait and sink the float. The sunken float acts as both an aid to keep the bait up off the bottom and active and also as a backstop to give the bolt effect and stop the perch gorging the bait.

The Sunken Float Paternoster Rig

For both float and ledger I use fine wire size 1 crab hooks which are lightweight and wide gape hooks. Using wide-gape hooks makes sure the point is not smothered by the bait and improves the hook up rate. I prefer the lighter gauge hooks as they do not tire the bait fish out so quickly.

Whether I’m using live or dead baits for perch, I hook the bait in the same position—in the back between the dorsal fin and the tail. I find putting the hook in this position reduces the chances of the perch taking the hook down too far. Plus in the case of live baits it means the bait will tend to swim away from the main line rather than tangle with it.

As far as bites go you can expect anything from fast runs to drop back bites. Because the perch tend to swallow the bait quickly it’s necessary to sit fairly tight to the rods and be ready to strike quickly to avoid deep hooking the perch. I’d rather miss the bite than hook the fish too deeply.

The other type of bite you can expect is the sneaky one. The run starts and then apparently stops. Often this is not the case. The perch has picked the bait up and instead of running away from you - or towards you giving a drop back bite – it is running parallel to the bank. The only way you’ll realise this is to watch the line and see if the angle of the line is changing. Hit this type of bite quickly as the perch has been on the bait longer than you think and you don’t want to deep hook the fish.

The Prowla float I use for perch
The Prowla float I use for perch
The complete perch float rig - sunken float with running paternoster.
The complete perch float rig - sunken float with running paternoster.
The drop off indicator.The clip is set very light so the perch can easily pull the line out of the clip.
The drop off indicator.The clip is set very light so the perch can easily pull the line out of the clip.
A Close up of the business end of the rig showing the lead link running on the mainline between the stop and the fixed float.
A Close up of the business end of the rig showing the lead link running on the mainline between the stop and the fixed float.

Hot Perch Tackle Tip

Speaking of sunken floats (or subfloats as they are also known) here’s a hot tip for you if you are having problems finding floats of the right size. Pop round to the pike section of your tackle shop and look for livebait lifters – in particular Greys Prowlas. They’re basically a float with a removable stem. The line goes through the middle of the float and is locked in place by the stem, which has an open eye at the base through which the line can be wound a couple of times, and a rubber sleeve which fits over the stem. What’s really handy is they come in a range of sizes. If you want to convert them to a sliding float then a piece of rigid rig tube can be substituted for the stem.

My first trial with these floats resulted in five perch – one small one of 1lb 8ozs, three 2lb+ fish and a whopping 3lb 15oz perch. For a moment I thought I’d caught my first four-pounder as the scales read 4lb 1oz for a second or two and then settled back onto 3lb 15oz!

Big Perch Location

A lot is written on perch location but I’ll keep it simple – if it’s wet you’re in with a chance. A lot depends on the time of the year as big perch do tend to move to deeper water during the colder part of the year. But even during this part of the year I’ve had them from as close as right under my feet in eighteen inches of water using the top three of my pole to right out in the middle -40 plus yards away in twelve feet of water. Even on the same day!

Obviously there are going to be hotspot areas to try. Anywhere there is bank-side cover, whether it is an overhanging tree or bush, reeds or lily beds. But don’t be afraid to try open water as perch can cover a lot of water on the prowl for food.

A sexy looking corner of a perch water that just cried out 'fish me'.
A sexy looking corner of a perch water that just cried out 'fish me'.

Big Perch Fishing Video

Back to the depths.
Back to the depths.

So when that cold weather comes around and the carp go off the feed why not get some lighter gear out and fish for ‘old stripey’ - the sergeant major - perch. It’s a nice light-hearted type of specimen fishing with no ‘arms race’ to see who can cast the furthest or afford the best bait boat or latest flavour boilie.

Who knows you might even get to like it!

Tight Lines.

