Winter Perch Fishing, November 2003

by Dave Graybill, November 01, 2003

As you know, I have been getting some reports about good perch fishing lately, and I am really anxious to get out and see for myself just how good the fishing is. The following is a description of a trip about this time last year, when Eileen and I headed to the Winchester Wasteway. We didn’t get there until about two in the afternoon, but we had time to give the fishing a good test.

We headed right for the spot we fished last year, in the late winter. I think we made our first trip to the Wasteway in late January last year. By mid-February it was hard to find space on the bank down here, and the perch action was in high gear. We had a lot of fun and had many good meals from our trips earlier this year. The idea of getting in on some perch action sounded really good to both of us.

Well, we rigged up, baited up, and cast to see if the perch were there and in the mood to bite. Sure enough, the bait hardly settled to the bottom and there was the typical “ tick”, “tick” on the line. We had a heck of a time hooking up, though. I missed tick after tick, and finally hooked and landed a good fish.

Now that I knew that there were fish worth keeping in canal I really concentrated on my line. The hits were so light, that instead of holding my rod, I set it down on the bank and rested it on some weeds. We were using very long rods, which are good here for a couple of reasons. They help bring your line up on this steep, weedy bank. If you have a fish on, this is important here, too. It is very easy to catch the sinker, or a fish in the weeds along the bank here, and the long rods help to avoid this.

The problem is that when the bites are as light as they were on Sunday, these long rods are difficult to hold still. Any movement at all is exaggerated when the rod is nine feet or more long. By setting the rod down and resting it on the weeds, I could detect the slightest bite. My hook up ratio improved tremendously, and I learned why I was having so much trouble.

The canal was loaded with small, juvenile perch. These guys were all over the baits, and it was a real trick to hook them. I would get about five of these for every fish that was a keeper. I even caught a small, largemouth bass that was about the size of these baby perch.

One of things that I would recommend to improve your catch of larger perch is to go to a larger hook, and bigger bait. We were using a size ten hook and a keeper perch will inhale a size eight without a problem. I started with a small piece of nightcrawlers and gradually put larger and larger pieces on the hook. I still managed to catch some of the small guys, but I also got more aggressive bites from the larger perch.

Another benefit of larger bait is that you never know what you might catch on the Wasteway. As I said, I got a very small bass, but there are some really big bass taken every year by people angling for perch. I have also seen rainbow to about five pounds taken from this same stretch of the canal. I got a carp that thrilled Eileen. After catching small perch, to see this four-pound fish racing around and bending my rod gave her a large charge!

I was planning on heading down to Moses Lake on Sunday, too, and check out the perch fishing from the rip rap along the I-90 Bridge, but we ran out of time. I will try to get there really soon, though, because if the perch are biting in the Wasteway, they will be biting in Moses Lake, and the perch tend to be larger there.

With the mild weather we are having, it is worth the trip to this part of the Wasteway. I know that if you have more than an hour or two like we did, you will be able to fill a bucket with some very prime, cold-water perch. They will make for some very good eating.

The area we fished is just south of the bridge on Road 5 NW that crosses over the Wasteway. Take the Whitetrail Road cutoff, which is a mile or so from the rest stop at the top of the grade on the way to Quincy. It will turn into Road 5 NW when you cross the highway to George at the golf course. It is about nine miles to the bridge when you cross this highway.

Anglers fish above this bridge and below it on both sides of the canal. It really doesn’t matter, as long as you understand that you sometimes need to move around to find a school of fish.

You can find a description of the finer points of perch fishing on the Story Page on my web site, so all you need to do now is find the time to get down to the Wasteway or Moses Lake to give it a try. The action my not be as hot as it can be in the early spring, but there are schools of bigger fish here somewhere. The other advantage is that the fish are in the best condition possible, and if you haven’t had a good perch feed in a while, get ready for some really good eating!


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