I have caught perch to 2lbs 6oz in past years, and at that size, they are without doubt a spectacular and stunning creature, but the magic barrier has got to be a three pounder, or as close to it as possible. So, for 2012, the plan is to dedicate some extra time and thought into the pursuit of an Irish specimen perch, that is to say, one weighing in excess of 2.65lbs.
During my perch hunting escapades, I will document my trips, warts and all, in search of that large perch. The chances are that I may never achieve my goal; “you can’t catch ‘em all” as the saying goes, but if you don’t put the odds in your favour, there is little hope of attaining many such angling targets or ambitions.
So where does such a hunt begin? The Irish Specimen Fish Committee document all spectacular catches submitted to them each year, available in a colourful, paper-back report. Archives from previous years can also be accessed through their web site, www.irish-trophy-fish.com, and this is a useful tool in the Irish specimen hunter’s armoury. Venues can be noted, along with successful baits or lures, and the exact time of year these fish were caught. It isn’t fool-proof by any means but certainly helps in adding another piece of the jig-saw puzzle towards obtaining your goal.
Reading through the reports over the years, perch feature heavily along certain stretches of the mighty River Barrow, County Carlow. Fine if you live near-by, but a 240 mile drive to investigate a river that requires a life-time to get to know simply isn’t practical! I know the guys that catch perch on this river. They are tight-lipped as to their exact marks and rightly so. Specimen perch can become over-fished quite quickly. It seems that yet again, I will have to carve my own angling path this time.
I have a few perch leads to go on, but for now, my angling mate, Glenn Drennan had been informed of a venue recently producing perch between three and four pounds! If I’ve learned anything from specimen hunting, it’s to strike while the iron’s hot, so we packed the drop-shot kits and headed for the mark. On arrival at the harbour, some initial observations revealed roach fry scattering on the surface, obviously harassed by larger predators below. We couldn’t believe our luck and soon had the drop shot rods ready for action. With Berkley Ripple Grubs and Mepps spinners amongst our selection, we both hit into fish on our first cast. However, Glenn netted a seven-pound pike and I chinned a three pounder.
On six foot Berkley Skeletor drop shot rods and six pound braid, the small pike were superb fun, but unfortunately not tour target species.
My next cast had the fluorocarbon leader “snicked” off as if it were cotton, and it seemed wise to step up to a light, wire leader, and a change of lure to red and white Ripple Grubs. Switching to wire was a sensible decision, as we continued to land eleven pike to just short of double figures, in the space of a couple of hours.
With so many pike about, perch were out of the question and must have moved on, and who would blame them! It was a tough decision, but we also chose to move on, and headed for a quiet lough in the hills above Enniskillen. Known for large perch, we battled against wind and snow for several hours without a touch, and decided to move on yet again.
Monaghan was our final destination for the remainder of the afternoon, to a small lough that produced twenty-three two pound perch in a single session for me some ten years ago. It was worth a look, but we only managed one small pike before sunset and home time. Our first day “perching” ended as an epic fail, but to be honest, that’s not quite correct. We may have missed our target species on this occasion, but drop-shotting for pike has proved extremely successful and pure entertainment to say the least. If I can have that much fun, whilst failing, surely it can’t be a bad thing! I know where to find thousands of standard sized perch in the four to eight ounce range queuing to give themselves up, but the challenge is finding that lone “lunker” that gets the adrenaline pumping.
In between the multitude of species I love to target in Irish waters throughout the year, I will continue seeking out that large perch. The drop shot rod is now a permanent fixture in the back of the jeep. It takes up little room, as does the selection of Berkley soft lures that sits neatly behind the driver’s seat. Any “perchy” looking marks on my travels will get a good dose of drop-shotting, surely something interesting will show up!