Perch Pursuit: Lure Fishing Tactics for Winter Waters in the UK

Perch Pursuit: Lure Fishing Tactics for Winter Waters in the UK

Long gone are the warm summer days when you are fighting away fish with a stick. Winter is coming. Low temperatures mean more than needing a thicker pair of socks on the bank. In cold weather fish move less and eat less. This makes catching them harder but if we were afraid of a challenge, we would have chosen another hobby. It's not all dull and gloom – you may no longer have to share the bank with that guy with the rubbish music taste or struggle to find a peg at your local commercial. The good news is that specimen fish are caught more often in colder waters, so make the most of it!

Picture Of European Perch Swimming Underwater Predator Fishing Lures

Where to find them:

Perch are a hardy fish, the front-line soldier of the UK waterways, they can be found in canals, ponds, reservoirs, and rivers across the UK. Pretty much any freshwater body of water will contain some. You can find and fish some perch near you. Perch being predators, like to sit in structures and hide while waiting for prey to swim by and attack – much like a carp fisherman tucked away in his bivvy. Look out for bridges, weeds, moored boats, or any other feature and you may find a shoal tucked away.
Don’t feel deflated if your summer swims aren’t producing. The fish typically seek out the warmest parts of the water. It’s common to find they have moved to new areas as the water chills. In colder months they tend to hug the bottom in deeper pockets and may also be found in shallower margins by the mid-afternoon on a sunny day where waters warm quicker. You may need to fish further out than usual as the centre of a pool, canal, or river is usually deeper. It can be a good idea to start your day a little later as the fish are livelier once the water has heated up a little. Instead of fishing at dawn try closer to mid-day when there is peak sunlight and water temperature.

Tip: Small Perch are a meal for larger Perch – so if you are catching smaller perch, it may be unlikely that larger specimens are around.


In the winter my sessions tend to get shorter, I like to try new spots and travel around until I locate some fish willing to bite. Staying on your feet and keeping mobile also helps you keep warm. I always carry a rod in my car and will go fishing when a chance arises.

 Perch  Caught On Mepps Spinner Fishing Lure Canal


When fishing somewhere new or after not visiting for a while, you will want to search the area for fish before spending a large amount of time in one spot. Using something like a small spinner can be ideal. You can search all depths, slower keeps the lure deeper and all species tend to bite, it’s my go to lure. Fan out casts from each spot while paying attention to depths, weeds, obstacles, and bites. If you don’t catch anything move on to the next spot until you find some fish – no matter how perfect the spot looks, sometimes it just doesn’t hold fish.


Tip: Size isn’t everything. Pulling out an average sized fish on an ultra-light setup would even keep Jeremy Wade entertained. Spend some time finding the right spots and then focus on targeting the biggens. 



In general, you will need smaller lures, thinner lines, and a slower presentation. I caught my first perch on a jig with a 12ft carp rod and 10lb mono line. Far from ideal but it can work, don’t get bogged down with the need for specialist equipment.
The main thing you’re looking for when lure fishing for perch is a lightweight setup so you can cast all day long and good sensitivity so you can feel bites, weeds, and the bottom. In my opinion, it is better to start fishing with what you already have and then grab some specialist stuff as you figure out your needs. Check some second-hand marketplaces for something cheap to get you started. Your local cash converters can be great for a starter rod and reel.

Perch Caught On Predator Fishing Lure Canal UK Dropshot Bait


For people who are just getting into fishing, grab a all-round spinning rod which gives you the flexibility for fishing for different species and venues. A 6.5ft to 7.5ft rod is a good starting point with a casting weight of around 3-10g. As with everything in life, there are trade-offs. A longer rod allows you to cast further while a shorter rod allows better manoeuvrability in tight areas and easier casting. Lighter cast weights typically mean a more sensitive rod allowing you a greater feel of what is happening with your lure and heavier rods allow you to cast a wider range of lures.
You should use a spinning reel that’s 1000 to 2000 in size. Models are not important till you get some experience and figure out your likes and dislikes. I would look for a metal framed reel though as I have broken countless plastic handles on my trips, and metal reels can be found new from around £30. A special mention goes out to bait caster reels, although not essential (they’re the Ferraris of the casting world), they are specifically designed to cast efficiently. They allow for a one-handed operation and make casting so much easier so you can focus on keeping your lures out of trees. I use a Quantum Smoke SL101 with 10lb Sufix Fuse for canals and a Abu Garcia Revo S RVO3S with 18lb Dyna Tex Fire Ice Braid for rivers and reservoirs.



The line is where I would not skimp. This turns a rubbish beginner combo rod into something you can confidently fight the river monsters with. Between 6 and 10 lb breaking strength is ideal for most situations. I strongly recommend using a braided fishing line. It’s a woven structure of many finer mono lines and gives no stretch; allowing you to feel bites no matter how tiny. Getting a good feel of your lure through the line is crucial for knowing when it hits the bottom and when you get strikes. Striking too late can miss catches and deep hook fish.
If you are looking for the best of both worlds, co-polymer line has lower stretch than mono, less visibility than braid, and has a very thin diameter-to-strength ratio. It offers the best of mono and fluorocarbon lines. Being a single core however, it is more susceptible to damage and breaking during your fishing session. P-Line is probably the best Co-Poly out there, the CXX Series comes in a moss green at also lends some camouflage properties to your fishing.
Now for the action side of your setup - it's good practice to use a fluorocarbon leader. This material is almost invisible underwater so is great to provide a more natural bait presentation and therefore a greater chance of a bite. I like to use a 3ft section of 6-8lb fluorocarbon and attach it with a double uni-knot. 

