Only one month remains this season to catch a stringer full of the high Sierra’s Sacramento perch. The season closes on October 31.
Crowley Lake, in the California eastern Sierras, enjoys a well deserved reputation for its great trout fishing. For many savvy fishermen, however, the Sacramento perch is the fish of choice.
These scrappy little members of the sunfish family provide fast action and a delicious addition to any fisherman’s dinner plate. At the docks of Crowley Lake Fish Camp on any day the lake is open from spring to fall, you can see a few happy anglers unloading buckets full of these slab-sided plump little fish from their boats. Shore fishermen can also do well, especially when the lake’s hungry trout chase them in from weedy hideouts.
On light spinning tackle or fly fishing gear, the Sacramento perch provides plenty of excitement. They school up in coves and along weedy bottoms near the shore. They can be aggressive and will often battle it out with each other to see which one gets to grab your hook.
The best lures include small marabou jigs, plastic minnows, spinners, mini-jigs and small streamers. Work them off the bottom for best results. A 6-7 foot light spinning rod with an ultra-light reel spooled with 2 pound test line or a 7-8 foot fly rod make fighting these spiny-finned little fish almost as exciting as tying into a trophy trout. Be careful handling these fish once you boat them. After you stick them with a hook, they can easily return the favor by sticking you with their sharp dorsal fins. Getting poked a couple of time by a thrashing little perch can leave you with a painful reminder of the experience for several hours.
The Sacramento perch was first discovered in Crowley Lake in the early 1960’s. They have been a welcome addition, providing a steady diet for the lake’s rainbow and brown trout. Most of the lake’s population are in the 1 to 2 pound size. Because they are the only species of sunfish in the lake, however, they thrive without competition. This means they can grow larger. In fact, the current IGFA all-tackle world record, 3-pounds, 3-ounces, came from Crowley.
While the best time to catch these little scrappers is during the May and June spawning period, you can still do well during this last month of the season.
To prepare them for the table, most fishermen fillet them to yield two flaky white slabs of flavorful meat. Breaded and lightly fried, they are as tasty as any fish you’ll ever eat.