Tuesday, August 16, 2011

White Perch on the Fly

Morone americana
A couple of weeks ago I headed out on a quest to catch a Master Class white perch here in Vermont. I have been actively pursuing the Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s Master Angler program and I had not yet caught the 13” white perch that I needed to tick that species off the list. With that in mind I did some research on where to find these guys and headed out. 

The white perch showed up in Lake Champlain in the 1980’s, likely heading into the like via the Champlain Canal. This scrappy fish is a member of family Moronidae which is much better known for its largest member the striped bass. That’s right, white perch are actually a bass (and largemouth bass are actually sunfish, walleye pike are actually perch… I could go on). They don’t attain the size of their larger cousins but they do put up a similar fight. White perch are also highly regarded table fare. In Maine folks tend to throw back yellow perch and keep the whiteys. I had that in mind when I went out.
you can definitely see the resemblance to stripers!
I chased my target species two separate days. I anchored in a likely spot and just started casting. Initially I was using a 6 weight rod with a 10 foot sink tip and a couple of flies. I had a tandem rig with a white bugger and an olive bugger, both size 6. That was not getting any interest from the fish so I switched up to a tandem rig with a couple of Clouser minnows. That changed everything. I had both a chartreuse and white and a pink and white in size 4 on there. The fish showed a distinct preference toward the pink and white. It didn’t matter what retrieve I used, slow, fast, medium, or varied all caught fish. I did seem to get more action on the faster retrieves though. What is really cool about these fish is that once you find one you have found a ton of them. They travel and feed in schools so just keep putting your fly back in the same spot.

The fight with these guys is awesome! They dig and pull like crazy. Even the 6 and 8 inch fish are tough customers! I definitely want to try them out on much lighter tackle like a 5 weight. I know it would be a blast.

13.5"- my Master Class white perch
The first day was really productive. I lost track of how many fish I caught but it was well over 50 in a few hours of fishing. I got fish up to 11.5” and I had one on that was definitely Master Class but it came unbuttoned next to the boat. If I had a net with me it would have been a different ball game. The second day I got out there I had slightly different gear- my 8 weight Hydros with a 15 foot fast sink tip, a cooler with ice and a net. I went minimal. A handful of Clousers, some tippet, and a Gatorade rounded out my gear. 16 fish came home with me for my neighbor and Beth’s sister in law. One of those fish was a 13.5” Master Class whitey! That fish was an awesome fight!
A mess of fish... sucked to clean though...spiky lil things!

Generally I am a catch and release angler but I am not opposed to keeping fish. Fish are an excellent source of protien and as long as you are targeting a species that is numerous why not keep a few? As far as I am concerned the white perch is a perfect table fish- it is an invasive species in Lake Champlain, has excellent numbers, and is great tasting. I can't confirm that last bit being deathly allergic to fish and shellfish myself, but the folks who ate it said they were great!

Next on my Master Class to do list- yellow perch (and a few others)! I will keep you posted on my progress. Right now I am at 16 of the 33 species in the Master Angler Program. I want all of them if I can... 


  1. Congrats Drew, you're half way there. I would be interested in seeing that list.

  2. Well, here ya go for the list of eligible species John!


    My personal list is this so far:
    Smallmouth Bass
    Largemouth Bass
    Brown Trout
    Rock Bass
    White Sucker
    Redhorse Sucker
    Longnose Gar
    White Perch
    Black Crappie
    Chain Pickerel
    Lake Trout