Presented from Issue 112, October 2014
It is that time of the year when the weather starts to warm up and the freshwater fishing scene jumps into action. The trout have finished spawning and there is, once again, an abundance of natural food. It is a great time for both the fly fishermen and the budding lure angler!
As many of you search for trout at this time of the year, you are also very likely to encounter that pesky little creature commonly referred to as the ‘redfin perch’. These fish are renowned for taking your fly, lure or whatever you may throw in the water. They can be a royal pain in the bum at times, literally hooking up on every cast.
But have you ever thought about what it might be like to catch a monster redfin?
Trust me, they do exist in Tasmania…
|Samuel Evans with a good one from Lake Leake
A brief background
The Redfin or English Perch was originally introduced to Tasmania from England as a sportfish in 1861. It may be hard to believe, but these things have been around for as long as trout have been around in Tassie.
In appearance, redfin are an olive/ green colour. They are marked with six or seven very dark vertical stripes. They have a very large, spiny double dorsal fin – much like a black bream. The lower fins and tail are a vivid red colour and it is for this reason that, Australia, they are commonly referred to as ‘redfin’.
The olive and dark stripe markings on their body serve as camouflage. Redfin will use this to their advantage in order to hide in weed and amongst sunken timber. They are masters of ambush for this reason!
Anglers catching this species should be wary of the sharp spines on the dorsal fin. While they will give you a sharp prick, they are not poisonous - as some people believe. The serrated gill plates on the larger specimens are also something to watch out for. The gill plates can be very sharp and will easily cut your hand while you are handling them. In contrast, redfin perch do not have sharp teeth. Their teeth are more like coarse sandpaper than anything else that I can think to compare them with. As a result, you can easily stick your thumb in their mouth to land them. No need for a landing net. They are just like big mouth bass in the USA!
In some Tasmanian waters, redfin can grow in excess of 2 kg. To top it off, they can measure well over 450 mm in length. At that size, the hump on their head is very pronounced and they almost resemble a football!
Redfin perch spawn between early spring and early summer. A large female can lay up to 350,000 eggs in thin strands over twigs, stones or weed. Females become particularly territorial at this time. In Tasmania, I find that this usually happens in the period leading up to Christmas.
These fish hunt by sight and therefore clear water is vital for them to do be able to do so. They will eat members of their own species, with the bigger fish happily feeding on their own relatives! It is not uncommon to find smaller fish inside the stomachs of the larger ones. On occasion, I have had them regurgitate smaller, but still alive redfin in my lap while fishing for them in my kayak!
The Inland Fisheries Service currently views redfin perch as a pest fish in Tasmania. This is due to their ability to out-compete with our native fish. In some cases redfin can reduce or even eradicate entire native populations. Given their taste for smaller fish, they have also been known to prey on juvenile trout.
As a sportfish
The small ones can be a pest! I totally agree. However, the big 2 kg + specimens are a different story – they go hard! One of my favourite pastimes in summer is to target these monsters on light gear. Expect one solid hit, then a series of very smooth, but powerful runs. If you are in a heavily wooded or weedy area then, without a doubt, the monster redfin will take your lure for a ride into the snags every time!
The big ones will keep their heads down and run until you tire them out. Heaps of fun, but don’t expect any aerial displays. They simply pull like steam trains and stay under for as long as possible.
| Reddies are easy and safe
to land with a lip grip.
As a table fish
Redfin perch are very tasty! Many people (myself included) rate them better tasting than trout. Their flesh tastes sweet. It is firm and flakes off in large pieces. As far as cooking goes, no spices are required to bring out the flavour. Simply fried up in a bit of seasoned flour is usually the best way to eat redfin. In my mind, they are the only freshwater fish that has similar attributes to that of a tasty saltwater fish such as snapper or even flathead.
Some really nice fillets can be pulled off those larger specimens. Don’t even try to scale the large ones. They are literally armour-plated with thick skin and scales. One cut behind the neck, then slide your knife along the backbone. Pull the remaining skin off and you will have a fillet similar looking to flathead meat! Once you cut the ribcage out, there are only the pin bones left. Remove these, and you have a beautiful boneless fillet.
What about the smaller redfin you ask? Well besides your cat getting a good feed, try keeping a few for the table. Unlike the big ones, these can be scaled easily. Cut the heads off and keep them whole. Fried up in a bit of butter, they are superb dining! The crispy skin has to be the best part of eating these smaller fish. What about bones you ask? Well, if you are careful and pull the spine gently – the whole lot should come out, leaving only the tasty skin and white flesh.
