By: Tyler Dunn
Winter perch can be some of the most exciting fishing available to winter anglers. Although perch themselves do not grow big compared to a walleye or pike, the schools they roam in are. Big numbers of perch are present in lakes all across Ontario with easy access and high possession limits. With most of the vegetation dead, perch move deep in search of cover and obviously food. These tips will help you increase your catch rate during the coldest winter months.
Dare to Go Deep
As we move into mid-winter schools of perch have begun to move towards the deeper basin areas of lakes. Sand and mud flats in water deeper than 25 feet are a great place to begin your search for perch. These deeper areas with soft bottom offer a wide variety of food for perch. Although I have caught perch suspended, I rarely begin far off bottom. Yellow perch are notorious for feeding very close to bottom mainly targeting tiny invertebrates, small minnows and even young of the year perch. If I am still unable to locate perch, I will first venture into deeper water before moving shallow during mid-winter.
Run and Gun
Nothing is a bigger waste of time than waiting for the fish to come to you. No matter the species you after you will find your catch rate drastically increase if you cover more water actually looking for the next bite. Yes, you will encounter flurries of fish throughout the day but if you really want to put the odds in your favour it is in your best interest to cover as much water as possible. I don’t fish a hole longer than five minutes unless I mark fish on my flasher or actually catch a few fish. Using this method of fishing is hard work and a common mistake made by anglers trying to cover water is leaving an area where the fish are. If your flasher or camera is showing fish, especially big fish stay put longer and start going through your tackle box looking for an offering they like.
My portable clam always has 4 rods rigged for perch inside when I am on the ice patrolling. Three of the four rods are ultra-light HT Ice Blues and the other one is a medium-light HT Sapphire Ice. By far my most productive bait to catch aggressive perch is the smallest Jigging Rapala available which is always tied on the medium-light rod. Colour doesn’t usually make a difference when active fish are present although I regularly begin with a perch pattern. Tipping Raps with minnow heads, maggots and wax worms adds scent but when the bite is “on” sometimes a bare Rapala is all you need to entice reaction bites. My second rod has a small jigging spoon tied on which is usually a Northland Buckshot rattle spoon. I like to use these spoons for deep water perch because the profile of this spoon is slim and heavy giving yourself the advantage of getting down to the bottom much quicker than with a fluttering spoon. I will also tip a spoon with a minnow, minnow head or a few maggots and waxies. The third rod has some sort of small plastic such as a 1 -1.5” tube or 1-2” grub on a 1/8-1/32 ounce jig head. My fourth and final rod is strictly for dead sticking a hole very close to me, sometimes within arm’s reach. A small Genz Worm or Forage Minnow is found at the end of the line. I hook the smallest shiners I can find just through the lips and set this on or within inches of bottom. Clipping a fin is always a good idea to help add action to the bait.
Use Your Electronics
With the evolution of electronics anglers who do not take advantage of a flasher or underwater camera are missing out not only on catching more perch but understanding how the perch are reacting to their bait on that particular day. Flashers and cameras are not as necessary when the perch are aggressively feeding but are an amazing tool when the fish are in a neutral mood and are hesitant to commit. This is where specific jigging techniques can be mastered and a slow day will quickly turn into a successful day on the water. Flashers are the ultimate search tool. They are easily moved hole to hole and give you the opportunity to see the entire water column. Once I come across a large school of perch and I plan on fishing the area for an extended period of time, the underwater camera is then set up in my portable hut. Having your eyes on the bait and being able to actually see the perch below is a wonderful feeling and an amazing advantage. Although this is great fun, the main reason I drop the camera down is be selective on the perch I actually let eat my presentation. If the school consists of small and big perch I can easily move my bait away from the small ones when they approach and let it rest when the bigger fish are present. Take advantage of technology and combine it your knowledge. With this combination, I can guarantee that you will become a much more efficient angler at not only fooling perch but any other species that swims.