How to catch estuary perch

Estuary perch are an enigmatic species that thrive in most East Gippsland estuaries. The term "estuary" in their name can be misleading, as they spend a significant portion of their time in freshwater, despite occasionally venturing into brackish or true saltwater environments. Although similar in appearance to Australian bass, the EP's protruding lower jaw, forehead concave, and oversized eyes for nocturnal feeding are distinguishing features.

primarily found near snags, weed beds, and undercut edges, to catch these elusive fish, you need to specifically target them. Hardcore EP anglers agree that identifying the fish's precise location within an estuary at any given time is crucial. During heavy rainfall, EPs tend to migrate upstream, whereas during dry spells, they are more likely to be found in the middle and lower reaches of the estuary, even venturing into the lakes. These fish don't disperse as much as move in larger groups, remaining that way wherever they go. While older reports of perch in a particular region are valuable reference points, any recent updates on their whereabouts are preferable. If you locate a school of EPs, it's a good indication of excellent short-term fishing opportunities.

Being predators, EPs are primarily focused on consuming small prawns, aquatic and terrestrial insects, and small fish. While dead bait can be effective, live bait is superior and deadly when fished around snags under a float. Live minnows, shrimps, and black crickets are ideal for this application. Nevertheless, be prepared to react quickly to a bite, as a decent EP is likely to pull a bait fisher into the structure. Many anglers prefer lure fishing for EPs due to their predatory nature, making them an exceptional species for this technique. Small soft plastics fished on a light jig head and cast directly into the structure before being sunk and retrieved in a stop-start fashion are highly effective. EPs will strike the lure as it falls or when paused at various depths. Small suspending crank baits are also effective, but they can be expensive due to perch frequently breaking off from fishers in the snags where they reside. During low-light conditions, perch can be highly active, and on warm mornings or evenings, surface fishing can produce some of the best action, with cicada patterns and bent minnow styles being highly effective. Bank fishing can be successful but identifying schools can be challenging due to perch's mobile nature.

Boat-based tackle

Many anglers often use their bream equipment for EP fishing, which can work in most cases. However, given the elusive and snappy nature of the fish, losing both fish and lures is a common occurrence, especially when they make a beeline back to their snags.

Upgrading to 8-pound braid and a 12-pound leader is a wise choice, offering superior abrasion resistance when the fish attempt to escape. In situations where the rivers are strewn with snags and there are large perch around, heavier drag settings become necessary to pull the fish out. This is where a 3 to 5-kilogram rated graphite rod, fast/extra fast in taper, and a 2500-sized reel with a 15-pound leader come in handy.

With heavier drag pressures, there's always the risk of the fish pulling the hooks, but that's just one of the aspects of EP fishing that makes it so exhilarating. It's all about finding the right balance and adjusting to the circumstances of the day.

Click here for bag limits on estuary perch.