By Tim Allard – www.timallard.ca
A good perch bite is tough to beat during the ice fishing season. Aggressive and competitive, once you get a school of jumbos riled up you can often put a few on ice before they move on. Soft-bottom flats are a great spot to search out perch. Here are some tips on fishing these areas.
Look for flats near deep water. Nearby shallow areas can be a bonus on some lakes but aren’t mandatory. Eighteen feet usually marks the productive start of flats, with 25-35 feet being a magic range for jumbos.
An easy way to find out if the flat has a soft bottom is lowering an underwater camera. Rocks and sand grass can be good, but you want sticky mud. If you don’t have a camera, trying on a heavy spoon and thumbing it on bottom while using a sensitive rod can work too. If the spoon sticks as you pull it up slowly, you’ve found good bottom composition.
Perch are attracted to soft-bottom areas for food. The flat’s sediment is home to a variety of larvae, nymphs, tiny baitfish and crustaceans. On one lake I fish, perch gorge on small bloodworms (chironomid larvae). Once you catch your first perch, pay close attention to any morsels it spits up as you unhook it. This can give you important tips on what size and color of baits to use.
Use Big Baits First
Although some of the food perch feed on may be less than a ¼-inch in size, I often try and fool them first with big lures. Spoons between one- to two-inches in length or small swimbaits are two of my favorite lures. These baits sink quickly and emit a lot of flash and vibrations. These traits are great to get perch’s attention.
Downsize as Needed
I downsize when I can’t trigger perch with bigger baits. This is often the case when fishing post-cold front conditions or during mid winter. Tiny micro jigs tipped with maggots or artificial baits will fool perch too shy to hit a larger offering. Fish these baits near the bottom and don’t overwork them; sometimes dead sticking is the best option.
Stir Up the Muck
Whether you’re using a big spoon or a tiny jig, I recommend popping lures in and out of the sticky bottom. The silt cloud this creates resembles perch feeding activity. This trick can quick call in perch from quite a distance. Just don’t overdo the tactic; you only need a few hops with the bait to stir up sediment.
Drill Lots of Holes
Drilling and fishing a lot of holes is a good way to cover a flat for roaming perch. Also, having plenty of holes drilled lets you jig a nearby hole when your buddy hooks perch. This tactic is effective to keep a school’s attention so they’ll stay in the area longer and you can catch more of them. You can sometimes follow a moving school by trying a bunch of pre-drilled holes.
Stay till Dark
Stay to fish at dusk if you’ve caught a few perch off a flat but haven’t experience hot action during the day. Jumbo perch often get active during twilight. Be ready for this flurry. Get gear and lights organized well before the bite starts; the action can be incredible and you don’t want to miss it fumbling with gear in the darkness.
Soft-bottom flats are one of many great perch spots. The sticky silt holds a buffet of perch delicacies. Find these areas and fish them with a variety of baits and you’ll catch plenty of jumbo perch. Don’t be afraid of the dark either. Night can bring out the biggest jumbos the flat has to offer.
Photos by Tim Allard