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Early Spring White Perch - A Treat Sweet to Eat!

By Hugh Carberry
Supervising Biologist
March, 2005

Without a doubt, white perch are one of the finest eating fishes found in New Jersey's waters. The fillets when cooked are succulent, sweet and firm in texture. Easily caught in fresh or brackish water, white perch can be caught by the basketful.

Eating-size white perch range from 10 to 12 inches and the fillets when fried are similar in size to commercially bought "Fish Sticks". However, "Perch Sticks" taste ten times better and don't have the processed fishmeal taste characteristic of store bought brands.

White perch are caught in the deeper pools of lakes, rivers and streams. In tidal areas, good locations to focus in on are small feeder creeks that dump into the main part of a river. The ebbing tide is the time to go. Don't be afraid to move if no fish are caught in ten minutes.

If you start catching numerous slab white perch at a location such as this, be tight lipped, as you have a silver mine. If you take a friend, blind fold them to and from the location.

In the spring, rising water temperatures and increased daylight length trigger schooling / spawning behavior. Schools can be located by trial and error by shoreline anglers or with an electronic fish finder by boat anglers.

Once a school is located the fun borders on work because the action is non-stop. Be careful during the fishing frenzy grasping and removing white perch from the hook. White perch flare out their dorsal spines in a defense mechanism when they know they're slated for supper.

Angler with catch of white perch
Angler with catch of white perch
Your basic terminal tackle for bait fishing is simple: a weight, dropper loop and a gold-colored #1 baitkeeper hook. Baits such as bloodworms, small minnows or grass shrimp are proven favorites. Any light fishing outfit with eight to twelve pound test line is a good choice for equipment.

Depending on the depth of a white perch school in the water column, a small bobber can be added to keep baits at the appropriate level. Casting small artificial baits such as spinners or small Rapalas is also another effective method to catch white perch and can break up the monotony when bait fishing. Casting artificials is also a fast means of finding schooled fish as more area is covered.

Productive White Perch Fishing Locations:
Raritan River
Manasquan River
Toms River
Mullica River
Great Egg Harbor River
Maurice River
Cohansey River

Wildlife Management Areas with fishing access:
Heislerville North (pdf, 265kb), South (pdf, 240kb)
Rainbow Lake (pdf, 275kb)
Tuckahoe North (pdf, 340kb), South/Corbin City (pdf, 340kb)
Union Lake (pdf, 520kb)

If you have a touch of early spring fever, bundle up, grab your favorite fishing rods and head out to the white perch fishing grounds. Harvest enough to eat and cook them the same day. Your taste buds will appreciate it.

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: March 17, 2005