Big River Perch Fishing In Autumn

The perch is an enigmatic species. Bold, aggressive, yet exquisitely beautiful. In clear water the colouration of a perch is a delight to behold. You’ll never mistake it for any other species with its rich greens, broad black vertical bars and a creamy belly tipped with bright vermilion fins, but beware the armour plating. Sharp edges to the gill covers and spiky dorsal fin will punish the unwary angler.

If you happen to be a small fish then the perch’s beauty will be the last thing on your mind. You’ll be more concerned with its cavernous mouth, an orifice that is comparatively huge to the size of the owner. You’ll also be aware of the sheer speed at which it can attack, but more of that later.

Perch exist everywhere, from tiny farm ponds to lakes, reservoirs, lochs, canals, drains, streams and rivers. We are all familiar with the suicidal packs of small perch that fall so readily to maggot and worms but these are shoal fish. The fish we are looking for are somewhat different. All perch are carnivorous to a degree but some perch rely almost exclusively on a diet of fish from a very young age, certainly through the summer and autumn months. These are the fish that will grow into the specimens we seek.

Contrary to recognised wisdom, the best bait for a big perch is not a minnow or a gudgeon. Yes, you’ll enjoy plenty of action, but you are just as likely to catch a 6-ounce perch as the two-pound plus specimens we’re looking for. Experience on rivers like the Trent and Lower Derwent over the last few seasons has proved pretty conclusively that a roach, dace or chub in the two to 3-ounce range will produce a far better stamp of perch.

Furthermore, you need to be prepared to strike instantly because even a two-pound perch will turn and swallow a livebait in the blink of an eye.
If you think I’m joking, consider this. Last year I lost an absolutely huge perch while stick float fishing for bait. It took a 7-ounce chub! Archie Braddock had a similar experience, again while bait fishing. He was about to lift an 8-ounce perch when it was snatched by a perch similar in size to the one I encountered.

To catch big river perch you obviously have to find them but don’t fall into the obvious trap and go targeting slacks, not at this time of year, anyway.

Big perch like cover. Look for vertical cover like rushes, stakes, steep banks and boat moorings. Horizontal cover like overhanging bushes and lily pads are equally productive features, but wherever you choose to fish make sure there is some flow. I’ve had plenty of good perch from the white water of weirs and encountered too many fish on fast shallows to spend my time in stagnant corners.

Bait presentation is all-important, too. A bait hooked near the dorsal fin will result in a higher percentage of hook-ups on the strike but unfortunately you’ll get less takes due to poor presentation. A lip-hooked livebait works far better and lasts much longer.

Perch like to attack from beneath but that can only happen if your bait is presented close to a feature some three to 4-feet off bottom. This is achieved by tethering a bait in position using a 2-ounce lead and a high rod position. It means the distance you can fish out from the bank is restricted but fear not. We are fortunate that big river perch spend much of their time close to near-bank features.

The downside is that big perch are extremely sensitive to resistance and a taking fish must encounter no sudden resistance, hence the pole elastic line clip retainer shown in the rig diagram. This promotes a steady build-up of pressure before the line is released and results in far less dropped takes.

Perch do not like wire traces, hence the 8lb nylon trace. You can use braid but this tends to result in a few tangles. Pike can be a nuisance and you’ll lose a few when the nylon link is bitten off, but don’t fret too much. The pike will soon rid itself of the barbless hook.

And finally, if you’ve never encountered a really big perch before prepare yourself for a shock. Large predatory perch fight like demons in fast flowing water so don’t say you weren’t warned.

Bob’s Tackle

Rods – Daiwa Powermesh PMS2112B
Reels – Daiwa SSII3000C
Reel Line – Daiwa Infinity Duo – 10lb Test
Hook Link – Daiwa Infinity Duo – 10lb Test
Hooks – Size 4 Kamasan B983

Five Tips

1. Don’t waste your time if the water is coloured after rain
2. Be ready to strike instantly – do not leave a rod unattended
3. Get in close to those features
4. Afternoons tend to be the most consistent feeding time
5. Don’t waste your time with tiny livebaits

Five Big-Perch Rivers
1. River Trent
2. Derbyshire Derwent
3. River Thames
4. River Wye
5. River Severn

35 thoughts on “Big River Perch Fishing In Autumn

  1. i was recently fishing for perch at kingston upon thames ang caught a perch of 7lb 60z.useing fox digical scales.can you please tell me what if any is the biggest perch ever caught?????????????????????????????????????????????????????? i used a whole lobworm on a size 6hook to 6lb line.and soaked cotton wool balls in predator blood ment for attracting pike.yours mr ogrady j.

