As inland waters begin to cool these tasty English battlers school up to become fun targets.
SECTION: freshwater feature
Love them or hate them, English perch, or redfin as they are more known to most people, are very common in most waterways around inland Australia these days.
They can potentially grow to 60cm and 5kg but they are more common around 200g to 400g and a 2kg fish would be classed as a whopper these days. Their flesh is arguably one of the best-tasting of any fish that swims but the downside in some waterways is that overpopulation can make it difficult to catch fish large enough for eating.
Redfin are hard-fighting schooling fish which are considered by many to be a problem species for one reason or another but regardless of what one might think, it looks like they’re here to stay. So if you don’t already know how to target them successfully now would be a good time to learn.
Redfin spend most of their time around snags in fairly shallow water in the warmer months but during the cooler months they form massive schools for the spawning and spend most of their time out in open deep water. In this article I will illustrate some very effective techniques to help anglers to target these deep-schooling fish that are often hard to entice.
First we have to locate schools and without the aid of a sounder, finding fish can only really be done by drifting.
Once a school is located, you can either keep the boat in position by dropping anchor, using your electric motor or you can drop a marker buoy. A plastic container tied with a long length of string to some sort of lead weight works. Then it’s just a matter of going back to your markers with your rods loaded for action.
I have an electric bow mount with a Lowrance X125 transducer attached and find these really help to locate fish without spooking them. I can then hold my boat directly above the school while I drop my offering down to the waiting school. I can then really see how the fish are reacting to my lure, fly or bait through the awesome detail on the sounder.
The anticipation of watching your lure sink through the water column until it disappears into the fish cloud on your screen is exciting. Watching the fish starting to go crazy over your jigged lure on the screen, you feel the tapping on your line and then bzzzzzz!
The fish runs, then turns on its side and tries to use its deep flanks while it circles deep below. When you finally coax the fish up towards the surface you notice another 10 or 20 aggressive little buggers trying to take the lure off the hooked fish! This sort of action is enough to get anyone excited.
Admittedly, they’re not always that aggressive but when they are, which is pretty often, this form of fishing really is fun.
My favourite way to target these feisty little guys is with lures and if I had to pick just one type, it would have to be an ice jig. Redfin just can’t get enough of these weirdly shaped lures.
The action when jigged is phenomenal; they really do look like a yabby or shrimp trying to flee. When you see these lures in action for the first time it’s a real eye-opener and you can clearly see why they are so deadly on deeply schooled fish.
Ice jigs can be worked at any depth but they seem to work best around the bottom of the lake. Simply drop your jig to the bottom, then hold your rod parallel to the water and give the rod two or three short, sharp lifts, then pause for a couple of seconds and repeat.
You can vary this technique to suit the mood of the fish by adding longer or shorter pauses and by varying the number of times you jig the lure before a pause. Sometimes a jigging action involving big, wild and fast lifts is what is required to provoke the reddies to strike.
If the redfin have not attacked your ice jigs they are more than likely shut down but a change of lure could well be their undoing.
There are a couple of other lures that you should have to entice these fish. I find a change to a noisy rattler of some description wakes them up. The Jackall TN50s are brilliant for this type of jigging, just try the same general techniques you use for the ice jigs.
The TN50s are also the stand-out lure when trying to target the midwater schools.
If all these techniques have failed, try the softly, softly approach. Drop a rigged plastic like a Berkley Gulp, Ecogear Grass minnow, Ecogear Power Shad or Slider on a 1/4oz to 5/8oz jig head to the bottom and slowly roll the plastic up through the school. Add lots of pauses and keep it slow.
This technique regularly entices fish even when they are completely shut down, Mask Vibes work well with a soft plastic-type retrieve as well.
These deep schooled fish can also be caught on fly with the aid of a full fast-sinking line to help to get down into the strike zone.
Best flies to use are flashy saltwater flies, Bass Vampires and any flies that have red and black in them.
There are a few diehard anglers who have made a real art form out of catching redfin on bait and regular catches of redfin to 1.5kg are commonplace for these guys.
On the down side, a big school of small fish can deplete bait stocks very quickly.
Most bait jiggers use a paternoster rig – one or two hooks tied on the main line or short leader above the sinker so that the sinker sits on the bottom and the hooks are off the bottom. These baits are easier for fish to see and have far less chance of getting snagged up.
Most baits work well on redfin at one stage or another but garden worms and small yabbies are most favoured. On a two-hook rig you try a yabby and a worm to increase your chances.
It’s important to keep the bait moving, even if it’s only a 30cm lift of the rod tip every few seconds. The bait regulars refer to this as yo-yoing for obvious reasons.
This form of bait fishing can still be done from the bank if you can find a big drop-off in deep water. Best results come from slowly bringing your bait in by lifting the rod a metre or so, then waiting a minute or two then repeating this all the way back to the bank.
Although the best time to target these deep fish is during the cooler months, they can still be caught the same way at other times. A good sounder will find the more spread out fish but cricket scores of big redfin won’t be as common as in the cooler months.
I am all about catch and release and I choose to release all natives and trout. I much prefer the taste of redfin over any of these other fish and I get a real buzz from watching a big cod or trout swim away healthy after a memorable fight.
There also is a chance that the fish you released could breed hundreds or thousands more fish for you to catch. At worst, even if it doesn’t breed it will be bigger next time you or someone else catches it.
Redfin can be quite easy to catch at times and are a good species to get people into fishing. These ‘feral’ fish certainly haven’t got a following like the natives and trout but because they are much easier to catch than most other species they can turn a slow days fishing into a hot session.
So the next time your favourite inland fish species is off the bite, give redfin in the deep a go and know that you won’t be doing your waterway any harm by taking home a feed of these succulent fish.