By Chris Chew
Monster Perch in the Netherlands
It was love at first bite. I was seven years old, I had just caught my first fish. A short pole rod, a little floater, some maggots and there it was: my first perch. I spent the next couple of years catching fish at the local pond, nothing but a rod tip and a bit of line to go for the perch hiding right underneath the bank. Soon I was known at the local supply store for my perch-affinity. But like most kids I dreamt of bigger things and started to go for larger specimen. The pole rod went to the basement, I picked up a carp rod and left the perch to mingle among themselves.
Years went by in which I didn’t think about them once but since I picked up lure angling the perch are back on the menu and man it looks delicious. I’ve grown quite a bit since and the perch have done the same. Today I target only the biggest perch there are. The Dutch specimen.
Perch fishing in the Netherlands is extraordinary. I see many acclaimed anglers driving all the way down to Spain to fish a lake with a funny name, that’s grand, but I’m telling you the possibilities in Holland are nearly endless. Back in the day a 50cm perch used to be an exception whereas now you will stumble upon larger and larger specimen. It might be the goby explosion we have witnessed in the last couple of years, an endless food supply for the perch. The bottom of the Waal, Maas, Rijn and Lek must look like a buffet to them. It seems to me that the old Darwinian principle plays its part in this too: more and more perch are equipped with a sort of knob on their chin which might just come in handy when digging up gobies. Coarse anglers are disgusted with the invasive gobies, whereas lure anglers smile quietly and enjoy the extraordinary amounts of perch we are able to pull out.
Look and Character
I only target perch during the colder months. During winter the large perch will move into the deep gravel pits in the tributaries. I look for deep clear pits connected to the rivers. The perch and I love to hunt in sight. I understand if these featureless pits don’t look very perchy to most anglers but make no mistake, these waters hold spiky treasures. I do enjoy a fight with a magnificent beast and as I have said I’m looking for large specimens but I’m not one to weigh every fish I catch. It’s rather the looks I’m after. A monster will leave a mark in your mind behind, memories that will last, images that will stay. A big scratched up head, huge mouth and a dorsal fin adorned with battle scars. I won’t remember the day I caught 20 different fish. I’ll remember that monster though. Character matters to me. Measurements are secondary.
You have to grit your teeth to do it. It’s not easy. The pits are smaller than the rivers they’re connected to but they’re still large. The fish are spread out along the drop-offs, close to deeper pits. The spot where you got lucky yesterday will never be the spot you catch something today. You need to be on the move and cover a lot of water to find out where the party is at. I like to be dynamic.
These days it is fashionable to say that the best moment is the release of the fish. Not to me though. To me the best moment is the bite. Always will be. Presenting your lure in just the right way, making those big, old and intelligent fish think they could actually eat that piece of plastic. Feeling that hard tug on your rod tip going all the way through the handle and into your arm. Full concentration, being connected to your target. The setting of the hook being answered by heavy head shakes. It’s electrifying.
Cranks and Kickback
I mostly use lipless crankbaits, fast and aggressive. It allows you to quickly cover a lot of water and locate the fish. Dark skies, stormy weather, temperatures on the plus side of the thermometer. Those are the conditions I have found to be the most exciting and rewarding. Big waves crashing into your legs, wind blasting into your face and a bite when you least expect it. It doesn’t work every time though. Sometimes I have to be calm and choose a more subtle approach. I always have a fluorocarbon leader attached to my mainline and s snap as a connection to whatever I am using. The kickback rig consists of a short sideline with a 10-20gr weight mounted on it and a 50 to 60cm leader with a large offset or widegap hook. Add a softbait of your choice, et voilà. When the perch are passive and not DTF (down to feed), softbaits such as shad or creature presented in a slow drag just over the bottom can be attractive enough for a little nibble. And that’s all you need with this rig. Since the softlure has no weight attached to it they will swallow it effortlessly. Cast, let the rig sink down to the bottom and slowly work it back up along the drop-off. Let the lure work itself and don’t hesitate to pause regularly. The perch often attack during those pauses.
The never ending social media photo stream of glorious catch shots might make it look easy and implies that there are endless perch to be caught thus making it something ordinary. That is not the reality. The water I’ve been describing to you have the highest concentration of large specimen but you still have to look for them and work hard for every catch. Even if it has become more and more of a trend over the last couple of years, catching monster perch is still something you have to invest in to succeed. But a net filled with wide dark stripes, bright red fins and big spikes is worth it all. Maybe we’ll meet on the bank of a gravel pit some day. So long!