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WHITE PERCH A GOOD WINTER OPTION

The South Shore’s tidal rivers and creeks provide ultra-light action for scrappy white perch from November throughout the winter and early spring.
By Tom Melton
WHITE PERCH A GOOD WINTER OPTION
White perch are a viable target in South Shore tidal creeks from now through winter and into spring.

As the winter months approach many anglers will still be looking to wet a line. They could head out on a party boat, or hit the ice for sweetwater ice action. But another option is targeting the many tidal creeks that dot the South Shore in search of great tasting and scrappy white perch. These fish are feisty battlers and a blast to catch on ultra-light spinning tackle. The light tackle and light lines also allow you to deliver very light offerings such as the tiny jigs and spinners that often produce the best results.

Long Island anglers have a number of options when it comes to tracking down white perch, especially along the South Shore, where a couple of local perch sharpies, Rich Miller from Lindenhurst Bait & Tackle and Frank Falco of Chasing Tails Bait & Tackle in Oakdale, shared some of their perch fishing expertise.

Rich has been scoring white perch during the winter months since he was a kid fishing under the tutelage of his dad, the late Carl “Smokey” Miller, who specialized in catching white perch in his home waters of the Connetquot River. Frank spends many hours from November into the spring pounding South Shore tidal creeks and is one of the best when it comes to targeting white perch.

According to Rich, Santapogue Creek (Taco Bell), Carmans River and the Connetquot are great locations. Frank Falco of Chasing Tails in Oakdale commented that along with those areas, white perch can be found in Greens Creek, both sides of Tuttles Creek and Bellport Country Club.

According to Rich Miller, “At Santapogue, most white perch fishermen traditionally have fished from shore there. I and a few of my customers launch our kayaks and anchor up over muddy holes or within casting distance of drop offs. A portable fish finder helps to locate these spots and will let you know if there's fish there.”

Moving to the Carmans, Rich feels the river has been particularly productive the last few seasons. Nightcrawlers work very well but if you net some live grass shrimp from around bulkheads, you'll do better.

Rich also says, “Cast around with a split shot and bait rig pulled slowly along the bottom. Cover as much ground as possible until you locate fish. If possible keep another bait on a float rig three-foot from the top and watch for bites while working the other rod. White perch like ledges and holes, so if you spot any on your graph or chart, make sure you work the area over thoroughly.

Frank Falco also commented on the importance of structure in the form of holes and ledges, and feels that any drop-off into muddy bottom is sure to hold fish. Frank also suggested that if the creeks ice up, but are not totally frozen, a very good technique is to cast to the edge of the ice, or even onto it, and then drag your jig or worm and let it fall off the edge.

There is one thing that is sure when it comes to white perch – they are there or they are not! When Frank hits the water, he will work holes first in a meticulous manner. He’ll hit two to three holes and work each for ten minutes. If no fish are found in the deeper holes, he will focus his efforts on shallower flats where the fish will sometimes seek the warmer water found in the shallows. Sunny days are most likely to hold fish in the shallows.

White perch will readily take nightcrawlers, grass shrimp and a wide assortment of jigs in various colors. Frank suggested that if you have trouble getting grass shrimp, and the fish are a little finicky, run to the local shopping center and pick up a bag of frozen popcorn shrimp and use a small tail section.

Rich’s white perch arsenal includes artificials like the C.P. Swing, Mepps spinners, and 1/8 ounce curly tail jigs. Frank is also a fan of artificials for perch and leans heavily on tiny jigs ranging from as small as 1/16 of an ounce to 1/8 ounce. He tips them with a variety of soft plastic curly tails. Among his favorites are Panfish Assassins in trout color, Lunker City in alewife, and Gotcha curly tail grubs in chartreuse.

According to Rich, the Connetquot River is where he does most of his white perch fishing. “As long as the river isn't frozen it is a great spot from late November to late April, stated Rich.”

Most of these tidal creeks also play host to decent populations of sea run trout, and some have produced a fair number of school stripers during the winter months. Trout are an occasional by-catch to the perch, but if you want to target them, live killies or whole nightcrawlers are will give you a better shot at trout that can reach the five pound mark. Swimming plugs or larger jigs dressed with soft plastics are a good option if you want to expand your efforts to stripers. Carmans River and the Connetquot have both produced stripers the last couple of seasons, and both are also likely to surrender an occasional sea run brown or rainbow trout.

So, there you have it, a plethora of white perch hotspots that can be fished from shore or via a small tin boat or kayak. The areas are sheltered from most wind conditions, and if you pick a sunny day, the rewards of a fun filled day of action, and tasty fillets for dinner are second to none.

Editor’s Note: Coast Guard regulations require that if you fish from a boat less than 21 feet from November 1 through May 1, you must wear a PFD at all times.

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