Golden Perch

 

This small Callop had no trouble engulfing a whole, live shrimp.

Golden Perch, or Callop as they are commonly referred to in South Australia, are a native freshwater fish found throughout the Murray/Darling Rivers and Coopers Creek.  They can grow to well over 5kgs, but a 2-3kg fish is a good one in the Murray River in South Australia.

They are nearly always found in and around snags of some sort and the best fishing here in SA is usually along steep banks with deep water and plenty of tree roots.  It is not necessary to fish far from the bank, as long as there is some sort of cover for the fish.

About thirty years ago, my brother caught our first Callop from the shores of Lake Bonney at Barmera in the State's Riverland.  We had been catching carp one after the other and the Callop was a pleasant surprise.  After that, I saw a few more caught at Clayton on the Lower Murray, but it was on a house boat holiday on the River above Renmark when I really caught my first decent sized fish. 

We were moored against the bank in a gap between extensive reed beds.  We had been swimming in the river during the day, and the bottom was soft mud and not very deep, probably around 7 or 8 feet.  There was a dead tree lying on the bank and it's roots extended across the reeds and into the water beyond.  The spot where the roots disappeared into the water lined up nicely with one side of the house boat.  So, from about 10 metres away, we could drop our live shrimp baits right amongst the roots.

As the sun set and just into the night, over a period of about an hour, we pulled at least 6 nice sized callop from that snag, as well as a few large carp.

 Three nice sized Callop were pulled from this stretch of the River Murray near Moorook.

If fishing from the shore, Callop are best targeted from steep, deep water banks.  Luckily several of the game reserves and areas of national park in the Riverland are perfect for this and it's possible to camp at your fishing spot.  Places like Moorook Game Reserve, Lyrup Flats, Katarapko Creek and Ramco Point are good spots, along with a few others. 

On the lower Murray, the bankside vegetation is different.  At places like Tailem Bend and Wellington, you are most likely to find the Callop hiding amongst the willow tree roots and up against the reed beds.

The cliffs around Waikerie, Swan Reach and Blanchetown are also good spots for Callop, but access, if you are on foot, is difficult if not impossible.  If you have boat though, it would be beneficial to use a sounder and look for deep holes and snags at the base of the cliffs.

Recently the trend has moved towards catching Callop on lures.  At first trolling lures past likely looking spots resulted in quite a few Callop, usually on hard body minnow type lures or the big spinner baits.  Now though, the trend has shifted to anchoring near a snag and jigging or slowly retrieving bladed or smaller minnow type lures.

My favourite method though is to choose a nice spot on the bank and fish any likely looking snags by using live shrimps on the "standard" River Murray rig of two hooks above a sinker.  If there is no water flow, then you can do away with a sinker altogether.  Gear does not have to be expensive.  10 to 15 pound line will be enough, with size 4 - 2 hooks. 

Live shrimps are great bait, but if they are scarce, then tiger worms will also work.  Unpeeled shrimp tail can also be used, and these can be very effective.

Summer and Autumn seem to be the pick of the months, but they can be caught all year round.  Autumn is great.  It is more comfortable to camp at that time of the year due to less mosquitoes and flies and the days are usually warm and calm.

Callop are nice fish to eat, especially fresh.  They are lovely barbequed or wrapped in foil and cooked on the camp fire.  If filleting them, make sure to remove the layer of fat lining their bellies.  The fillets are also best skinned.

In South Australia the legal length for Callop or Golden Perch is 33 cm and the bag limit is 5 per person per day.