Written by Tallis Cotterill
Spring is one of the best times to catch one of Australia’s great native fish in dams; the iconic Golden Perch. October and November are the best months to target them as they feed up with the intention of breeding.
The breeding season is an opportunity for anglers fishing in dams to easily locate Yellowbelly and locate them in big numbers as they begin to school and in big numbers. Catching a female in a school and watching all the males chase the fish up in crystal clear water is something every angler wants to experience during spring. Casting at a school of aggressive Yellas on a perfect spring day is as good as freshwater fishing gets!
The Spawning Cycle
During spring the Perch’s behavior changes as they begin their breeding cycle. Throughout the lead up and during this time they can be caught in large numbers as they let down their guard.
They are a lot more active, aggressive and will chase almost any lure when they are fired up. Even better is the females are big and fat at this time of year. At the start of spring you will find the fish can be very fussy and will be harder to find. In the later months of spring when the females start spawning is when the real action starts.
In October the males will become aggressive and the fish will start to school up. When the Golden start schooling is the time fishing becomes very impressive and lots of big fat fish can be caught in the same location in a short period of time.
The fish can be so aggressive when spawning that the males will chase the females if you manage to hook one in a school. It’s not uncommon to see between 4 and 6 fish following the fish you have hooked to the surface. Many anglers have even managed to net up to 3 fish while scooping the fish they have hooked.
Choosing the Right Location
One of the great things about Golden Perch fishing in spring is that the fish seem to be on the bite throughout the whole day, especially when schooling. Morning and afternoon will still fish great, especially when fishing in shallower water but there is no need to stop fishing during the day.
When fish are being caught throughout the entire day it can be a great experience for not only the beginners but also the experienced. Most schools of Golden Perch will stay in the same spot for the whole day but will travel into different depths to find the water temperature that suits them. Casting your way along banks all day is a successful form of fishing but you will catch more fish if you target the schools.
The schooling fish can be caught almost anywhere in spring as long as there is cover and food for them. There are 2 main areas which have both cover and a vibrant food source and they should be your go to areas when starting a day’s fishing.
These are the top location to find schooled Golden Perch. These areas are like highways for baitfish and food and the Yellas just sit in wait for the food. The best lure option for fishing these points would be sinking lures as they can get down to the depth the fish are located in. During the hottest days of spring the schooled yellow belly will sit in deep water at usually around 10-15 metres but your best chance of finding hungry fish is from 4-8 metres deep. Soft plastics and lipless crankbaits are the go to option.
The next go to area for schooling Golden Perch is standing timber. Sometimes you can get lucky and find great fish around a single tree but targeting trees that are clustered together is where you will find massive schools of fish.
Dams such as Burrinjuck, Copeton and Eildon all hold huge amount of standing timber which Golden Perch call home when schooling in spring. The fish will be found in all depths hugging tight against the trees. Clusters of trees are full of life in spring and the small redfin, shrimp, baitfish and yabbies living in and around the trees. This is another reason the Golden Perch can be found in these areas, because of the food source.
Finding a huge school of fish in standing timber is great fun and will test your fishing ability’s. Lots of smaller fish will be caught but there will always be a few big fish in the school and pulling a big yella out of the snaggy trees is very rewarding.
These two locations mentioned above will be your best options for schooling Perch but they can also be found in a number of other locations. Grassy banks, weed beds, deep rock walls and submerged timber will all hold schools of quality fish.
Picking the right areas to target at the start of the day is very important and could make or break your day. Spend time searching in each location until you figure out where the fish are holding up. Then from there spend your time working similar kinds of structure.
Finding and staying
Like I have said finding the schools isn’t the easiest of tasks. The hardest part is finding where the hungry fish are and it can be made easier by knowing which areas to target. Once you have found the fish it can be even more important to know how long you should spend casting at the school. You being to ask yourself, “How long do I keep casting for? Should I move on and come back late?”
The best way to try and find schools is to work areas quickly. When you do land a fish, the best way to find out if that fish is a part of a school is to keep fishing there. Even if it is a small fish, continue to cast around the same area it was caught. Chances are it could be a sign of bigger, better and more things.
Ensure that you keep your distance from where the fish was caught. If your boat gets too close you may spook the school and ruin your chances of landing multiple fish. Cast your lures into the same area and if you don’t receive another hit within a few minutes move on. If you are struggling to find fish throughout the day it can sometimes pay off to go back to the locations in which you caught fish. Even if you only landed the one, there still may be a school of fish in the area.
The best way to land numerous Golden Perch during a day’s outing is to find where the schools are holding. Once you do it will put you in a good chance of having a great day on the water.
In addition to working quickly, is using your sounder to its full capability. Top end sounders will stretch your budget but the new technology will blow your mind. The new Structure Scan feature in sounders is unreal and allows you to spot every tree branch, school of bait fish and helps you understand the environment you are fishing. The new sounders are outstanding but any sounder will help when fishing for Yellowbelly. Learn how to use your sounder and work it to its full potential.
From experience I have learnt that Golden Perch will act differently almost every trip, finding the schooling fish on the day may be easy or very hard. Using your sounder and working the right areas quickly will maximize your chances of find the schooling Goldens. Remember, once you find them stay in the same location and keep on casting!