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Comments 19 comments

ted 4 years ago

great read think im going to try it this weekend


johnny 4 years ago

nice read, i love this style of fishing. big perch are stunning. Its finding the venue that's half the fight

Ross 4 years ago

great article, i love fishing for perch on my local river derwent in derby and theres some 3 & 4 pounders in there with my name on them, but im sruggling to find still waters with big perch. what's the best aproach? jus find a heavy stocked pond/lake with no pike and hope for the best? i've tried using the internet and talkin to anglers to try and locate some waters with even 1lb+ perch nobody seems to know. what did you do to find big perch venues? is it posible for big perch to exist amongst a large head of pike? there a still water near my home with a rediculous amount of small rudd and roach to the point where fish are stuggling to grow and I'm trying to convince them to stock a pack of decent sized perch to sort it out as a pike would eventually destroy the stock. my current pb is 2lb 10oz and i hope to break it this year

Piscator profile image

Piscator 4 years ago from Maidstone, Kent Author

Hi Ross,

Finding big perch waters can be a problem as they are very much ignored by most people. It's really a case of keeping your eyes and ears open for reports of big perch. I'm lucky as there's a local free fishing paper with catch reports from the local fisheries in.It's a case of trial and error till you strike gold.

But any water with lots of small rudd, roach or gudgeon has to worth a look, even if it has pike as well. You'll just have to use a wire trace if pike are about or risk losing the odd hook on bite offs.

One thing I will say is keep it to yourself if you find a good water. Two reasons:

1. You've done all the work so why share it about with all and sundry.

2. Perch are believe it or not a delicate fish and can't take a lot of angling pressure.

Try the rig in the article and with a bit of luck you'll break that PB and catch your first 3lber Ross.

Ross 4 years ago

Right what your saying all makes sense and thank you for taking the time to reply. im spending abit of time on some bigger lakes at the miniute where the sunken paternoster rig will probably be the beth bet so expect another reply within the next few weeks with my results.

one more thing, what rods do you recommend iv been looking at drennan avon specialists in the 1.25lb tc but i was beggining to think maybe a lighter rod would be more fitting. the thought of lighter takle makes everything seem a lot more fun and enjoyable

Piscator profile image

Piscator 4 years ago from Maidstone, Kent Author

Hi Ross,

Lighter rods make for more sport but it's really a case of finding a rod to suit the waters you're fishing. I use a couple of old tench rods with about a 1lb TC so the Avon specialist ought to be fine. Whatever it needs to have enough backbone to cast a bait, bearing in mind that I've used baits up to 6 inches long. The perch don't seem to have problems with big pike-sized baits so don't be afraid of using large baits.

But bear in mind too that big perch are often found near bankside features such as an overhanging bush or depth dropoff. I've caught big perch in as little as 18inches of water on the top 3 of my pole.

Another option is using a match rod with a small deadbait or lobworm or prawn and a waggler. Just feed the swim regularly with hemp or maggot to attract the roach and get them feeding hard and with a bit of luck the perch will be attracted by the roach and move in to attack sometime. You've got to work at this method but it can be very effective at times. And on the light match rod great sport.

Hope this helps.

mickey 4 years ago

cheers , good read, had not fished for 20 years have a small river around back of house.looked perfect location small trees fallen into water ,so got a cheap rod and reel took a walk around back smashed on double maggots,and strait into a couple of good size perch great little fighters .cant wait to go again .

sean 4 years ago

I thought livebait is illegal?

Piscator profile image

Piscator 4 years ago from Maidstone, Kent Author

Hi Sean,

Rules on livebaiting allow it depending on the viewpoint of the water owner. There are also laws requiring the livebait to be caught from the water being fished on the day of fishing. These are to protect the waters from the chance of disease transfer through livebait. So some clubs allow it - some don't. It also comes down to personal feelings about it.

While I personally would not do it for Pike, I do find that it sorts out the bigger perch, something that is impossible using other baits such as worms, maggots etc.

jon scheres 4 years ago

ledgered minnow is very good.

also canal locks hold large perch but can be problem with passing boats and how high the lock wall is, so a long landing net is definitely needed.

colin 4 years ago

Great article.

