Thank Heaven for White Perch

They’re the best fish around, and this year they’re about the only fish around

Maurice Klein with one of the day’s many white perch.

The perch I’d hooked stayed deep, which is always a good sign. Big whites (which are mostly black) are reluctant to approach the surface in a battle. The longer it takes to get a glimpse of a whitey on the end of your line, the bigger it usually is. The scrapper I had on was giving all the signs of being a good one.

Fishfinder

    Look to the Eastern Shore from Love Point and south for the better bite on rockfish. Chumming with ground menhaden and fishing cut bait back in the slick is starting to reliably produce limits of good-sized fish. Live lining for stripers with small perch (and spot when you can find them) continues to improve. Finding bass holding on Bay Bridge supports or locating suspended schools of stripers and swimming down the live bait is finally producing superior-sized limits.
    White perch fishing has been great in all the usual places in the main stem over shell bottom using bloodworms, artificial bloodworms and grass shrimp; and up in the estuaries using shad darts with the same as sweeteners and fished under bobbers. Spot are starting to be taken, some of them good sized, but they are scattered and unreliable, as are croaker. But as our salinity slowly returns in the mid-Bay, so will overall panfish bite. Crabbing remains excellent, though sizewise the jimmies are often just legal. Another shed or two should cure that problem.

    This particular fish had started off by absolutely pounding a two-inch, chartreuse Bass Assassin jig mounted on a medium-sized silver spinner arm and slow-rolled just off the bottom. As soon as the rascal felt the hook, it swam toward open water, taking drag off of my small spin reel and putting a deep bend in my rod.

Flying the Perchin’ Banner

    My fishing partner, Maurice Klein, was already absorbed in his own battle in the bow of our skiff and hardly glanced my way when I announced that I had a big perch on my line. That was mostly because 11-inch whities were getting pretty common for us that morning. It was a banner day for perchin’.
    The white perch have rescued a distinctly poor mid-Bay fishing season. Bad water has driven our striped bass populations easterly and to the south. The record low salinity of Bay waters from Thomas Point north has hindered the seasonal arrivals of bluefish, spot and croaker.
    Without white perch, my sporting options in the mid-Bay would be limited to crabs. I love eating them, but catching them is sometimes more like work than sport. But I never tire of angling for white perch, especially in shallow water.
    Casting small spinner baits such as a Rooster Tail, Beetle Spin or small spinner-rigged Bass Assassin in the early morning and targeting sunken brush, piers, laydowns, ripraps and any rocky shoreline in our small creeks and estuaries is a game-saver this season.

Nine Years of Muscle and Fight

    As the sun rose in the sky and chased the white perch from the shallow waters we were targeting, the game morphed onto finding the remaining shaded spots where they still felt secure. If any perch remained in the now sun-lit skinny water, patrolling ospreys either chased them on their way or snatched ’em up.
    The dark water below piers, beneath tall shore-side trees and under vacant boathouses then produced like gangbusters for us, and we continued to have a ball. Earlier this season, Maurice and I had talked about, then cancelled, trip after trip for stripers. We had finally settled on a good old-fashioned perchin’ trip.
    The 11-inch fish that day may not sound like much of a challenge to the casual angler, but a perchin’ fanatic knows that one that size is a special treat. White perch are a slow-growing, long-lived fish, and it takes all of nine seasons for them to reach that length. Along the way, they get thick and muscular as well as pretty savvy. Fooling one into accepting a dinner invitation can require skill, a patient hand and a fair amount of luck.
    And a perch that size also puts on a spectacular battle, especially with light tackle. Most anglers have experienced a number of fish fights with what they suspected to be keeper-sized rockfish — only to discover a much smaller but equally powerful white perch on their line.
    We fished well into early afternoon, when low tide and a scorching hot sun put an end to a great fishing trip. Packing up our gear back at the ramp and pledging to do it again soon, we split up our take and traded recipes — until we realized they were virtually identical.

Cooking Perch

    Perch fillets rolled in batter and bread crumbs, fried golden-brown in sizzling-hot peanut oil and accompanied by ice-cold tinned adult beverages is a Maryland tradition. If you haven’t treated yourself to a perch feast recently, it’s time.