  2. Well Jim, that’s a cracking fish and it’s a fair bit bigger than the current British Record so your chance of fame and fortune has just passed you by. Do you have pictures? Perhaps a witness to the capture and the weighing?
    Of course you’d have to have the scales checked…

  3. Hi Bob,

    Fantastic looking site, loads of great helpers 4 fishing 🙂
    I mainly fish pole through the summer as i find i can get better bait presentation and more bites through the finesse approach that it offers me.
    Every year when the winter hits, the stillwaters die off and despite my madman approach of “i’d rather be fishing in the winter than not fishing at all” i do get downhearted at sitting on the bankside all day for 1 or 2 fish 🙁
    This year i’ve started fishing the River Mersey @ Northendon Weir, Northendon, Manchester, it is the first time i’ve fished a river, my approach is as follows :

    70g Block End Feeder onto 12lb mainline, followed by 2 rubber beads, a drennan leger stop and then my hooklength from 6″ – 2ft, line and hook size depending on bait.

    Despite this standard approach i’ve not had much luck 🙁
    I’ve been fishing just behind an island after the weir which i would of thought will hold fish !!!
    Any help Bob would be gratefull, and thankyou in advance for your many years wisdom 🙂

  4. hi Lee

    Not having fished the Mersey I’m hardly in a position to judge whether you’re fishing in a decent area or not. What I will say is the tackle you’re using appears to be a bit on the hefty side. 12lb line is way to strong for winter fishing with a block-end feeder.

    The best advice I can suggest is that you nip into the nearest decent tackle shop to the river and speak with the owner. If anyone has any up-to-date info on the river and can advise you of the best possible approach, baits, swims, etc, it’s him.

    Read my December blog (part two). You’ll see that in my last session I blanked in two swims yet a move to a swim 50 yards away produced 10lb of roach in two hours. Winter fishing is like that. Fish can shoal up really tightly and its a case of finding them in order to catch.

    Good luck.


  5. Err…?

    I’m sure if Jim is reading this and decides he wants to share the location with you then all he has to do is email the site and I’ll happily pass it on.



  6. Hi Bob, I’m new to predator fishing and will be targeting the perch in my section of the Grand Union Canal, can you please advise what trace material I can use if the odd jack turns up, many thanks, sean

  7. Hi Sean

    I tend to use a braid hooklink and a barbless hook. The Braid can be something like Kryston’s Merlin in 25lb (less if it worries you) and nine times out of ten it will go between a pike’s teeth without getting cut.

    Yes, I’ll lose the odd pike but hey ho, it’s a barbless hook that will fall out quickly enough causing no harm and as I’m fishing for perch I am quite happy to accept the loss of an odd pike.

    If you want to land every pike you hook then perhaps you’re not perch fishing after all!



  8. 4/01/ ive sent a photo of my perch caught at teddington lock/river thames.weighed twice by a carp angler fishing near to me twice he zeroed fox didigtal scales.twice the perch hit 5lbs sent this afternoon to angling times,your week,media house.lynchwood.peterborough.pe2 6ea. jim o, malden surrey.

  9. at teddington lock you have a water works.a couple of hundred yards down you have a green bridge.well i was floatfishing there.from the bank to the water works its about 400 yards i simple cast out about 50yards.within say a minute my alarm went crazy.anyway hope this was helpful if not get back to me asap ok jim

  10. Hi I do a lot of lure fishing and after a trip to the states fishing for bass I want to start lure fishing purely for perch ( as they are from the bass family and being the closest fish to the bass we have)
    I bought back a fair amount of lures that I thought would be good for perch ( small plugs and soft plastics) what size lures and types would you recomend? Do big perch often fall to lures? I’ve tried a few times before and only had tiny per

  11. Hi I do a lot of lure fishing and after a trip to the states fishing for bass I want to start lure fishing purely for perch ( as they are from the bass family and being the closest fish to bought back a fair amount of lures that I thought would be good for perch ( small plugs and soft plastics) what size luresyou recomend?L Do big perch often fall to lures? I’ve tried a few times before and only had tiny perch. But I’m surprised at how big a lure they will take. Sometimes they are not much bigger than the lire I’m using.

  12. Sorry my last post got chopped in half there. Here it is again.
    Hi I do a lot of lure fishing and after a trip to the states fishing for bass I want to start lure fishing purely for perch ( as they are from the bass family and being the closest fish to the bass we have. I bought back a fair amount of lures that I thought would be good for perch ( small plugs and soft plastics) what size lures and types would you recomend?L Do big perch often fall to lures? I’ve tried a few times before and only had tiny perch. But I’m surprised at how big a lure they will take. Sometimes they are not much bigger than the lire I’m using.

