Of all the species that have a knack of thriving on man-made waterways, perch are one of the most universally successful. To my mind they epitomise the attraction of canal fishing. While they are abundant in the most rustic of settings, perch seem to fare just as well in really industrial-looking canals. They respond to a whole range of methods and hold a timeless appeal in the hearts of anglers, from battle-hardened specialists to small children.
The greedy little perch found near any given bridge or access point have formed a starting point for countless canal fishers. In fact my own adventures on the local Cut began with a little gang of us on pushbikes heading for a lock pool. The perch were like us in a sense: bunches of them would hang around in all the obvious places, rather naive but eager to get stuck in. At the time our tackle was too crude to tempt much else, but along with eels, those perch gave us that vital first taste of success, providing the most obvious of bites and making our cheap fibreglass poles kick.
Ashby Canal Fishing Photo Gallery
On other sunny afternoons we would amuse ourselves by throwing bread into the water and watching tiny silver fish swarm over it. Every few minutes a few small perch would arrive to crash the party, launching themselves into the shoal to pick a few off. Another helping of bread and the whole carnival would repeat itself.
Flyfishing is an underrated method for perch
The little perch still put a smile on my face, but perhaps the main difference today is an awareness that the next bite could produce a perch of three pounds rather than three ounces. Those great survivors that outgrow and outlast their little siblings do extremely well on canals, foraging on a wide range of prey from fry and gudgeon to crayfish. Nor are they difficult to locate in many cases. Any area of cover and structure, from bridges, walls and lock gates to boats and landing stages can hold them. Equally though, some less obvious places also hold perch and the sloping shelf on each side of the canal is another sanctuary. They do often prefer deeper spots to the shallow margins however, and if you can find relatively deep water slap bang next to snags such as bushes and sunken branches, this is perfect habitat. Failing that, your best bet on more featureless canals is to search the water and pay special attention to any areas rich in small prey fish. At first and last light, which form periods of peak activity, you might even see fingerlings leaping clear of the water as perch go on the offensive.
The author tries an urban boatyard.
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