Cal Iacono

My winter perch fishing on canals is made up of short regular sessions. Short because like most people, I'm busy with work and family commitments so I try to fit in my fishing time when I can and the regularity helps me build up a collection of spots where perch like to hang out so that I can drop on them for a quick bite! I prefer late afternoon or evenings when targeting perch. I have found this time of day most productive on the venues I fish, but it's always worth experimenting with by either going at dawn or dusk as generally these are great times for a bite. If your schedule only allows you to fish for an hour at noon, don't be put off as anytime is a good time time to get out there and have a go!

Winter fishing can be fun once you work out the ares you want to target.

We always say this in lure fishing, but keeping mobile and moving frequently until I find a few fish definitely works. Don't spend too much time in one spot. Fan cast around the area then move on. If I get a bite or fish (whatever size) in a swim, I will stop and comb that area methodically. That will generally help me pick up a few more bites as perch are never too far apart, specially in winter. Selecting the correct spots to target on short sessions is key, and I particularly like to target structure that you can see, espeially if it is a new water. For example: boats, undercut banks, overhanging bushes and trees as well as locks. All of these are great ambushing spots for perch and other predators. Finding the deeper holes is also very important in the colder months as I find the bait fish shoal up there, with predators never being too far away. If you hit the same venues often, use that as an opportunity to gain an understanding of what's going on beneath the surface, as any underwater structure will be an ambush point for predators. 

Bites can be really subtle this time of year so pay attention to your rod tip and braid for early detection.

Finding old weed beds that have died right back is another great holding spot for perch that you don't see initially when you first approach a water, so remember where the weed beds are from your summer fishing and head to those areas in winter. By combining sections in the clock face formation you can quickly get to know what's going on beneath the surface and gauge the depths. 

A beautiful example of a typical canal perch.

Bites can be extremely subtle this time of year, so a few ways to improve your chances of hitting those bites are:

1 - Keep a tight line even when the lure is falling so that you are staying in contact with the lure at all times. Some days the bites can come quickly as the lure is falling through the water column, so by keeping a but of tension on the line you will get indication much quicker.

2- Using bright braid you can clearly see also helps you detect those small plucks even before it will register on the rod. Keep an eye on the braid where it meets the water as a slight movement to this could be fish pulling your lure away before you even feel it. 

3- Slow things down. We hear it time and time again, but slowing down your retrieves really pays on those cold winter days. I have fished swims that I thought were lifeless until leaving the lure there for 5, 10 or sometimes more than 20 seconds eventually produced a bite. This is hard for many lure anglers to do as it's against our nature to just leave lures "motionless", but with the right lure and presentation, letting the lure just sit there doesn't mean the lure isn't actually working. It's just a much slower method than we're used to but on the right day, IT WORKS!

Light, balanced tackle makes lure fishing enjoyable and allows you to cover more ground.

I have been having lots of success lately on the Fox Rage Ultra UV Floating Creature baits, in particular the 7cm Swing Ball in Green Pumpkin. I find that you don't need to move rod tip much to impart movement into these super buoyant lures, so even on a practically still canal, the tail end of this lure wafts in the water, perfect for those long pauses. 

A few examples of the Ultra UV Floating Creatures which are great for winter perch fishing. 

I generally use the Swing Ball on a EWG weedless Ned hook, but you can use them on regular jig heads, on a drop shot and they work great on a regular Ned style jig as well. Their versatility is amazing so whatever the conditions you face, you can change tactics but stick with the same lure. For this type of canal work on this setup, I've been fishing with a Street Fighter Drop & Jig 3-14g rod paired with a 1000 Warrior Reel. This set up balances well and is allows you to have fun catching smaller fish but with enough power to land the bonus big fish.

The Ultra UV Floating Creatures are a perfect lure for fishing slower in the winter months.