Each year about this time, white perch gather in large schools on Lake Norman and other Piedmont lakes. Anglers can catch all they want in a few hours. Reports of boats catching 100, 200 or 300 perch per trip are common.
If you're interested in hauling in a ton of fish that are fun to catch and good to eat, read on.
White perch are ocean fish that thrive in fresh water. No one is sure how, but some years back these feisty fighters were introduced into Lake Norman. Today, there are so many that some people fear they will take over the lake.
They multiply so quickly that the N.C. Water Resources Commission has elected not to impose a size or creel limit on this little cousin of the striped bass. You can keep all you catch, regardless of size.
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Don't confuse white perch with yellow perch, a panfish popular with Northern anglers. The yellow perch has green and yellow bands around its cylindrical body. The white perch is silver and resembles a white bass with no stripes. The two species are similar in that they swim in schools and are easy to catch with light fishing tackle from shore or boat.
It's easy to find white perch near boat docks and piers, around brush piles and in the deeper parts of narrow coves. Big schools are easy to locate with a fish finder, but drift fishing with lines near the bottom is a time-proven method that produces nice catches as well.
Once you find a school, fish the area thoroughly. If lots of fish are under the boat, anchor and enjoy your find. Otherwise, keep moving until you get bites.
Best baits are small shiny spoons, jigs and deep-diving lures fished closer to the lake bottom than to the surface. Live minnows, small pieces of cut bait, and worms attached to a small hook and light sinker are very popular with bank and boat-dock fishermen.
The Sabiki rig is, by far, the best lure combination. An angler will catch multiple fish each time it is dropped to the bottom. It is a string of two to six small flies tied in tandem with a 3/4-ounce jigging spoon, attached to the end of the line. Fish the rig vertically, like a yo-yo, near the bottom or slightly above the school.
The white meat of the perch is tasty. Scale the small ones before removing the head and entrails, then batter and fry. Larger fish are easily filleted, skinned and prepared like striper or crappie.
Take care when unhooking a white perch. Their fins and gills have sharp spines, which flare out as you try to hold them. Handle them from the belly side, where there are fewer spines.
I'll teach a free fishing seminar, "How to Catch Summer Striped Bass on Lake Norman," 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday at Gander Mountain, off Interstate 77 Exit 36. Details: 704-658-0822.
Striped bass are hitting lures being trolled to 40 feet deep in Mountain Creek and in the old Catawba River channel from marker 13 to Governor's Island. Bass are breaking the surface on points, humps and in boat basins at dawn and dusk. White perch are in water from 15 to 50 feet deep.