As a fisherman, “Fall” and “Big Fish” often run together as this time of the year can yield some of the biggest fish of the year. As leaves change colors, perch and walleyes dominate the minds of many anglers not sitting in tree stands or duck blinds here in South Dakota. While some are searching for that trophy walleye, tasty perch fillets are on the minds of others.
Dropping temperatures drive perch to concentrate on feeding in preparation for the upcoming winter season. While large schools can provide countless action, often the biggest perch roam in small schools or simply in a solitary fashion. Locating these nomadic behemoths can be the greatest determining factor in success. A methodical, detailed, and often aggressive approach is key to having a successful day on the water.
Common fall perch holding areas are basins void of structure. Relying heavily on my Humminbird Electronics (Mega Side-Imaging) aids in uncovering the most productive water which usually is done first when getting on the water. Trolling crankbaits can also be a great locating tool. Small shad-shaped baits trolled 2-4 feet off the bottom will uncover the most aggressive perch that are willing to chase a bait high in the water column. Whether found on electronics or caught on a crankbait, marking these active fish immediately is important allowing for easy return with a combination of jigging rods and slip bobbers.
Perch can be very indecisive in what they prefer. Being prepared with a variety of rigged rods will save valuable time on the water. An arsenal of rigged baits ranging from small spoons to horizontal jigs to plain hooks under slip bobbers will assist in combatting their often-changing bait preference.
Perch are naturally inquisitive so initially dropping a noisy/flashing spoon like a Northland Tackle Buck-Shot Spoon or Forage Spoon will keep their curiosity peaked. Catching perch can sometimes turn into an activity of speed to catch as many before the school moves on. When laws allow multiple lines, like here in South Dakota, a simple plain hook and a split-shot under a Northland Tackle Lite-Bite Slip Bobber can produce some of the biggest perch. Spreading these bobber rods out around the boat allows anglers a good chance to catch some of the biggest less aggressive Jumbos and visually see school movements.
Small minnows, nightcrawlers, spikes/wax worms are all perch favorites and should be rotated regularly when the action slows. Pay close attention to how the bait is rigged, perch will let their preference be known so it can be easily replicated. Without a doubt, perch are detail-oriented and can turn finicky and neutral quickly. Light jig rods can benefit in light bitters and even a traditional ice rod can push success and heighten the experience.
Perch are naturally roaming by nature, maintaining their interest is important. Before moving to the next spot, simply letting your motor run for a minute can easily call the school back. Stay aggressive and be prepared to make small calculated moves as small as 25-50 yards to stay with a school.
Perch is far from a “winter only” species providing great fall angling action. Cool temperatures coupled with an all-day bite make it a prime season to get family and friends on the water. Once located, grab your ice tackle, some light rods, and get ready to experience a fast-paced angling experience. Who does not enjoy seeing a bobber go down and instantaneously setting the hook on a JUMBO PERCH?
Be safe and good luck on the water this fall!