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Turning the water red
  |  First Published: March 2014



When it comes to a freshwater fish that pretty much any angler can catch, you simply can’t go past redfin perch.

Originally stocked from England well over 100 years ago, the redfin perch is hated and loved in almost equal measure. It is hated because it breeds prolifically and competes with native and trout for food in freshwater streams and lakes. It is loved, especially in Victoria because it is prolific, aggressive and tastes damn fine as well.

Tasmanian waters also have redfin (it is argued that redfin were first introduced into Tasmania, like rabbits), and the Inland Fisheries Service goes to great lengths to reduce the possibility of redfin spreading any further.

The greatest thing of all about redfin is that they are extremely easy to catch and your regular 2-4kg spin outfit is perfect for the job. They take bait and lures very easily, and while they will take flies with great gusto, most dedicated fly fishers will fish where the perch aren’t.

Habitat

Given that perch love lakes, dams and streams, their habitat is wonderfully diverse. Principally however, they do love to be near structure. They choose this for two reasons, to ambush food, and to escape predators themselves.

In lakes and dams look for drowned timber or fallen trees, sometimes called ‘laydowns’. These structures will hide a great many perch, especially when small baitfish, damselfly nymphs and dragonfly nymphs are around.

Very weedy areas can be great holding places too, especially when the water really starts to warm up.

Perch have a very big mouth and an appetite to match, so they can tackle some big food items for even a small fish. Large redfin will often predate on small reddies as well.

In rivers they prefer the warmer and slower moving stretches of rivers – fast shingly water that is below 14ºC will hold far more trout than it will redfin. However in slower moving waters, like the Murray River below the Hume Weir, redfin will dominate trout easily.

In the rivers, look for the deeper holes with timber laying in it, undercut banks or weedy areas. Any flowing water will always be worth a cast or two as well.

Bait

Bait for redfin is very simple. Keep it to what can be easily found in the area and you will be right. The best bait and easiest to come by is scrub worms. There wouldn’t be a redfin alive that would swim past a bunch of scrubbies.

Where there is no or little flow just fish them on a single hook rig with no added weight. Let the worms drift to the bottom and waft around with any slight current there may be about.

Where there is a reasonable flow, or windy conditions use a sinker, but keep it as light as you can. Run it straight down onto the hook, that way you have direct contact down the line.

Where there is a lot of weed, use a flat in conjunction with your bait. Baits in this situation should probably be mudeyes rather than scrubbies, as when things weed up, the numbers of mudeyes and damselfly nymphs also grows.

Other baits that can be used are mudeyes, cockroaches or small bardi grubs, but given that scrubbies are as good as you will get, just either dig some up or swing by your local tackle store and buy a punnet.

Lures

Lure fishing for redfin is perhaps more productive than bait fishing, primarily because you don’t attract the unwanted by-catch of European carp. In some waters in Victoria, carp will take every single bait presented for redfin – good for ridding the waters of these pest but not so good for a good feed at the end of the session!

Soft plastics are the best all round lure, mainly because (apart from their effectiveness), they are relatively cheap if you happen to get snagged! Redfin love a lure with plenty of vibration, so everything from revolving blade lures to vibes will catch heaps of redfin.

There are also some really groovy T-tail plastics around these days that vibrate as well – giving the best of both worlds.

Colour isn’t so important, just make sure there is plenty of contrasting colour. Black and red, black and gold, black and silver, red and green, red and bright yellow – collect a wide colour range in several styles of lures and you will have plenty of options.

The vibe-style hardbodied lures are perhaps the most effective redfin slayers of all, and while some brands are at the high end of the price spectrum, the cheaper variants are quite effective too.

You really need to tie on lures you are happy to lose in a snag – don’t use the $100 heirloom lure for a redfin when they are just as happy to have a crack at something from the $10 clearance bin at your local tackle store.

When using soft plastics match the jighead weight to the situation you are fishing. As with all fishing situations, go as light as possible. In deep areas use some decent weight up to 1/4oz, but around shallow structure or in dense weed try to use lightweights such as 1/16oz, or even rig them weightless with an offset worm hook.

Techniques from the shore

From the shore the task is quite easy, look for areas of structure next to undercut banks and weed banks. Think about what food is present in each type of river or lake bank you fish. Dense weed or bulrushes will scream mudeyes, while deeper holes with timber structure or around any inflowing current will mean scrub worms.

Don’t think you have to cast to the other side of the lake either, most fish, redfin included will use the bank structure for most of their feeding activity. Logs submerged in the water are obvious hot spots, but if you are after a relaxing time then pop out a bunch of worms and sit back and wait for a bite.

Lure fishers will have the advantage of covering plenty of water, as the very nature of lure casting means that new water is covered on every cast.

Most anglers starting out will use soft plastics such as 3” curl tail grubs. These great little lures have a very seductive action as they are retrieved and have the advantage of looking very tasty to redfin as they drop.

Using plastics such as these allow for a different rate of retrieve as you try to work out what the fish are after. Curl-tail grubs can be wound in quite fast without losing action, yet are flexible enough to use the jerky ‘flick-pause’ style retrieve.

Techniques from a boat

Boats are wonderful, and are the perfect platform for chasing redfin. If your boat has a sounder you can drift and fish or troll while looking for large schools of fish, especially in deep water, then so much the better.

In the absence of a sounder or schools of fish, use the boat to access snags and other structures, such as submerged trees.

When all else fails, fish deep with soft plastics or simply troll around. The beauty of redfin is that when you find a school you can go to town and catch heaps, especially with vibe style lures.

Redfin are a pest and do cause plenty of environmental damage, but they are also a great tasting sports fish, which look great too, so to try something different, grab a spin rod and hop into them.

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