  13. Numerous big perch have fallen to lures and it’s pretty apparent they’re happy to chase lures throughout the warmer months but you might find it tougher in winter.

    A good ploy is to use lures to locate perch and then put out a small livebait. You can even pull the lure past the livebait and that can result in perch veering off the lure to take the livebait (works for bass, too!).

  14. Thank you for such a quick reply! I’m going to go out and have a bash tonight.
    How do you feel about wire trace? I hate using it but lures are expensive and I’ve had it a few times where pike go for the tiny lures and I hardly feel the take sometimes I just find the line goes slack and it’s gone! I alwAys fish with braid and a fluorocarbon leader.

  15. Dan,

    You must always use a trace when there are pike around. There are plenty of very fine trace wires that are perfectly suited to the job.



  16. Hi Bob

    There’s a reference to a rig diagram in the autumn Perch fishing post – I can’t see it.

    If it has been posted, could you point me in the right direction?

    Many Thanks


  17. hi ive been trying to catch perch at me local river but not caught eny ive used maggots and worms but still no luck wht would u reccomend i do

  18. ive been using maggots and worms to try and catch perch but its not working what am i doing wrong or how could i sove the problem

    meny thanks

  19. Hi Damien,

    To be able to aid you I’d need an awful lot more information. For instance, what river are you fishing, what stretch and what is the genuine perch potential? You can’t catch what isn’t there.

    What tactics are you employing? How are you selecting your swims? What time of day are you fishing? Are you fishing statically or are you mobile? What kind of worms, even?

    And most importantly, has anyone else caught any big perch there? If so where from and on what tactics?

    Successful angling frequently involves a lot of homework. The answer is rarely on a plate or staring you in the face.

  20. Bob,
    Firstly congratulations on a well produced website. I noticed on your section about perch that the 4th placed river for stripes is the River Wye. I belong to a club who has water at Symonds Yat and lower down near Tintern. Could you be more specific as to the location of these perch because in our stretches, the water is heaving with minnows and yet apart from the occasional chub slashing at them I have yet to spot a perch despite suspecting that there must be a head of perch in the river. The stretches are excellent for pike and yet I’ve yet to hear about any big perch being caught.

  21. Thank you for the kind comments Wayne. The article was first published (by me) in the Angling Times some while ago.

    It was the format of the ‘Specialists’ column back then that five suggested venues would be listed each week alongside the text and normally it was compiled on the basis of catch reports received by the paper around the time of publication, perfectly marrying news with editorial.

    It wasn’t a case of naming the top five perch waters in the country. However I do keep hearing reports of the odd good perch from the Wye but I reckon a call to Woody’s tackle shop in Hereford will reveal far more up to date information than I possibly can.

  22. Thank you for your prompt reply. I’ve taken on board your comments and (hopefully) get some time on the bank soon. Once again, thank you and I hope to be back with some good news and photos.

  23. i live on the river derwent in derby and fish the weir all the time at darely abbey and i hooked into this fish whic i thought was a pike but it was a perch i weighed it and it was just over 2lb but i have seen people catch 3 3.5 lb perch on worm near the island in the fast water but i have also seen people catch perch on spinners

    • I used to live in Derby and spent a lot of time fishing the Derwent. I remember one wet day in September whilst trotting for silvers I had two HUGE perch and a decent pike take roach/dace that I was reeling in. Sadly the pike bit me off just as i was attempting to net it but I landed the perch and both fish must have been approaching 4 pounds, solid deep fish. That was one of my favorite fishing days on the Derwent, one I will allways remember! I fished a fairly pacy bend in the river by a pipe bridge at shardlow in what’s known locally as the ‘little owl field’ ( as its home to a family of them) which is controlled by Pride Of Derby AA.

  24. Hi Bob,

    A great read, thank you for sharing.

    I know that using a worm can catch a large variety of species. I was thinking of giving worm a try today at my local canal. I was wondering what kind of tackle I would need to be catching using worm?

    Currently I think I am fishing far too lightly, as I usually use maggot or bread, perhaps a maggot feeder on the bottom if the float is not catching.

    I use a size 18-20 hook, 5lb main line with an AA shot either side of the float.
    In my canal there are carp in excess of 30lb, and pike in excess of 40lb. I have been informed by the fishing shop that there are perch and roach a couple of pounds short of the record, as well as huge bream, tench, catfish and eels.


  25. hi everyone i live in kingston and want to start fishing the thames for big perch can anyone tell me where is the best place to catch them and has anyone got any tips for me thanks sean

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