Perch Fishing In The Bay


     An angler should tie his own hooks and make his own leaders.  You should never be at the mercy of others when it comes to your rigging.  Quality control is often lacking in pre-tied, mass-produced terminal gear.

     I use a standard surf setup with two #4 hooks and a one-ounce ball sinker unless water movement or weather dictate otherwise. The sinker and hooks are tied directly to a leader which is attached to a safety-snap swivel at the end of the main line.  (I like to work with 10-pound test main line and light tackle rod and reel, by the way.)  The process is straightforward: I start out with 15-pound test line and tie a 2-inch loop at the top, a 3-inch loop no more than 10" down, and another 3-inch loop no more than 10" below the first loop.  Then I leave another 10" of straight line below that.  Depending where I'm fishing (deep or shallow water), I'll tie on the sinker anywhere between 8" to 10" below the last loop.  I always use a Clinch Knot to secure the sinker.  The best loops seem to be a cross between the Dropper Loop and the Blood Bight Knot.  The hooks are tied to the two side loops by Palomar Knots.   

    At least half a dozen of these terminal riggings tied in advance will avoid much of the frustration and lost time that naturally occur when you hit snags or get the line sheared by sharp rocks.  To fish for perch from the shore is to lose tackle, and plenty of it--so accept this in advance!  The sooner you get back in the water, the better.  You don't want to lose momentum and opportunity once you've found a school of hungry perch.  (For that reason I often have two extra rigs already baited and nearby.)

    Pile worms are my first choice of bait for bay perch fishing.  Just enough to cover the hooks will do the trick and hopefully last awhile with constant casting and retrieving.  I usually cast out about twenty feet, let the sinker hit the bottom and settle.  Then, after a few minutes or so, I'll reel in with a slow jigging motion, sensitive to the feel of the sinker touching down and any change in the line tension.  Black perch hit hard and fast.  So do striped perch.  Pile perch and rubberlips often nibble lightly.  When I do feel any changes, I stop everything and wait.  If nothing happens, I'll reel in again until I think I'm too near the rocks (though of course perch frequently school right next to those tackle-grabbing rocks).  This process can go on and on.  The main thing is not to stay in the same place if you're not getting any action.  Life is too short.  Move around.  Explore.  Experiment.  Be patient but not impractical.  There is a lot of shoreline to cover.

     Take more than one bait along just in case.  The best perch fisherman I've seen (no, it isn't me!) likes to have mussels with him at all times, as well as pile worms and grass shrimp.  Mussels are a good natural bait and also work pretty well for chumming (though I rarely do this; it attracts other things like junk fish and crabs as well).  I think they stay on the hook better with a little elastic thread--and they survive casts better--but many anglers prefer to use the mussel meat as is.  Grass shrimp work very well in the bay, though they tend to be expensive and hard to find when the sturgeon season is in full swing.  Blood worms are okay.  They stay on the hook and barred perch seem to like them, but I've not had as much luck with them for other perch.  Might be a better bait in the ocean.  Another cheap and effective bait is live shore crabs, those little green and purple guys you see scurrying away when you lift rocks up at low tide.  Sometimes when nothing else is working, large perch will slam into a crab.  One per hook seems right and looks natural.  Also, since these creatures are among those who steal your bait from time to time, there is always the revenge factor.

    Finally, pay attention to tides.  Saltwater species are dependent on tidal movement and fishermen should be too.  In addition, read fishing reports and talk to anglers on the piers and along the shore.  Find out what the current trend is.  For example, the best fishing could have been near the bottom of the tide a week ago but now it's right before the top of the tide.  Things change. Weather is also a huge factor.  Don't ignore it. Wild and windy days usually make for lousy fishing, especially in the shallow waters of the bay.  Cold slows down the bite.  So does a lot of fresh water entering the bay from the river systems carrying mountain snow runoff.  Be aware of conditions before you set out and you'll be better prepared--and oddly enough, more "lucky."