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Featured on Fisherman's Blues - Talksport2

Away Days: Canal Fishing for Perch During Closed Season

It is currently closed season across most waters in the UK. Typically, this means that I would stop fishing until the new season begins or switch to carp fishing. However, this year, I have been taking almost every opportunity to fish for perch throughout the entire year. I started doing this in 2023 by beginning much earlier than I usually would and experienced some great success. Thus, when the opportunity arose, I decided to try my luck on the canal.

Fishing to structure searching out those perch holes

About a week ago, my friend Dave whom I recently introduced to lure fishing, asked me to join him for a fishing trip to a nearby canal. Being the absolute fishing addict I am, I agreed. I have a habit of scouring Google Maps to find the best fishable areas, and I had my eye on a canal that had a good reputation for perch so we decided to head there.

We set out early in the morning, which gave us enough time to make a mandatory stop at McDonald’s for breakfast before heading to the canal. The canal was approximately an hour’s drive away, but the excitement of the fishing expedition made the drive seem much shorter and I’d forgotten how nice it was to be the passenger princess given that most of the driving I ended up doing. You don’t get to take in much of the scenery driving and you can almost forget what a stunning country this is!

On arrival…

We arrived at the venue, full of anticipation and with our bellies full. After checking Google Maps, I decided to head towards a spot located a fair distance up the canal. I chose this location because it was a longer walk, which I hoped would keep most anglers away. 

Additionally, it provided a perfect structure with a wider section that was channelled into a much narrower canal, creating a food funnel. Although it was tempting to stop along the way and target the many boats moored up on the far side of the canal, we continued with the plan. We knew we’d make our way back fishing many of these features later on in the day. The further we walked, the fewer people we encountered, and more importantly, fewer anglers.

Kick-off

Our rods were already set up when we arrived at our chosen spot, so we wasted no time in getting started. We had both brought a drop shot set-up and a second set-up with a fluro leader, giving us a range of rigging options to experiment with. 

I’m a big fan of using the drop shot, and I’m confident in my ability to fish with it, so I started with that. I cast my line into the water’s edge, and almost instantly, I felt a tug on the line – it was a tiny wasp! My fishing buddy, who was still new to perch fishing, was amazed that I had caught something in the very first minute. 

For me, it was nothing out of the ordinary, just a quick test to see if there were any fish in the area and whether it was worth sticking around. That quick bite told me that we should stay, so we unhooked the perch and dropped it back into the margin. From there, we both fished methodically, taking our time to work the area and see what other bites we could get.

The Method for the Day

On my second attempt, I decided to cast my line towards the far bank, as close to the edge as possible. To ensure that everything drops in a straight column, rather than being dragged back across the canal in an arc, it’s important to wait for the drop shot weight to sink before closing the bail arm. By doing so, you can examine specific areas thoroughly and stay there longer once you’ve determined the appropriate weight to use. 

I usually go for 10g, which may seem heavy for a canal, but it doesn’t bother the fish, and it allows me to remain in the target area for an extended period, increasing my chances of getting a bite. Moreover, other factors such as the current, wind strength, and bow in line all influence your position and can pull you away from the spot if the drop shot weight is too light.

Almost instant success on arrival with this lovely 2lb 4oz / 38cm Perch

A Canal Clonker!

I quickly hooked another fish and this one felt particularly strong. I was using my 5ft lightweight dropshot rod which hooped over when the fish put up a good fight. I called out to Dave to open the net and he helped me land the perch once it had exhausted itself. This was the first time Dave had seen a perch weighing over 1lb, so it was an amazing moment for him. It’s difficult to describe the thrill of lure fishing for perch to someone who hasn’t tried it, but this experience was enough to get Dave hooked! I had previously described the sensation of catching a big perch, with its erratic head movements and its tendency to stay deep, but nothing compares to actually experiencing it. Dave got to witness this first-hand, and the 2lb 4oz perch that we caught, measuring 38cm, made for a great start to the morning. 

After taking some photos and measurements, I wanted Dave to catch a big fish too. His personal best was just under 1lb, so I knew that if he caught anything, it would be a new personal best for him. We were aware that there were plenty of fish in the area, and we had already found a successful method, so we decided to work together to increase our chances of finding more fish.

We used a ‘pincer move’ technique, where we stood apart and worked all the likely areas where perch might hide. We started from the outside and worked our way inwards until we were both fishing in the same middle area. This approach helped us to pinpoint the fish more quickly and efficiently, making it easier to find more perch. I’ve used this technique before on various venues, with different angling friends, and it always seems to work well.

Dave with his new Perch PB – 2lb 2oz/38cm

A New PB!

Dave is new to lure fishing and there is a lot for him to learn. However, he is a quick learner and is always eager to try out new lessons and even adapt them to his fishing technique. After a little coaching, he was able to work the area just like me, which resulted in him catching a hard-fighting perch! It was amazing to see that the scene he witnessed just 10 minutes earlier was similar to what he was experiencing right then. His rod was bent double and he was playing an aggressive perch that didn’t want to surface. I was the net man and we soon had the fish safely in the net. It was an awesome feeling for both of us! Dave was especially happy since it was his new personal best – an impressive 2lb 2oz/38cm.

For many lure anglers, this is a very respectable catch, especially on a new venue and within the first half hour of fishing. It was an awesome result! We had already won the day, which meant we could spend the rest of it exploring the length of the canal, trying other methods, or just enjoying the sun (when it eventually came out). These kinds of days are few and far between, but when they happen, they really show you what fishing with friends is all about.

The Rest of the Day!

We didn’t have much luck in the latter half of the day. Although we did catch some more perch, most of them turned out to be wasps. After a while, we realised that the spot was no longer yielding any results, so we decided to move down the canal and stop at every possible place where a perch might be lurking. It was challenging, but we didn’t let it dampen our spirits. We were proud of what we had already accomplished!

Tips for fishing a new canal venue

  • Go with a method you’re confident in and have a backup rod ready for trying other techniques and rigging options quickly and without too much fuss.
  • Go prepared, research on Google Maps and the Internet to see what you can uncover.
  • Some canals will have a lot of structure, sometimes too much! Think like a predator, where would you sit or hide waiting for prey fish?
  • Focus first on method, if this works continue with it in a likely perch holding area, sometimes we’re too quick to move on before we find what the perch want.
  • Work the water methodically. Hit all the likely-looking spots first and then everywhere in between using the ‘around the clock’ method, casting from ‘9:00 to 3:00’.
  • You won’t always bump into big perch right away so if you’re catching smaller perch this can often be a sign bigger fish are there.
  • Release caught fish further down the bank or keep them in your net until you’ve finished fishing an area to prevent them spooking any uncaught perch.
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Steve Evans
Steve Evans

Founder & Chief Editor of Predator Fishing World. Steve has been predator fishing for well over a decade and has amassed a deep knowledge base to share with you.