Redfin perch (Perca fluviatilis), also known as English perch, is a medium sized freshwater fish native to northern Europe. First introduced to Tasmania in 1862 (two years before the first trout) for angling, only eleven fish survived the arduous journey by sailing vessel and were released into Tasmanian waters. All of the redfin found in Tasmania today are direct descendants of those 11 fish, just as all the redfin on the mainland can trace their origins to seven fish liberated near Ballarat six years later, in 1868. Redfin perch are now widespread across the cooler parts of NSW, ACT, Victoria, Tasmania, south-eastern South Australia and the south-western corner of Western Australia.
Redfin perch are a deep-bodied fish, with a slightly forked tail and two separate dorsal fins. They have five or more distinctive thick, vertical black bands running along the length of their body, and a black blotch at the rear of the first dorsal fin. Body colour varies from olive green to grey on the back, fading to greenish or silvery on the sides and whitish on the belly. They are named for the vibrant reddish to orange pelvic and anal fins.
While Redfin perch can reportedly grow to 60 cm in length and around 4.8 kg in weight, specimens in NSW are mostly smaller, with 95% of fish less than 230 mm and 200 grams. When the perch grow larger, a hump grows between its head and dorsal fin. Redfin perch live in a wide variety of habitats, but prefer still or slow-flowing waters such as lakes, dams, billabongs, swamps and slower moving streams and rivers. They prefer areas with good shelter such as snags (submerged dead wood and trees), vegetation or rocks, but have also been caught in open water.
Redfin perch are carnivorous and feed on a wide variety of foods ranging from small invertebrates (such as crustaceans, worms, molluscs and insect larvae) to fish.
Although Redfin perch are a popular sport fish with some anglers because of their fighting qualities and taste, they are also voracious predators of other fish and invertebrates, can destroy recreational fisheries in enclosed waters by building up large numbers of stunted fish and eliminating other species, and can potentially spread epizootic haematopoietic necrosis (EHN) virus to native fish populations. Arguably one of the most voracious predators of native species – readily consuming fish and crayfish up to half their body length. They are considered a class 1 noxious fish in NSW.
Don’t return Redfin perch to the water – large Redfin perch are good sport and eating fish and there are no bag or size limits on them. Any caught Redfin perch should be humanely dispatched immediately – it is illegal to be in possession of a live Redfin perch, and the catch can only be stored dead, such as on ice in an esky.
Any fly that is given a bit of action to it will induce redfin to strike if they are feeding. Often, the flies required are “streamers” or bait-fish imitations and use flash, colour and movement to entice a take from the perch.