By Tim Allard
Targeting perch through the ice is one of my favourite types of hard-water action. Not only are perch relatively easy to catch and often eager to bite, they are one of the best tasting freshwater fish. To help boost your perch fishing results this ice season, here are some tips to put more jumbos on the ice.
Cash-In on the Competitive Nature of Perch
Using an underwater camera, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen a pod of perch move in on a bait in unison. After their initial approach, it rarely takes long for one to jump on the bait before the others. Yes, perch are a competitive breed and as an angler you should use this to your advantage. One way is to fish close to other anglers to keep perch schools in close proximity, generating a bit of competition towards your lures. This also includes fishing your two lines close together, whether dually jigging holes or setting up a dead-stick rod and a small minnow within reaching distance.
It’s also important to ensure you’re working baits with seductive triggering tactics after you attract perch. I favour either slowly swimming a bait upwards or lightly shaking it in place. Both send out signals of vulnerability or an impending attempt at escape. Lastly, don’t forget to tip your baits with minnows, maggots, or highly-scented artificial baits. Flavour helps to trigger hits.
Underwater cameras and flasher units can make a big difference in the number and size of perch you catch in a day. Use these two units in tandem and you’ve got deadly combination.
I can recall marking several aggressive fish on my Vexilar during an outing several years ago. I knew this lake had a huge perch population, so I was eager to hook some. After several minutes with no success, even though the fish I marked seemed aggressive, I lowered my underwater camera. Below were dozens of tiny perch. Now when I see this pattern, I know I need to move to deeper water to find the jumbos.
The benefit to this learning is two-fold, now I know what areas to vacate when searching for big perch based on details from my Vexilar; however, when I spot these small sized perch schools near points or deep water breaks I take note and return to them at dusk. Walleye will often target these pint-sized perch at dusk and being on these areas before sunset can result in some hot action.
You can also use underwater cameras to selectively hook the larger perch in a school if you’re after jumbos for the frying pan. Sometimes smaller fish are the first to get to the bait. If you pull the lure away from them and position it towards a jumbo you can sometimes get the bigger ones to bite. Lastly, electronics provide you with great feedback on how fish are reacting to your presentation. This allows you to modify your jigging moves to match their disposition and experiment with tactics until you find the right combination to trigger hits.
Get on Prime Structure
I alluded to it above, but ensuring you’re on prime structure and the most productive jumbo perch spots will result in better catches. This often equates to moving away from shallow water and to deeper areas. On most lakes I fish, I tend to find jumbos in anywhere from 12 to 30 feet of water and often suspended at various depths in the water column. Reefs, long points, and deep water inlets that lead into shallow bays, are all prime areas to search for wintertime perch. Using hydrographic maps or pre-scouting areas in the fall with a GPS unit are two great ways to locate these structures so you can fish them come winter.
Keep these methods in mind on your next perch ice fishing outing. You’ll put more jumbos on the ice and have a few more for the frying pan at home.
Photos by Tim Allard