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Crayfish Imitations for Perch Fishing in the UK


Discovering and adapting to the evolving lure fishing techniques in the UK, particularly for targeting perch, has been an integral part of my angling journey. My strategy of choice? Crayfish imitations. These lures have grown from a niche preference to a year-round staple in my fishing arsenal.


The Rising Dominance of American Crayfish in UK Waters


An increasingly notable phenomenon in UK waterways is the dominance of American crayfish species, particularly the signal crayfish. These invasive species have been steadily taking over our rivers and lakes, altering the aquatic ecosystems. As a consequence, they have become a primary food source for perch across various habitats. This shift has not only impacted the behavior and feeding patterns of perch but also made crayfish imitations an essential tool in my fishing arsenal. Whether it's a murky canal or a clear river, the presence of these American crayfish means that perch are more likely to be found hunting in areas where these crustaceans thrive, thereby guiding my fishing strategy and choice of lures.


Winter Tactics: A Tale of Two Imitations

In winter, my approach diversifies to suit the sluggish nature of perch. I primarily use two types of crayfish imitations:


1. Voluminous Low Action Craws: These are ideal for more passive fishing. Their bulky shape, yet minimal movement, mirrors the lethargy of live crayfish in cold waters. I typically pair these with NED rigs, Texas Rigs, Skirted Jigs or Cheburashka Heads, where the lure’s inherent attributes are enough to entice a perch.


Examples:


Reins Ring Craw

Noike Mighty Mama


Z-Man TRD Crawz


O.S.P. DoLive Craw


PXS Heikegani Craw


(Tip: fishing a NED Rig, contrary to popular belief, does not require heavily buoyant lures. [although they work well ofc] most soft plastics have a little bit of a natural buoyancy, which is more than enough to effectively fish them slow on a NED head. The only type of soft lures I would avoid for NEDding are models that are designed and produced to be extra heavy [for example through extra salt content]. Those lures are usually meant to be fished on weightless rigs and are weighty to ensure they reach certain depths on their own).


2. Finesse Craws (and creatures): Slimmer and adorned with numerous appendages, these lures excel on finesse rigs where the weight is detached from the lure, such as Carolina, Texas, and free rigs. The beauty of these finesse craws lies in their ability to play seductively on a weightless fall, their appendages fluttering and vibrating subtly, invoking the curiosity of perch by slowing things down inside the water collumn.


To optimise the weightlessness and lightness of a finesse craw, choosing light hooks with thin to medium thick wire is preferable.



Examples:


Reins Ring Shrimp


NAYS CRTR


FishUp Flit


FishUp Baffi Fly


FishUp Shrimp


(Tip: on extra hot Summer days, the Perch can switch from active to lethargic and winter techniques work well! Look for shaded areas)


Late Spring, Summer & Autumn: Embracing Active Techniques

As the season shifts to summer and the water warms, so does the activity level of perch. To capitalise on this, I switch to more dynamic crayfish imitations like the Keitech Crazy Flapper or the Noike Smoking Dad. Their pronounced flapping action is perfect for active fishing. Whether I’m using a jig head, a weedless jig head, or a Cheburashka, I focus on jigging those lures higher into the water collumn, searching and drawing in the more aggressive, active perch.

The most active way to fish a Craw is probably as a trailer on a Chatterbait, which is an excellent search bait for active fish.


Examples:


Keitech Crazy Flapper


Noike Smoking Dad


O.S.P. DoLive Craw (yes it's a multi talent)



My Go-To Hook: The Texas Hook for Craws


When it comes to choosing hooks for my crayfish imitations, my preference leans strongly towards Texas hooks, commonly known as weedless hooks. The reason is simple yet crucial: most of my crayfish lure fishing happens in areas with significant cover – among submerged logs, trees, weedy beds, and other obstacles. These are the places where perch often lurk, hunting for crayfish. The design of Texas hooks, with their hidden points, allows me to navigate these challenging environments without the constant hassle of snags. This choice not only increases my chances of attracting perch but also ensures a smoother, more efficient fishing experience.



If you're fishing your Craws over clear ground or around obstacles where an exposed hook tip won't increase your snag count (hard rocks f.e.), you can absolutely fish them with open hooks and increase your hookup rate!


Choosing the Right Rod, Balancing Strength and Sensitivity:


When it comes to fishing with crayfish imitations, or craws, the choice of rod plays a pivotal role. Generally, I prefer using a slightly heavier and stiffer rod, typically in the 10-15g casting weight range. This choice is crucial for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the stiffer rod helps in effectively striking past weed guards, which is often necessary in the kind of covered areas where perch hunt. Secondly, it provides the necessary strength to properly expose Texas hooks, ensuring a successful hook set. However, there's an exception when using lighter finesse rigs. Here, a rod with a slightly softer tip is ideal. This increased sensitivity is vital for optimal feel, allowing for gentle play and ensuring the integrity of thinner hooks, which are often used in finesse setups.


Adapting to Our Ever-Changing Waters

My success with perch fishing using crayfish imitations isn’t solely about the lures. It's a blend of understanding perch behavior, environmental changes, and how the introduction of American crayfish has shifted the ecosystem in our waters. Being able to adjust my techniques, from the passive cold-water approaches to the more vigorous summer strategies, has been key to my fishing experiences.

This journey has taught me the value of adaptability and deepened my connection with the natural world. It’s a constant learning process, one that’s as rewarding as it is challenging.


Tight lines,


Momo

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