Double-Uni-Knot Fishing Knot Tutorial Predator Fishing Lure Mainline Leader

When trying out a new spot a wire trace is recommended. If the spot holds pike, you’re not only losing a shiny new lure you’re also leaving a mouthful of hooks in a fish. This can lead to the fish dying so it needs to be avoided at all costs. Wire traces can make your lure more visible and affect the action so if I am confident there are no pike in a stretch, I like to remove mine. I tie a trace directly to my main line braid and do not use fluorocarbon.

Lures & Techniques:

In the winter perch can be more reluctant to bite larger faster lures. You may have to downsize from the summer and slow down with your techniques. Cold water also tends to be clearer, making your lure and line more visible to fish. You may want to fish with more natural colours and be aware that smaller lure actions can still attract the fish.

Tip: If you know the colour of the bottom where you are fishing – try using a lure with a contrasting colour. So where silty canals tend to have muddy brown-black bottoms try using a white or pearl lure to make sure it stands out!

 Selection Of Fishing Lures For Perch Predator Fishing Softbaits Jig Heads Hooks


The golden rule is to downsize! The greedy perch are no longer striking lures twice their size. I like to stick between baits sized between 1 to 3 inches. It’s a good idea to keep a selection of lures on you to see what works. Just because your Senko is killing on the local river does not mean it will catch on the canal.
I like to break down lures into three categories: Soft Lures, Hard Lures, and Spinners. I tend to keep a few of each on me for my sessions in a small container.
I often fish light; just my rod, multitool, and a small box full of lures.
Begin by locating fish with a spinner and wire trace. You want to stick between a size 1 and 3. Bear in mind that a larger lure can cast further and can cover more water, but may not get bites, especially in pressured cold waters.

Secelction Of Mepps Spinner Fishing Lure For Predator Fishing


Once you have found some fish you can try slowing down your approach. Jigging is probably the most popular form of lure fishing and for good reason. You can easily switch out your lure for a new size or colour and it allows you to fish the bottom where the fish tend to hold up in the winter. Try and be patient, you will find a lot of your strikes are after a couple second pause or as your jig falls to the bottom. Cast out and wait till you feel the lure hit the bottom, give the tip of your rod a few light shakes to give the lure some action, and then reel in between a quarter turn and a whole turn of your reel. Make sure to leave some pauses and mix it up constantly until you find what is working on the day.
It’s a good idea to have a variety of shapes, sizes and colours of lures on the bank so you can figure out what is working. For example, I may take some Trabucco Slurp!, Berkley Power Worms and Zoom Tiny Flukes so I have a variety of options.
Hard lures come in many different shapes and sizes. Typically getting a good action on these is slightly more difficult so if you are a beginner I would stay away for now. Often the action on these lures is much more aggressive so may not be suitable for lethargic fish fancying an easier meal.
Drop shotting is the perfect technique for colder waters. It allows you to suspend your soft bait in a ‘target zone’ for an extended period whilst still giving the lure plenty of action. The rig is simple to set up and can be done without specialist equipment. Take a 6ft length of leader fluorocarbon and attach it to your mainline. Grab a size 4 standard carp hook and a pair of pliers. Use the pliers to bend the eye of the hook outwards about 10° out, this helps with the way your hook presents underwater. Tie this hook halfway down your fluorocarbon leader using a Palomar knot. Finally attach some SSG shots at the bottom of your leader, anywhere from 2-5g is perfect and you can adjust this as your session goes on. More weight will allow you to cast further but the larger splash may scare some fish away- its good practise to use the minimum weight necessary for the situation. The distance between your hook and weights depends on how far out you are fishing. Fishing at a further distance means your line will slope more and your hook will be closer to the bottom therefore you might want to increase the length between your hook and weight to raise your bait off the ground.

Drop Shot Fishing Diagram Hook Weight Soft Plastic Fishing Lure


Grab a 1-2” soft bait and nose hook it. You can use paddle tail shads, creature baits, imitation or even live worms. Cast it out then reel your line taut and shake the tip of your rod gently to give the lure action. Throw in a few pauses for good measure. You can then reel the lure in closer and repeat this process until you strike.
The great thing about Drop Shotting is once you find a area holding fish you can keep the lure there. With a jig head you will need to keep casting and it only holds the lure in that area for a few seconds each time while with a dropshot setup it will stay suspended perfectly until you get a bite or decide to reel it in. Repeated casting of other lures such as jigs may also spook some fish away. Drop shotting is perfect for targeting tricky areas such as the far bank of a canal where you tend to find larger fish. Cast the lure out to the far edge and just wait while giving it a few twitches and boom new PB!
You made it to the end so here’s my golden tip. I use a ‘Fishing Calendar’ to help me pick the best days and times to fish. I won’t pretend to understand the science behind it but without a doubt, it works. Based on barometric pressure of the air and sunrise and dusk times it gives you ideal ‘bite times’. I try my best to fish during these times and it usually produces excellent results.
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