I have even smoked them up in the past. If you are going to do this, be careful of the flesh drying out. Unlike trout, redfin flesh does not have a high oil content. The best way to prevent them from drying out in your smoker is to smoke them whole. You can increase the moisture level further by simply leaving the scales on. When smoked, the skin and scales are discarded, leaving the moist flesh for you to enjoy.
How to catch them?
Generally speaking, redfin are not fussy eaters. They can be caught on both bait and lures. Perhaps the best childhood memory I have is catching them in the Macquarie River on a bubble float and worm. This was a very simple, yet effective method, but I also remember catching a lot of tench too!
These days, I use soft plastics to catch the big ones. I stay away from using my good hard- bodies, because I lose too many in the snags, and the plastics are cheaper. I also find that the bigger the plastic, the better chance you have of catching that trophy redfin. Remember, redfin have a very large mouth and will easily engulf oversized lures, so don’t be worried that they won’t hook up properly. In the heavily wooded area of Brushy Lagoon, I use a very dark coloured Strike Tiger 3” curl tail grub.
The ‘black caviar’ colour is a winner here. It is basically a jet black plastic with red fleck through it. If you have something similar in your tackle box, I am sure that it would work equally as well. Just make sure that whatever you do use, it needs to have a good amount of in-built tail action. I have found that the more action a lure has, the more aggressive the response of these big fish will be. Such a response is something that you can expect, particularly as they get more aggressive around their spawning time (Christmas).
Target any sunken timber or heavily weeded areas with exposed open pockets where a lure can be cast into. That is the biggest tip I can give anyone in finding the larger fish. In relation to retrieves, I use just a ‘slow roll’ with a few twitches thrown in for extra appeal here and there. A ‘slow roll’ is basically a flat retrieve where the tail of the plastic does all the work. If the action is slow, you can sometimes vary your retrieval speed to get the big ones’ attention. By the way, I use an 8lb fluorocarbon leader for maximum snag resistance. Fishing in such close proximity to underwater timber will test your skills. A beefed-up leader will certainly give you a better chance of landing that trophy redfin!
Places to fish for redfin Most rivers in Tasmania will have a redfin population. A couple of heavily infested ones are the Macquarie and the South Esk; however, generally speaking, the redfin here will be small to medium in size. For the monster specimens, I highly recommend exploring a couple of well-known lakes. My personal favourite is Brushy Lagoon in the state’s north. The wooded area in the northern part of this lake contains some of the biggest redfin I have ever caught in my life (I have one I got out of there mounted – it came it at 2.45 kilograms, which is over 5 lb in the old scale!).
Lake Leake is another hotspot for the big ones. Plenty of submerged timber for redfin to hide there let me tell you! Brothers, Connor and Samuel Evans, have caught their fair share of trophy-sized specimens here in recent years. I have also heard of Brady’s Lake having some big ones in it, but so far have never ventured there to meet them, although it is definitely on my ‘to do’ list of redfin fishing locations.
The low down
Is it illegal to put a redfin perch that you have caught back in the water?
No it’s not. However, it is illegal to stock any inland water with them. Big fines apply – don’t do it!
Is there a bag limit on redfin?
However, you will still require a freshwater fishing licence to catch them.
Tips to catch that big reddy!
Use a kayak to silently get in amongst the snags. Target lures hard against the snags – any sunken timber or fallen trees are often good.
Don’t forget about open pockets of weed - big reddies will often lie in such areas in wait, ready to ambush passing fish.
Don’t be afraid to use larger lures. Large, dark coloured soft plastics with a good tail action are a great option.
Hard bodies work very well too – try to pick something big with a loud rattle.
Beef up your leader to give yourself the best chance of pulling a big one out of the snags – 8 lb fluorocarbon is a good start.
Remember…you will lose lures, jig heads and possibly your sanity in the snags while hunting these monsters!
If you are after something different in the warmer months that are on the way, redfin perch fishing may be for you. I can personally vouch for the fact that catching the bigger 2 kg+ specimens is a very rewarding pursuit - I have certainly had some really good heart pounding moments catching the big fish over the last few seasons! Not only do they fight hard, but they are also an excellent table fish. Carefully fillet the big ones and take them to your next BBQ. I guarantee that your friends will love them. Sport and eating aside, perhaps the best thing of all, is that you will be doing your part to help the local trout population by removing a pest species! PS – If you have any redfin related questions, I can be contacted via my Facebook page at www.facebook/ striketigerlurestasmania.