Perch Fishing Update, Feb 2004

by Dave Graybill, February 01, 2004

In the last report that was posted here, it started out saying that I had been getting some good reports on the perch fishing and I couldn’t wait to see for myself how things were going this winter. Well, I have made a couple of trips now and things are shaping up for another great year for perch fishing in the Columbia Basin.

The perch bite on the Winchester Wasteway, which is about half way between Quincy and Ephrata, is one of the earliest fisheries to take off, and anglers who are focusing on the water below the bridge on Road 5 NW are having some really good days.

The weather this year has been chilly, and on some of the colder days, this can slow the bite somewhat. I had a really great day of fishing even though it snowed off and on. Often the snow will keep the crowds of anglers down, but not affect the fishing.

The chilly weather has delayed the advent of my favorite perch fishery though, and that’s the one at Moses Lake. There is nothing wrong with the fishing on the Wasteway, but I seem to get much larger perch consistently on Moses Lake when it gets rolling.

The perch do get gradually larger along the Wasteway as the spawn matures, but it doesn’t offer the opportunity to hook into the occasional 15-inch perch, as is the case on Moses Lake.

My dad is a big fan of winter perch fishing along the
Winchester Wasteway. Here he displays a "double", which not uncommon in a day's fishing here.

Here are a couple of tips on fishing along the Wasteway. I may have mention these in my feature story on perch fishing that is posted on my web site, but let me repeat them for convenience.

Long rods, and I mean 9 feet and better are an advantage here. There are few areas along this canal that allow anglers to step right down to the waters edge. I am often 10 or 12 feet above the water and there is often a lot of brush and weeds below me. The long rods help by enabling an angler to flip the perch up over the brush and onto the roadside. The long rods also help in hooking fish that are quite a distance and below in the canal.

For my basic set up I put a split shot or two at the very end of my line, and tie on a hook or two, spaced about a foot apart above this. Size 6 or 8 hooks are fine for perch fishing, and I use the “cheap” hooks. The reason I prefer these in the six packs is that they are tied with very heavy leaders, and this helps to keep the leader and hook from wrapping around your main line. It keeps the hooks out where the perch can get at your bait.

This same set up works just fine at Moses Lake, too, and here’s something that I can’t claim as my own, but something my brother came up with that really helps with perch fishing in the winter.

He has been using high visibility lines for a few years now, and since I started using it I am a real believer! In the wintertime there are many days that are overcast, and even on clear days the light is “flat”. This line really helps identify a perch bite, and will add more to perch to your bucket. No kidding.

I got a spool of the “Stren Hi-Vis Gold”, and found that there is enough on one package to fill at least two of the extra spools that came with the new reels I bought. You can actually just add about 100 feet to your regular line, and that’s typically enough to remain out of the water when perch fishing.

My brother adds a length of leader material to the end of the high visibility line to tie his hooks to, but I just tie my hooks directly to this line and keep pace with him just fine. It doesn’t seem to matter.

Oh, I almost forgot. Nightcrawlers are the preferred bait. Just pinch off a chunk and add it to the hook. Don’t be stingy. Each crawler is good for two or three baits.

The fishing on the Wasteway is going strong right now and should continue through March. You will have to keep a weather eye on Moses Lake. It freezes readily and certainly spoils the fun. I will try to keep everyone posted through my reports on the web site, and alert everyone when the ice is gone for good.

When things get cookin’ on Moses Lake the place to head is the I-90 Bridge, which is near the State Park on the west side of town. There is a launch at the park and the water off the riprap near the bridge is often choked with boaters fishing for perch.

The riprap along the bridge roadway is often packed with anglers in the late winter and early spring. When the word is out that the perch are biting, you better get there early to find a spot along the shore here.

One good thing about our cold winter is that there has actually been some ice fishing available to anglers in the region. To learn about where you might go to try this out, check out the most recent issue of Washington/Oregon Fish and Game magazine. There is a feature story on ice fishing I wrote in this one, and it’s a good guide the lakes in the region.

My brother Rick loves perch fishing, and loves eating fresh
perch even better!


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