Known as the “most cruel of months” because of its capricious weather (read: blue bird one day, penguin the next), the third turn of the calendar ushers the first fishing of the New Year.

The way the white perch are glomming blood worm segments and grass shrimp baits, and also the Fishbites Blood Worm Alternative chunks, presented on hi-lo rigs, in addition to slowly retrieved 1/16-oz. jig heads mated to 1-1/2 to 2-inch curly tail grubs, it’s indeed a fun fishing situation.

Sure, the March 1 opening of the bay and tidal river striped bass season and also the winter flounder season is witnessing fair to decent results keeper-wise, the fact is that if you’d like a fresh fish dinner like no other, then pack the light tackle, bet the bloods, grassies and jigs, and head to the likes of the rivers Toms, Mullica, Bass, Great Egg Harbor and Middle (boat only for the latter), as well as the notoriously over-looked Nacote Creek also best accessed via vessel. Mill Creek in Beach Haven West up near Long Beach Island is another sleeper perch sweeper.

Actually a member of the temperate bass family and close kin of the striper, the white perch are currently in mating and post-love modes, and the feed bags are affixed. The thick shouldered meaty fish, in the 7-12 inch range are pillaging and plundering baits during the outgoing tides as per the warmer water, but as situations change in the early springtime flux, well, the best time to catch them is when you can get a bait in the water. Outgoing or incoming can be a bucket or cooler filler.

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White perch are, sans a culinary doubt, one of the finest, if not the finest tasting of tidal and freshwater panfish, the sweetness of the meat perfect for pan and deep frying, baking, flash-to grilling, and poaching.

There is no bag limit or minimum length restriction when it comes to the March White Perch Palooza. However, when fishing a venue that requires a freshwater fishing license (check page 32 of the 2021 Freshwater Fishing Digest), the daily limit is 25.

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