Late Season Perch Fishing

During the final weeks of the season it is probably easier to catch a big river perch than at any other time. Why? Because location is easier and feeding times are predictable.

Big perch are nomadic in summer, as eager to swim in the fastest current as haunt the deepest eddy as they seek out shoals of prey fish. In winter they will invariably be found in quieter water and this means swim choice is much easier.

If you can find an area of steady water below a bend with features like rushes, overhanging bushes or better still a fallen tree branch, chances are a big perch will be nearby. Ignore the swirling eddies, seek out areas where the flow is sedate close-in and picking up pace as you work a little further out. Depth isn’t too important. I’ve caught big perch in less than a couple of feet of water from right next to the margin rushes but four to eight feet is better.

Big perch tend to shoal in swims like this and whereas you may need to adopt a mobile approach in summer, taking a fish here and a fish there, multiple catches of big perch may be taken from one swim in winter.

Unlike many river species, perch don’t appear to like coloured water. When levels are high and the river is carrying sediment I suspect their gills become irritated and they can be near impossible to tempt, which is strange in some ways because experience shows that winter perch are more likely to be caught during the last hour of daylight or on those gloomy, dull days when it never really gets light.

One reason why the same old anglers catch really big perch in winter is because they are the only ones who are determined and sit it out until the magic hour. I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve sat with a dry net until late afternoon watched the feint hearted pack up and leave, one-by-one Sometimes the final car has hardly left the car park before I bend into my first lump of the day.

It’s not easy to stick it out on bitter cold days, especially when you’ve been on the river since daybreak, and that’s why I normally have a lie-in on the days when I target winter perch. There is little point in rising early and thrashing the water to foam only to lose interest when you need to be completely focussed.

Bob’s fish friendly camo big perch rigBig summer perch are invariably predatorial but that tends to change in winter. They become far more omnivorous and will readily take maggots and worms. If I’m restricted to just one bait at this stage of the season I will plump for worms every time. Lob worms are perfect should you intend to leger or lay-on with a float, but it’s not easy to search around a steady swim with a lobby unless you use a fairly hefty float. It’s much easier to use a decent sized dendrabaena on the hook and work the whole swim, searching for that illusive pocket of fish.

Float fishing allows you to impart movement of the bait in a way that is simply not possible with a leger. I never just cast out and let the float swing round. Instead I keep working it, lifting the worm six inches and allowing it to flutter down enticingly, drawing it back towards me in jerky pulls, inching the bait sideways and constantly altering depths from hard on the bottom to just off.

Although my main feed will be chopped worm with a few casters, introduced a little way short of the crease, I’ll work the whole swim with my float, anywhere from underneath my feet, alongside any nearside features and out to the point where the main current kicks in. Sometimes I’ll trot at the full speed of the current and then slowly edge the bait back towards me along the margin.

Worm’s are one of the best perch baits aroundThe key to success is to keep searching, to work hard and not lose heart. On one memorable gloomy March afternoon, Archie Braddock and I sat no more than ten yards apart on the Derbyshire Derwent and shared a catch of five perch. We pulled out of a couple more and also had a couple of double figure pike, all on float fished worms. Those five perch weighed over fourteen pounds between them and included three over the magical three-pound barrier. Pretty good going by northern standards.

So, stick it out to the bitter end and you could well be rewarded with a personal best perch.

Five Tips

1. Make sure everything is prepared, have spare hooks tied and ready as you approach the magic hour

2. Step up the hook link and hook size if there are serious snags about

3. Keep working the bait because you can provoke a perch into snapping at it.

4. Search the whole swim until you locate a fish and then concentrate on the area

5. Big perch are deceptively powerful and the swims you need to fish can be quite snaggy. I regard 3lb hooklinks as the absolute minimum and will frequently fish with 5lb line straight through to the hook.


Five Big Perch Rivers

1. River Derwent, Derbyshire

2. River Trent, Nottinghamshire

3. River Thames, Oxon

4. Upper Great Ouse, Bucks

5. River Stour, Hants

Big perch are among the most attractive fish in Britains rivers


  1. jim

    Dec 16, 2008

    can anyone please tell me what if any is the current perch record?i was recently fishing for perch at kingston upon thames and landed a perch of 7lb 5oz.on 5lb line and a size 10hook.i caught the perch on a whole lobworm.and soaked cotton wool in predator blood.i used fox digical scales and was shocked to see it tip over 7lb.yours jim new malden surrey.

  2. ben

    Dec 18, 2008

    Jim, drop me an email I work for the angling times and can tell you all about the current records etc and would love to see a picture of the said perch.

  3. jim

    Dec 18, 2008

    i recently sent a photo of the big perch to the angling times so you should recive the photo very shortly.jim.

  4. simon

    Dec 23, 2008

    Jim please please please post your photo of this perch so we can all see it

  5. Ceiron

    May 21, 2009

    What’s the best bait for perch?

  6. Rob

    May 30, 2009

    The best bait is undoubtably a whole lobworm.
    I fish the Llangollen canal very frequently with whole lobworm and once the magic hour arrives perch seem to go beserk.
    I must say that winter months are graet for large specimen perch, but, im a fan of late august at dusk having landed perch of 3lbs+

  7. madchris

    Sep 08, 2009

    where is this elusive photo!!!???

  8. Matt in Belgium

    Dec 08, 2009

    Hi guys… wonderfull pics of Perch, iam a Carper but trying my luck at Perch fishing when the going is tuff, living in Belgium now and miss the UK’s best Perch rivers, here they are also big but very hard to find and difficult to catch,and not in every river, i would like someone to kindly post some photos of there rigs please so i can try some new ways and see where iam going wrong, i have for the moment only tried float, but maybe i missing important info, Matt Hayes video is awesome and have yet to try leger,whats your thought on spoons and spinners ?

  9. HektikKeef

    Dec 18, 2009

    Small spoons and spinners are a great way of finding elusive fish in my opinipon, especially when trolled from a rowing boat. And makes a great way to spend summer afternoons- although this is i distant thought in the depths of Winter. And I have caught perch on some really big lures before when fishing for pike, although smaller lures are best.

  10. david dickson

    Dec 21, 2009

    send me cold perch caching tip.s

  11. david dickson

    Dec 21, 2009

    are scotish perch just the same as other ie bait

  12. Matt in Belgium

    Dec 23, 2009

    thanx for the info…..another question… will a small 8g Toby work….i lost mine years ago and a picture in my book with same spoon with a nice size perch…. where can i get this old Toby…it was just metal colour with two red fins….only the new classic pack from Abu exists but not the same …

  13. Manu Ahmed

    Dec 26, 2010

    Hi Guyss im having some real trouble in finding big perch any tips?

    • Jgh

      Jul 19, 2011

      in the river stour, blandford, poplar trees, they go over 4lb. long worm and wait

  14. Stewart210874

    Mar 18, 2012

    Thanks, very useful information.
    I found a magical perch fishing place only 1hr 30min walk from my front door in Scotland.
    Only yesterday me and a friend caught  30 perch between the 2 of us in 3hrs fishing. The largest was over 3lb. We were ledgering  so successfully that it felt like the perch weren’t giving us a rest.
    It was a great day out.


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