Warm Weather, Hot Perch
This weekend’s forecast of 50 to 60-plus degree temperatures will surely fuel the hot perch bite that was momentarily stalled by Thursday’s cold front.
To be sure, the “Spiney Bite” has been continuing at surprising late season pace, thanks to the warm weather pattern during the past month. Expect it to spike once again after the one day lull.
With water temps at prime levels, and the subsequent abundance of grass shrimp, the white perch are on a feeding binge. Besides the grass shrimp gorge, they are feasting on small killies and whatever marine worms and crustaceans that are up and around thanks to the warmer water.
It’s been a good mix of sizes as well. This most delectable close relative of the striped bass has yours truly keeping them at a self-imposed 7-8 inch minimum. These are scaled, beheaded, gutted, finned and rolled in seasoned flour then fried whole, with the sweet white meat easily separating from the bones. At 8-plus inches, out comes the thin blade/super sharp fillet knife, the results the star component of such recipes as White Perch Florentine.
We’ve seen spineys up to a thick-shouldered 13-inches being swung from a variety of venues from southern Monmouth County southward through Ocean County down into coastal Burlington County, through Atlantic County and into Cape May County. There are numbers to go along with the size. There is no daily limit in brackish waters east of the Garden State Parkway. West of the demarcation, it’s a 25-fish limit. However, beware of exceptions. For example, the Toms River at Mathis and Huddy parks along Route 166 (Atlantic City Blvd.) and behind at the old Trilco clear to the GSP, no fishing license is required and there is no limit. Yet, at the Jakes Branch, also at Atlantic City Boulevard a few hundred yards up from Mathis and Huddy, a license is required and there is the maximum catch rule. Go figure.
Grass shrimp is the top bait, but there are few tackle shops that carry them, much less being open this time of year. You can catch your own by prowling the back water creeks and ditches, making a quick stab with a long-handled net with a fine mesh. Keep the captives on newspapers dampened with saltwater, covered and cool. In lieu of grassies, blood worms, garden worms and small killies appeal to white perch. These are presented on a hi-lo rig or on a single hook under a bobber. Ditto the grass shrimp. While the bait-and-wait is the most productive tactic, the perch will also take swipes at one and two-inch curly tail grubs affixed to a 1/16-oz. jig head. Fave tail colors are white, yellow, and chartreuse glitter. For the head its either white or pink. Keep the retrieve slow enough to keep the tail twisting.
Top venues include the aforementioned Toms River as well as its Jakes Branch tributary, Oyster Creek, Forked River, Mill Creek, Bass River, Nacote Creek, and the Mullica, Egg Harbor and Tuckahoe rivers.