Like most sweetwater nuts, I love targeting my beloved inland natives. Bass, cod and the ever-reliable golden perch are the mainstays of our impoundments and lakes. One species that tends to get forgotten about, except when taken by accident, is the pugnacious silver perch.
Silvers would be close to the top of the tree when it comes to sporting qualities and they are a challenge. And, for some anglers, that is what fishing can be all about. This article is designed to give you some confidence in chasing silvers but all the information may just assist in improving your success rate for yellas, cod, redfin and trout.
Like all of our native freshwater fish, silver perch are structure-oriented. Whether it is because they are looking for food, seeking protection or simply holding up in a comfortable pocket of water, silvers will almost always be captured close to structure.
In impoundments, I prefer to target weed beds and weed adjacent to shallow, rocky points. On occasions you may find that the weed beds are a fair distance from the bank particularly if the catchment area of the lake has experienced recent rains. Rising water is a great time to fish the ‘fresh’, however, it can make locating structure just that little bit more difficult.
This is where a good-quality sounder can be invaluable: It can tell you where the weed beds are and ensure you are in the fishes’ strike zone. When fishing a large body of water that has had a stable level for a few months, I like the weed beds to be between five and 15 metres from the shore.
If the weed bed is close to the bank, say within 10 metres, I will always position my baits on the far side, or the open side, of the weed. If the weed bed is greater than 10 metres out I will fish inside the weed or on the bank side.
If you are unsure, simply place a bait on either side of the weed. Lobbing one bait on both sides of the weed bed is not a bad idea sometimes because the water temperature can vary as much as a degree of two on either side of the weed. This change in temperature many be what is required to hold or attract fish.
We all know that in early Spring the shallow margins of a lake are the pockets of water that warm up first. Therefore, this is where we concentrate our fishing. I have found on a number of occasions that a good-sized weed bed running parallel to the bank will assist in holding that warmer water in tight to the bank and the inside of the weed is the place to fish.
It is the reverse situation during the height of Summer or early Autumn. The fish are looking for cooler water yet still require the structure as a food source or protection, so the obvious area to target is the open or deeper side of the weed. Regardless of the time of year, the most important thing is to keep your bait close to the structure.
A standard running sinker and short leader will work when bait-fishing for silvers – and most other freshwater natives, for that matter. However, there are a couple of small modifications you can make to this rig that I have found increase my conversion rate.
Before I detail some of these modifications it is worth noting that when bait-fishing in lakes or impoundments, where there is little effect on the movement of your bait by currents or water flow, you should keep your sinker size to an absolute minimum. I reckon this should be practised in all forms of fishing for the simple reason that an unweighted bait is a more natural presentation and offers less resistance when the bait is picked up by a fish.
In most scenarios a sinker has only two purposes –to hold your bait in position and to assist with casting distance. The only time you will need any substantial sinker for silvers is when you need to make a long cast to reach a weed bed a good distance off the shore or when you are fishing into a stiff breeze that makes casting difficult.
Where possible, I will fish with an unweighted rig or only a tiny pea sinker. I attach a small orange, pink or pearl-coloured bead directly above the hook because this helps the fish home in on your worm or shrimp in the weed or on the gravel.
Your leader should be between 40cm and 60cm long and it is important to choose a strong but fine-diameter leader line because silvers in particular can be fickle at times. A leader difficult to detect can increase the number of takes you may get in a day.
Lines such as Platypus Platinum, Platil Strong or Maxima Perfexion are just a few of the high-quality, thin-diameter monofilament lines available on the market that are excellent for leader lines and main lines. You will have to dig a little deeper into your pocket to purchase a spool of one of these lines but, from my perspective, a couple more bucks is well worth the extra bites, hook-ups and fish landed.
Lure-fishing for silvers can be even more challenging than bait-fishing but it is not as difficult as some people make it out to be. From my experience, there are two basic lure styles that silvers respond to.
First, and my favourites, are shallow-running, hard-bodied minnows. The shallow runners allow you to work the narrow column of water between the top of the weed bed and the surface. Hard-bodied lures that I have had success with on silvers are Dan McGrath’s Attack, the Nilsmaster Invincible, Brad Smith’s Lil’ Mate, and Morry Kneebone’s 5cm minnow.
If you are like the vast majority of Australian sportfishos, you’ll probably have a couple of soft plastics floating around in your tackle box. Don’t overlook these for silvers, particularly the small black grub imitations. I won’t go into too much more detail but experiment with a few different styles and colours.
My preference with grubs is always small single tail in black, dark purple or brown. When using grubs around weed, rocks and gravel, work it along the bottom or close to the weed in an erratic fashion, letting it hit the bottom occasionally.
So there are some simple, logical and easy-to-follow tips on how to knock over a silver perch. The bonus is that all these pointers with assist in getting better results on many of our other freshwater species. All you have to do is get on the water and try it.
There has been a massive decline in the silver perch population in most of our rivers over the past 10 to 15 years. NSW Fisheries has wisely made it totally illegal to target or catch silver perch in any rivers.
When fishing impoundments I rarely keep any silvers, opting to release them in the hope that some other anglers may enjoy these great little fish some time in the future.
In impoundments silvers can exceed 2kg and are too good a sports fish to catch only once. Check the local regulations for size and bag limits on silvers in impoundments.
A solid silver perch that grabbed a Morry Kneebone 5cm minnow lure worked among the weed.
The author with a thumping 3.3kg silver perch.
Brown worm imitations work well on silver perch in thick weed – a favourite silver haunt..
The author with a nice silver that ate a black soft plastic fished over a shallow, rocky point.
Former NSW and Kangaroo forward Les Boyd displays a 2.5kg silver caught on a minnow.
An average-sized impoundment silver perch, taken on an unweighted plastic worm.