Golden perch (yellowbelly) are an underrated species in our lakes and impoundments. They have been superseded by bass and increasingly by barra for hungry lure casting anglers. However, golden perch provide a great target for fishers who are new to lure fishing, or those who want to catch a good feed of fish on bait.
Golden perch can grow up to about 23kg, but if you saw a fish over 10kg you would consider it a special experience. Most golden perch found in Queensland are around 1kg to 3kg, and in the lakes they can be a spectacular gold colour with a motley green back. They’re good looking fish.
Golden perch feed on almost every small creature in a waterway. Most commonly they feed on small fish and crustaceans, with shrimp and bony bream forming a large part of their Queensland diet. This makes it easy to choose the right lures and bait to use when fishing for them.
In the lakes, golden perch don’t breed. Their breeding cycle demands they have flowing water for egg dispersal, and few of Queensland’s lakes have the right sort of rivers or creeks flowing onto them. However, there are always exceptions and a few special lakes reportedly do have breeding populations of golden perch. Essentially though, anglers can consider golden perch in lakes as a ‘put and take’ species. The well stocked impoundments we have in Queensland – such as Somerset, Boondooma, Bjelke-Petersen, Cooby, Coolmunda, Glenlyon, Maroon, Hinze and Leslie – are a credit to the hard-working stocking groups who maintain them.
While some golden perch are caught by anglers fishing soft plastics, golden perch fishing is really the domain of the hard-bodied lure angler. Deep divers, lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits are all effective on this species, whether they’re cast and retrieved towards timber or weedy margins or trolled along prominent rocky points and walls.
Keep in mind the average size of golden perch when you select a lure. Try to keep lures in the 5-9cm range for best results.
When approaching a lake to target golden perch, the obvious things to look for are hard structures. Steeper rock walls and rocky points that extend out into the lake are favourite golden perch haunts. Add a little bit of timber to the equation and you’re starting to look at a serious hotspot for goldens.
Rocky points are great places to troll because you can do a figure of eight along the contour of the bottom so your lures are being trolled in the right spot for the entire session. You can also cast lures around the point, giving you several chances to connect to a golden.
Rock walls are easier to troll along than to cast lures to because you can select a bank, kick the motor into gear and start trolling. Just follow the depth contour your lures run best at and hang on. Casting is a little more intensive as the entire rock wall has potential to hold a fish. This means you need to cast almost everywhere to cover the area properly. Remember too, that when you’re casting lures they will run up to a metre more shallow than when you are trolling them, so target the area closer to the bank when casting.
Standing timber and fallen timber are great places for golden perch to hang out, ambushing shrimp and fish when the desire takes them. This is the domain of the lure caster because you can fish the tree stump or fallen logs from every direction far more easily than you can by trolling. It’s ‘hit and hang on’ fishing, with the fish never having too far to go to reach the safety of the sticks. Deep-diving minnows and spinnerbaits work well here, and the bycatch can include bass and Murray cod, just to keep things interesting.
Weed edges are not targeted by golden perch anglers much in Queensland, but this species loves weedy areas and they turn up all the time in bass anglers’ catches. Lipless crankbaits, hard-bodied minnows and spinnerbaits are all effective along weed edges and it’s a simple matter of casting to the weed and winding the lure back in. You can use short pauses or jerks of the rod tip to impart more action to the lure, but often a slow, steady wind will have you connected to a golden perch in short time.
Most anglers love to dangle a bait over the side of the boat or from the shore. It’s a relaxing way to fish that can be very rewarding, and in Queensland’s lakes and impoundments there are plenty of rewards to be had.
Shrimp are the most common bait used, and a couple of them pinned to a size 2 hook rigged on a running sinker or paternoster rig is all you need. Drop this to the bottom and wait for the telltale taps of an interested golden perch.
Areas to try baitfishing include the standing and fallen timber, rocky ledges and weedy areas. In any of these areas keep the sinker weight as light as possible and be alert. If you lose a rod over the side you won’t be the first (nor the last).
I rig shrimp so that they face each other. This way, the shrimp annoy each other and try to flick away from one another. These little flicks don’t go unnoticed by predatory fish, and they come to investigate and to feed.
Worms can be bunched on the hook so there are lots of trailing ends to wriggle around enticingly. Try to avoid having a big blob of worm sitting in the hook bend. Instead, pin the worm no more than two or three times. If the worms are too small you can put a few worms on, but again, remember to keep plenty of wriggling ends to attract the fish.
If you’re having trouble getting a strike, try bobbing the bait. Bobbing baits is a simple and effective way to attract fish, and all it means is gently moving the bait up and down off the bottom. A move of 10cm is often enough to attract a fish’s attention. Don’t feel you have to bob the bait with any great force – a gentle lift of the rod tip and then a measured drop back to the bottom is all that’s required.
If you like your fishing to be a bit more hands-on you can cast and retrieve lightly weighted baits just as you would a soft plastic. Cast the bait and sinker out, let it fall to the desired depth and work it back to you in a series of hops and skips. With this method there is rarely the frustrating ‘tap tap’ of a fish that’s interested. Instead, you get a crunching strike that leaves the rod bent or your bait missing. It’s just another little trick you can try to increase your results with bait.
Don’t be fooled by the lack of attention golden perch are given in the fishing media – these fish form a huge part of the recreational fishing industry in Southeast Queensland and are well worth targeting. Small golden perch are great to eat, there are plenty of them and more get put into lakes and impoundments every year, so grab a Stocked Impoundment Permit, check out your local lake and get stuck into a few golden perch.
Size limit: 30cm
Bag limit: 10 per person
1. Lake Boondooma is a great place to target golden perch near weed beds. This golden and bass came from the same weed bed on the same lure – a Jackall lipless crankbait.
2. Big goldens like this are always on the cards when fishing shrimp next to standing timber.
3. When golden perch want a lure they can inhale like the best of them. This fish chewed back a No.2 StumpJumper all the way to the bib.
4. Worms bobbed along the bottom were the undoing of these two golden perch.
5. Trolling along rocky points is very rewarding. This golden perch took a deep diving minnow trolled around the point in the background.
6. A handful of shrimp for bait and you’re away. Time to catch a golden perch for sport or for dinner.
7. Spinnerbaits take their share of golden perch, especially near rocky structure or in heavy timber.
8. Soft plastics aren’t the best lure for golden perch but they do take the occasional fish when anglers are targeting bass.