Commercial perch – nomads

I went fishing at the beginning of the week with the hope of making contact with a big commercial fishery perch.

I find these ‘commercial’ perch a really interesting challenge. In many ways they almost seem like a separate species to their clear water cousins. And while locating them in their murky home is key, I’ve found they’re nomadic creatures that often appear in numbers quite suddenly, only to frustratingly disappear almost as quickly as you find them.

The excellent Lake John fishery near Waltham Abbey has some nice perch in the top pool and one cold March afternoon a few years back I fished hard for a few hours, with only a few skimmers and roach to show before, suddenly, I took four perch over a pound-and-a-half in super-quick succession before they vanished.


A local pool that I’ve been targeting over the last year or so has a few resident shoals of perch that, again, seemingly appear from nowhere before disappearing equally as quickly during the course of a session.

After a decent three hour trip, right at the end of 2012 when I tempted two good perch and lost another, I returned for a short session at the beginning of March in conditions I was convinced would see a few fish turn up. Four hours later I returned home with an embarrassing blank to my name.

Commercial perch lake

The perch on this lake have a distinct preference for the current commercial perch bait of choice, the king prawn. While I’ve taken the odd fish on maggot, I’ve only tempted roach on lobworms and the perch definitely favour a juicy, cooked crustacean.

After arriving at 3pm, I started on the wag and mag to see what was around. It was really tough and the wind was still bitter. Chatting to another chap who’d elected to fish the same pool, he revealed that he’d been on the lake all day with just one skimmer to show for his efforts. It wasn’t looking promising.

It took over an hour before a tiny roach made an appearance and by six o’clock I’d managed just a couple more little roach and a pair of skimmers.

I decided to go for broke and began feeding bits of broken prawn, keeping the maggot going in and resting the swim for 15 minutes or so.

By now the wind had at least dropped and most of the other anglers had gone home. I set up my float rig with a size 8 Drennan barbless specimen hook tied direct to the 3.2lbs line and impaled a prawn. It took me completely by surprise when almost immediately the float started rising dramatically before bobbing around restlessly. I resisted striking and soon the yellow tip vanished beneath the water.

I struck into the fish and the rod hooped round. The fight from the fish was strong and bold and it was a nerve-racking affair once that spiky dorsal appeared.

Luckily, it all went according to plan and I was soon staring at a two pound plus perch. I really thought this fish would trouble my personal best, but it came in an ounce short at 2lbs 6ozs – my second perch at this weight from the lake. It was a lovely big fish and I was delighted.

A cracking perch of 2lbs 6ozs
A cracking perch of 2lbs 6ozs

I soon had a bait back in the water and before long the float shot under and I hooked into a second, big perch.

This time the perch made a lunge for some near bank snags, I managed to steer it away and back into the open water when the hook pulled – damn!

And that was almost it. The perch had arrived abruptly and within 15 minutes disappeared again for the rest of the session.

But I fished on optimistically and when the float shot under again an hour later I thought the perch had reappeared. But this time it was obviously a carp that had found the prawn and two minutes into the tussle the hook pulled inexplicably, again.

At that point frustration was beginning to take over. I took a minute, checked the rig and cast out another prawn. Soon after, another sail away bite resulted in the rod taking on an alarming curve and the clutch on my little Drennan float reel being worked overtime as a good carp tore off. A lot of commercial perch anglers bemoan the carp that inevitably find their baits from time to time, but after a long cold winter in which any fish has been hard to come by, I was really enjoying the brutal tussle that ensued.

After well over five and probably nearer ten minutes I netted one of the most striking carp I’ve had in a while. It was an absolutely fin-perfect, golden common that weighed nine and a half pounds and  literally lit up the drab evening.

A perfect golden common carp that took a king prawn at dusk
A perfect golden common carp that took a king prawn at dusk

More autumnal action

With my local rivers still in desperate need of some extra water and the forecast suggesting another unseasonably warm and sunny day, I decided to head over to the wonderful Lake John fishery rather than scratch around on the river.

I fancied the carp would be having a nose around in the sunshine, feeding up before the long winter. I also wanted to try for the venue’s big perch. I’ve found that the bigger perch in the lake don’t really start feeding until dusk, when it’s possible to take four or five in quick succession before they suddenly disappear again.

On arrival, the near bank that I wanted to fish was being battered by a strong wind that would have made float fishing nigh on impossible. So I settled into a quieter bay that has produced some big perch for others in the past, but an area I’ve yet to take a stripy of note from.

I set up a float rod to fish maggots close in and a carp rod to fish ‘sleeper’ style on a buzzer. Despite the warm weather, I wanted to keep things subtle so relied solely on casting small pva bags into likely looking areas.  The rig featured a long hook length with a small, strong hook and it was finished with a little source pellet on a long hair.

It was lovely sitting in the warm sunshine, gently building the margin float swim. I had plenty of roach, skimmers and bream before I hooked something more substantial that forced me to backwind. For a second I dared to imagine a huge perch, but the steady, determined power at the end of my line suggested a decent tench had taken the double red maggot hookbait. I was right. But it was a golden variety of the species that I eventually netted after a good scrap.

As the afternoon drifted by the sun moved across the sky, creeping past the tree that had been partially blocking it from my view. As it cast its warming rays directly into my swim, the bites dried up. Just as I was thinking about a move my alarm burst into life and the baitrunner whizzed as a carp made off with the bait.

After a solid, if unspectacular tussle with what was obviously a good fish, I netted a long silvery gold common carp. She weighed 17lbs 8ozs and was an absolute pearler. All the carp I’ve caught or seen caught from the lake really have been in tip-top condition.

Lake John common carp
A wonderful Lake John common carp of 17.8lbs

Despite this success, I still wanted to move and find somewhere I could float fish without the sun in my eyes. So I wandered over to a shaded area with a nice expanse of water in front of me. All I could muster on the float were a few more small roach and skimmers. No sign of the perch. However the carp were active, with the odd fish even topping in the sunshine.

I lowered the bait in the margins for an hour or so, but despite some bubbles and clouds of silt emanating from around my hookbait, I didn’t get a bite. So, after spotting a carp moving around 40 yards out, I launched the bait with a little bag towards the fish. And 15 minutes later I was in again.

This time the scrap was lot more ferocious, but the fish didn’t feel quite as heavy. And so it proved as I netted another perfect, golden common. This one was bit chunkier than the last fish and it weighed 14 pounds and 12 ounces. Not record breakers by any means, but I was absolutely delighted with my autumn brace of Lake John commons.

Dusk common carp
Another perfect Lake John common