For many anglers, estuary perch (or EPs as they are often known) are something of an enigma – a kind of ghost of the estuary. While similar and even identical in many ways to their better known cousins, the Australian bass, they possess their own quirks that set them apart. Indeed, they are different from bass, at least from a scientific point of view, however they have been known to hybridise. Ranging from around Tweed Heads in northern NSW to the Murray River in South Australia (with pockets also found in northern Tasmania) they have a similar range to bass and will often turn up during a bass session and vice versa.
Specifically targeting perch requires a bit of know how, but there is a lot of overlap with bass fishing regarding equipment and techniques.
The first thing to remember is that estuary perch, as their name suggests, prefer to inhabit the estuary. Anywhere from the tidal freshwater reaches and down to the mouth is prime real estate for these guys, but on occasion they will push above rapids and into flowing freshwater.
Perch will spawn during the cooler months, just like bass, and often in the same areas. In NSW the bass closed season (May 1 to August 31) includes perch as well. While there is no closure in Victoria or SA, most EP fans tend to avoid chasing them when they are breeding, which in this area is usually early spring.
Targeting structures such as fallen trees, undercut banks, rocks walls, pontoons, boat hulls and weed beds is a good way to find perch in the warmer months. Sometimes they will form schools in deeper water, which is where a good sounder comes in handy.
Arming yourself with a variety of presentations you’d be happy throwing at bream or bass is a good starting point. Some notable EP takers include ZMan Grubz Soft Plastics, Ecogear ZX Series Blade 40mm, Atomic Hardz Crank 38mm Deep, and even topwater lures such as the Tiemco Soft Shell Cicada.
Perch have large eyes for their size, meaning they aren’t forgiving of sloppy presentation. For this reason, it’s important to fish with thin diameter braid and light fluorocarbon leaders in the 4-6lb range. Fluorocarbons such as Berkley Vanish Fluorocarbon Clear Leader and Wilson FC Shock Leader Fluorocarbon are suitable for EP leaders.
Fishing for estuary perch will turn up a lot of interesting by-catch, such as bass, bream, flathead, trevally, and a host of other estuary predators. Just like bass and bream fishing, part of the excitement is the scenic places it takes you, and cruising along the bank of a tidal river and peppering casts into the shady pockets can be a very calming experience.
Don’t knock back EPs as a sportfish. While they may seem like the Australian bass’s shy and slightly misshapen relative, they are themselves a worthy adversary for anyone who likes light tackle estuary fishing!
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