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Fishing for white perch


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Most Nova Scotia anglers spend their time pursuing brook, brown and rainbow trout in local lakes and rivers.

However, every year more and more of them are turning their attention to another fish species, white perch. White perch are members of the bass family and are closely related to striped bass. They are found in both fresh and salt water as far south as North Carolina but Nova Scotia is the northern limit of their range.

Spawning normally takes place in late May when water temperatures have warmed up. The perch spawn in lakes and no nest is constructed. Eggs are simply released over the bottom in shallow water. Perch eggs are very small and are adhesive, they stick to plants, rocks and the bottom. When the water is cool the eggs will hatch in five days, in warmer water they can hatch in 30 hours.

Young white perch feed on plankton. They grow rapidly and can reach a length of nearly three inches by the end of the summer. Later growth depends on food availability.

Most anglers know of lakes that have nothing but small or stunted perch. These lakes have large numbers of fish but the competition for food means none get very large.

Other systems, usually the ones with sea run populations, have larger fish. In lakes with adequate food perch will eat aquatic insects, smelt, minnows and other white perch.

While some Nova Scotia perch grow up to a foot in length and a pound in weight, most are 10 inches and half that weight.

Perch in our area can live to be seven year old, but white perch up to 17 years old have been reported in Maine.

Most of the larger white perch are found in areas where they have access to the sea. These fish usually run out in the spring and spend several months feeding in our bays and estuaries before heading back in usually in late June or early July.

Nova Scotia also has a second perch species, yellow perch, which are found throughout mainland Nova Scotia, but not on Cape Breton Island.

Unlike white perch however, yellow perch do not go to sea and seldom reach very large sizes.

Fishing for white perch is fairly straightforward and can be a great way to introduce young anglers to sportfishing. White perch readily take bait, worms and minnows, as well as lures.

Fly fishing with small streamers can be a lot of fun as long as you get your fly down to where the perch are. The bag limit is generous, 25 fish, more than enough for a good feed.

Hot summer days can make for slow fishing but mornings and evenings when schools of perch move into shallow water to feed on insects and minnows can produce some fast action.

White perch are delicious eating and in New England they are often prized over trout. So, give white perch a try this season, you wont be disappointed.



Nova Scotia native Don MacLean is a fisheries biologist and an avid outdoorsman.

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