By Tim Allard
Getting into steady action from a biting school of jumbos is every perchers dream. Ultimately, the more diverse of an angler the better prepared you’ll be to handle whatever fish throw at you. Here are five important tips to keep in mind when the bite gets tough.
Gear Up to be Mobile
Perch roam and so should you. For those on foot, a tall pail to hold your sonar and tackle along with a rod case, backpack and a small sled in combination with a layered clothing system is perfect for scouring structures on mild winter days. Shelters offer more in terms of comfort, just don’t get too lackadaisical; if the fish aren’t biting and move till you find active ones.
Drill Lots of Holes
Nothing spooks shallow-water perch faster then popping fresh holes over their heads. Instead drill plenty of holes before the prime bite periods, such as dawn and dusk, and give fish have a chance to settle after the noise. Also, having plenty of holes in all directions helps your fishing party track the direction of a roaming school. Once the bite slows, spread out and fish the pre-drilled holes. Odds are someone will hook one and the rest can follow.
Gain Confidence in Flats
Although perch inhabit an array of areas in winter, flats often top their list. Shallow flats usually contain a mix of cover but deep flats in what appears to be the middle of nowhere can be intimidating. Of course, these areas aren’t void of perch-attracting features. Food, oxygen, and the low-risk of being ambushed by predators are reasons they school on flats. Think of flats as underwater plains for grazing perch. If you’re not comfortable fishing flats, gaining confidence in them will boost your perch-fishing game.
Master the Various Types of Spoons
The flash, vibration and optional rattles of spoons makes them perfect to cover water and trigger perch. Carry an assortment of the following.
Straight spoons have the least action but still put out plenty of flash. They’re effective to quickly reach bottom in deep water or to target less aggressive perch uninterested in wild, fluttering spoons. Good options are Northland’s Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon, Bay de Noc’s Swedish Pimple, or Acme Lure’s Kastmaster.
Bent spoons deliver more flutter and flash; the bigger the bend the more action. They provide more hang-time on the fall and their wild action appeals to competitive and wound-up perch. Examples include: Northland’s Fire-Eye Minnow, Custom Jigs and Spins’ Slender Spoon, Acme Lure’s Phoebe, and William’s Wabler.
Spoons for Perch Fishing
Glider spoons like Bay de Noc’s Vingla or Lindy’s Techni-Glo Rattl’n Flyer form another category. They fly out to the side on slack line and cover more horizontal space beneath the ice. Letting them fall to bottom, and then slowing dragging them back to centre with a slow arm raise, kicks up silt and attracts perch.
Late Ice = Jumbos
Late ice is the best time to search for trophy catches as females balloon to jumbo proportions from egg production. Fish deep edges on sand or gravel flats near spawning areas, or in their mating habitat of shallow bays, shorelines and tributaries featuring vegetation and/or wood. Perch feeding activity peaks pre-spawn and they’re easy targets for savvy ice anglers. Remember to practice selective harvest during this time. Releasing big fish helps the fishery continue to offer consistent action for years to come.
Drilling plenty of holes and being mobile are two critical parts of winter perch success, especially when working extensive flats which often hold jumbos. Spoons are one of the deadliest baits out there, so learn the different types and how to use them. Lastly, remember last ice often provides the best action when it comes to trophies, but remember to practice selective harvest and let bigger fish go so they can spawn in spring.