My local water has some monster perch to 4lb 15oz. So I have started targeting them after becoming disillusioned with the carp scene. The problem is that live and dead baits are banned on the water and I have tried lob worms and prawns and have caught every other species in the lake as well as perch to a pound. At the moment I am gettin one perch to to roughly 12 fish. I was just wondering if you have any other tips or suggestions to improve my chances? Thanks in advance.

Piscator profile image

Piscator 4 years ago from Maidstone, Kent Author

Hi Colin,

Glad you liked the article. Can't say I blame you for getting disillusioned with the carp scene. I did ten years ago and have had brilliant fishing for other species since with some cracking specimens including the perch. Enjoy your retirement from the rat race!

Going back to your problem, that's a difficult question because big perch are highly predatory. You could maybe try spinning or plugs

or even possibly fly fishing for them but that of course depends on the rules. The only hope I can offer bait-wise is to keep trying the worms and prawns. If you're using small Atlantic prawns you could try using a bigger prawn such as King Prawns. Or try using them unpeeled as a deterrent to other species.

As the weather gets colder the other species you're catching may well become less inclined to take big baits, so they will hopefully become less of a problem.

I hope this helps and good luck with the stripeys. It will all be worthwhile when that first 3 Lbs + perch slides into the net.

Martin Burrett 4 years ago

I fish in the Autumn at Alderwood ponds in west sussex,my best perch was a 4lb 2 oz, and many from 8oz to 3lb 8oz there are plenty of nice specimins in the island pond.The biggest was just over 5lb caught last year maybe a record breaker by now!!!

Piscator profile image

Piscator 4 years ago from Maidstone, Kent Author

Good fish Martin! Keep it up!

sol mccabe 3 years ago

i was fishing on the old river nene i caught a 3pound 8 ounce perch by using another perch that was about 1 pound

Tangled Line 2000 2 years ago


My best is a 4lb perch in a canal. It is right next to the river trent which often floods into the canal. I assume that active perch from a faster flowing river is causing them to fatten up in the slack canal waters.

Also good chub is being taken out of the trent at the moment

Piscator profile image

Piscator 2 years ago from Maidstone, Kent Author

Nice Fish!

nigel 22 months ago

where i live there is an unfished lake containing all species .it has a good number of small perch the lake is cramed with weed and has loads of fry in it but also has a good head of pike.i have been told there are good perch in there but i cant seem to catch anything over 4 or 5 ounces.any ideas on how to find the bigger ones also should i use a wire trace in case of hooking a pike

big fishy foxy 13 months ago

hi i just wanted to put a small coment down on paper telling all your readers past present and future that the hints tips advice and so on featured in this article are top notch!!!! i read these pages hoping that i might find a little bit of help but it turns out that pretty much all of the information here is awsome and will help even the newest of young or old anglers to put one or two of those specimen stripeys on the bank!!?? because as we all know tuning up at your local fishery and chucking in a very crued basic un plumbed rig with a couple maggots or whatever u might be using that day on the hook and lobbing it out anywhere can put a fish or two on the bank for anybody! because as we know perch are a very greedy fast biting teritorial fish and not to mention oppertunistic at that indeed!!!! but after reading this information i decided to go out the next day and see just how good the advice might be or how useful !? at my local fishery it may be?? in fact im going tomorrow for a very short session through the later part of the afternoon and i will send in a picture or two and a little bit of info letting u know what tips or hints u sugested trying that i used to catch my perch on this short session ok? it probably wont be very many options or results i will use this time as im not going for more than 5 hours and can only implement a few sugestions in this space of time!! but will surely try all of ur sugestions and advice out over the coming weeks and months as im primarely a big carp hunter {if i can catch one that is} lol! but as they are not feeding so predominantly this time of year that i will try my best to put a new P.B on the bank this coming autumn and winter season as my favourite 3 fisherys hold massive heads or shoals of greedy stripey sergeants and i might as well see just how preductive these few fisherys can and will be!!?? thanx again for the help and tight lines everyone!!!??

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