Where I come from, walleye is king. If you’re talking fishing, you’re talking walleye fishing. However, when it comes to taste, I don’t think any fish tops the yellow perch. In addition, fast and furious fishing action and generous daily and possession limits make perch one of my favorite species to target, especially through the ice this time of year. This isn’t new information by any means, but hopefully it can be some help to you to get a bunch of perch on the ice this year.
Bait and Tackle
Tie on something that looks perch-y. I prefer a spoon or jigging rap with a perch pattern (check out the #3 or #5 Jigging Rap or 1/16th to 1/8th ounce VMC Tumbler Spoon). Tip your bait with either wax worms or a minnow head or tail for added scent and taste. Use 4lb monofilament ice line. You can get away with 2lb for the ultimate finesse presentation, but every once in a while a walleye will swim (where there’s perch, there’s also bound to be walleye) and it would be a shame to lose one because you didn’t have strong enough line. No perch, especially when they’re in a feeding mood, is going to detect 4lb mono, so it’s not going to cost you fish.
Pound the Bottom
This is a very simple tactic. It’s so simple in fact, that you don’t really need to rely on electronics if you don’t have them. You want to do this over a soft mud or sand bottom. Drop your bait right down to the bottom and make sure you contact the bottom. Lift the bait up a few inches and let it drop to again contact the bottom. This will stir up some mud or sand and catch the eye of any perch in the area. As soon as you feel a bite, set the hook. Hook sets are free, and these fish with their competitive and aggressive nature will likely bite again if you miss. Be ready to move if you don’t have any bites or mark any fish for a while. Perch schools are very mobile, so keep them busy, or be ready to chase them.
Why This Works
It seems kind of ridiculous that perch would go after a bait that looks like the species it is mimicking. Usually perch colored lures are used to target predators that prey on small perch, but not in this case. When perch are over these soft mud bottoms, they’re usually feeding on insect larvae that are coming up and out of the mud. They feed down on the bait and pin it against the bottom often times. Our perch-colored lure is meant to look like a smaller perch feeding on insects or small minnows (wax worms or minnow heads) in the mud. Perch are competitive and very aggressive when it comes to food, so they’ll see your bait as a small perch feeding, and they won’t be able to resist getting in on the action for themselves and when they do, BOOM! It’s game on! Like I said earlier, hook sets are free! Go for it! If you miss, drop back down and keep doing what got you bit, because it will probably happen again.
Targeting Bigger Fish
This technique is great for catching numbers of yellow perch, but in most lakes you will catch a ton of small ones (3-6 inchers) and if you’re looking for eaters, somewhere in that 10-12″ range is perfect for the dinner table. If you have access to an underwater camera, use it. This will help you separate your targets, and put your bait in front of the bigger perch in the school. If you don’t have access to an underwater camera, use a bigger lure or bigger hooks on your lure that will make it hard for the smaller fish to bite. You’ll catch fewer fish, but the fish you do catch will probably be larger. Now that I’ve given you a brief rundown on my personal tactic for hard-water perch fishing, get out and give it a shot! Let me know how it works for you or if you have a different method for catching perch through the ice. I would love to hear from you!