June Means Perch for Dinner
Easing up to the shoreline in my small skiff, I held my light, six-foot spin rod. It was tipped with an old reliable spinner bait, a gold blade rooster tail in Chartreuse Coach Dog. The shallows were mud brown but this lure was my bad water medicine.
The third cast was a charm: the lure stopped, I set the hook and the dance music started. There’s nothing like a white perch battle to charm a morning. I was using six-pound test line, stealthy enough for these foul water days and I lost far fewer lures to sunken debris.
The spunky brute’s first run got the drag humming, always a good sign. I kept the rod bent and let the rascal have its head. Horsing in a fresh whitey is a sure way to lose quick, its fragile mouth structure will not stand a lot of pressure.
Eventually, I got the frisky fish to the gunwale and lifted it to my hand. Well over nine inches (I have 12-inch ruler tape everywhere on the skiff’s hull), he plopped nicely into my holding bucket. I just needed a half dozen for a quick fry-up for myself and my wife and this was an excellent start.
There are a number of ways to go after white perch and since it’s the most plentiful fish in the Bay, you can encounter them almost everywhere. My first preference is casting lures to shallow shoreline structures any place there are rocks, downed trees, old piers, the remains of docks, submerged bushes, or shaded areas. June is when the perch are fully in residence.
The best lures are rooster tails, Capt. Bert’s Perch Pounders, beetle spins, Mepps spinners, Tony Accetta spoons, and small Rat-L-Traps. The colors are anyone’s preference but my old rule of thumb has always been that the best color will be the one you don’t have. I keep a wide variety available at all times, though you can’t go wrong with silver or gold, chartreuse, white, yellow, and orange.
You can also fish the same shoreline areas with bait-tipped shad darts under weighted, casting bobbers. Pieces of blood worm, grass shrimp and small, lip-hooked minnows will draw the desired attention almost immediately. It’s also a good idea to keep a net handy. A crab net works nicely and you won’t have to describe that trophy 12-incher as “the one that got away.”
Bottom fishing can be equally as productive and a top and bottom rig with number 4 hooks, a one-ounce sinker, and bloodworms, razor clams, crab, minnows, red worms or a combination of any of those can make for a very active day. You’ll need plenty of baits; white perch are accomplished thieves.
Drifting a boat along channel edges in 12- to 15-foot depths can also provide endless adventures with the same bait setups, as can dropping smallish metal jigs resembling minnows and small baitfish. Perch are aggressive feeders and will hit just about anything they can get into their mouth if it’s presented properly.
The table quality of a white perch is beyond reproach and they are at their best when fried. Dressing the fish out, blotting them dry, then dipping the pieces in a sticky mixture of beer and flour and rolling them in Panko (Japanese bread crumbs) or crushed crackers or even just cornmeal are the first steps. Frying them golden brown in hot peanut oil (400 degrees) is the last step and reliably produces a meal that can bring tears to one’s eyes (definitely mine). Bon appetit!
The summer season is finally here, rockfish are legal in all of the tributaries and all baits, including eels, are now legal. The possession limit however is one rockfish of 19 inches or greater. The best bite is shifting to the south from Thomas Point on down, though a few fish are filtering up toward Baltimore Harbor. Trolling is still the best approach as the stripers have not yet formed any large schools nor moved into their traditional summertime areas. Casting soft plastics to structures should become productive in the near future. The first few spots have arrived in the mid-Bay but they are not yet numerous enough to gin up the live lining bite. Blue catfish are around but not in the numbers they were in early spring though they could return. White perch are fully in residence throughout the tribs and responding nicely to baits of all types. Spot and croaker are due anytime now and in the southern Bay, spotted seatrout and redfish are rewarding anglers willing to travel. Crabbing is becoming worth the effort and a half bushel or so is a definite possibility. The year is here, get some!