How to Catch a White Perch

How to Catch a White Perch

The white perch is actually a member of the bass fish family. In some areas, it is referred to as a silver bass. Sometimes they also refer to white crappie as a white perch. They get their name from their color, which is a silvery-white. Depending upon its size and habitat, some of the species have started to develop a darker shade along the top and near the dorsal fin. This fish has earned the nickname of black-back. They weigh as much as almost five pounds and almost 20 inches in length, but on average, they are only 8-10 inches in length and from one to two pounds.

The diet of the white perch consists of eating the eggs of many species of fish that are native to the Great Lakes, like true perch fish and walleye. Sometimes one hundred percent of their diet can be fish eggs. They also like to eat small minnows, like the fathead and mud minnows. The white perch fish that live in the Chesapeake Bay eat razor clams, bloodworms, and grass shrimp.

The most noticeable difference between the white perch and striped bass is that the white perch does not have the stripes. It is also more in-coastal than bass fish. To learn more about the basics of White Perch, head over to the State of Minnesota website.

Where to Find a White Perch

You can find them in Eastern North America. The white perch favors brackish waters but can also be found in coastal areas and freshwater from Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River south to South Carolina in the Pee Dee River and as far east as Nova Scotia. They have also been found in the Finger Lakes, lower Great Lakes, Houston, and Mohawk River System, Long Island Sound, and the nearby coastal areas, Chesapeake Bay, and Delaware Bay. White perch are abundant in the Chesapeake Bay and Hudson River area and very common in Lake Ontario.

How to Catch a White Perch

You should fish for white perch from April to June months because that is the time when they migrate from larger estuaries into the rivers to spawn. This gives you a denser concentration of fish and sets the scene for a great shore fishing experience. You can also fish river mouths where the tributaries outflow into bays, creating a brackish estuary. Other areas you can catch white perch include:

  • Dams and falls
  • Merging currents
  • Outside of bends
  • Breakers
  • Channel entrances
  • Surf and shore
  • Schools
  • Undercuts
  • Rock and boulder pockets

One way to fish for white perch is to try trolling. All you need to do is drift slowly along with baited lines in the water until you get a bite. This is a very effective method to catch white perch. Night fishing is also a good time to catch white perch.

This fish responds to all types of angling and the most common type of fishing gear. If you mimic the way their target fish acts and moves your chances of getting a white perch increase. A white perch will normally chase the smaller fish to the surface and leap out of the water so they are caught by the white perch. You can do this too by casting your bait into the water before you pull it to the surface and make it skip along the surface. The white perch will think it is food and jump at it, which will, in turn, get caught on your hook.

Make sure that you go fishing for white perch at the right time. In addition to going at night and at spawning time, they are the easiest to catch from September to November. You will find more adult white perch in open water near the shoreline so try fishing from piers or docks. A good spot to fish for white perch is over water that is 10 to 12 feet deep.

Best Bait for White Perch

As with most fish, if you want to catch them, the best bait to use is live bait. The white perch loves the delicacies of shrimp, worms, and minnows. You may need to try different ones to see what the fish prefer.

  • Cut bait — this is the next best bait to have if you do not have live bait. It should be firm and smell fresh.
  • Crabs
  • Saltwater live bait — can include halfbeaks, scad, and anchovies.
  • Freshwater bait — this can include the carp or minnow family, sucker family, top minnows, and more
  • Squid
  • Clams

The best bait to use for white perch is worms like mealworms, night crawlers, or wax because worms are their favorite bait. When baiting the hook, use as little of the worm that you can because if there is too much worm, the fish will just nibble until they are full and not even touch the hook.

Best Lures & Tackle for White Perch

When you are using tackle and lures to catch white perch, you need to remember that they nibble because of their small size so the tackle used should be light. These types of tackle will let you feel any attempts they might do to get the bait. You can quadruple your chances of catching white perch by using a sabiki rig, which can enable you to catch many white perch at the same time. All you need to do is bait each of the little looks with a small minnow and drop them in the water. When you feel the strike, set a hook, and drop the line back down to keep fishing.

You can also use:

  • Jigs — these have a tail that is made of feathers, animal hair, or rubber with a weighted metal head. You can also attach a piece of pork or minnow to the hook of the jig.
  • Plugs — they are designed to be used on top of the water and have a wood or plastic body.
  • Spoons — these are metal lures that have been designed to mimic the action of a swimming minnow or baitfish. It is a popular lure for freshwater fishing
  • Spinners — they have one or more blades that revolve around a straight wire shaft.

Tips and Tactics

  • As you fish for white perch you have to give them time. Allow the bait to sit while they nibble because otherwise, you will pull the hook away from them. Once you feel it take the hook, then you can set it.
  • You should use smaller hooks such as a size 5 or 6 because white perch are not strong enough or big enough to bend even small hooks that size. This type and size of the hook will give you the potential to catch the white perch. The reason is that it is hard for them to nibble on the bait without catching them on the hook. If the hook is too large, the white perch will eat the bait and not get caught on the hook.
  • TakeMeFishing also has some great tips when fishing for White Perch

How to Cook White Perch (Grilling)

Nothing tastes better than grilled white perch, especially when they are fresh caught and you are sitting around enjoying the fresh air at your camping spot. This grilled recipe has a type of sauce that you put over the white perch fillets before you put them on the grill. Before you make the sauce, tear off the number of sheets of aluminum foil for the number of people you are feeding and put two tablespoons of butter on each sheet before you put your fillets on top. Next, you make the sauce and pour it evenly over all the fillets. Sprinkle with paprika and top with a couple of thin onion slices. Wrap the foils securely around the fish to make a sealed packed but leave enough space so the fish can expand. Grill for 5-7 minutes on each side. Check a packet to see if the fish flakes with a fork. If it does, it is done.

Here is the recipe for the sauce:

  • ¼ cup of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dill weed
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Simmer in a small sauce pan until the butter is melted.

White Perch Reproduction

A white perch is considered a prolific species, which means that they reproduce in large quantities. The female can deposit over 150,000 eggs in one spawning session that lasts a little more than a week. There will be several males attending the female, with each of them possibly fertilizing a portion of the eggs. Within one to six days after fertilization, the young hatch.

Fun Facts about a White Perch

  • In some states, the white perch is considered a nuisance fish because it has its ability to destroy fisheries.
  • They have been associated with the decline in white bass and walleye because they sometimes feed on their eggs but also because they feed a lot on the baitfish that is used by these two species.


Now that you know all about the white perch, you are pumped to try your hand at fishing, but first, you need to get your fishing license. When getting them, make sure that you can check and see if you can use them in other states. You do not want to be caught fishing for white perch without a license. The white perch can be caught year-round but for the best fishing, go during those times that we mentioned in this article. You can even catch them if you go ice fishing. Early spring is when they are hungriest and tightly schooled. 

If you are not sure how to find the school of white perch, you can use one of those electronic fish finding pieces of equipment. You can also look for them feeding near the surface. The ideal location to find white perch is from 15-25 feet deep. Now that you have all the information on white perch, it is time to pack up your fishing equipment, a cooler you can put ice in to keep your fish cold, a container for the fish you are going to catch, and you are ready to go fishing. It is a nice way to spend a quiet afternoon.

Read our other article, How to Catch a Roosterfish, to learn more about catching different types of fish!

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