One of my favorite winter activities is ice fishing for yellow perch. Perch are often found in big schools and are often aggressive biters. Fun to catch, yes, but perch provide outstanding table fare as well.
My favorite winter perch destination is Big Stone Lake on the Minnesota-South Dakota border. The “rock” as I like to call it has a very healthy population of 9- to 11-inch fish. The lake also has trophy-sized bluegills, a booming crappie fishery, and a very healthy walleye population too.
Perch is, however, what draws most anglers during winter. The 26-mile long, 12,610-acre border water lake is dominated by a mostly featureless basin in 10- 15 feet of water, a basin that is home to most of the lake’s winter perch.
Artie Arndt is an Ortonville, MN native and local bait shop owner who has fished the lake since childhood. Recognizing the great perch fishing opportunities Big Stone Lake provides, Arndt added fish house rentals several winters ago.
Arndt has his favorite areas for finding Big Stone’s perch but stresses the need for staying mobile. “Much of the perch fishing occurs on the south end in the basin,” Arndt offered when asked about where anglers should start their perch search. “Rocky Ledge and the islands are popular areas for finding perch, though anglers are advised to stay on the move as the bite often moves from day to day and even during the same day.”
The need for staying mobile and searching is a reason I rely on a portable fishing shelter on Big Stone. My Otter XT Pro Cottage can easily be pulled from the fishing spot to the fishing spot while searching the basin. Once I find fish, the shelter is very warm on even the coldest days meaning I can fish in comfort.
Two other key equipment items when searchings are a good ice auger and quality sonar. The new K-Drill ice auger runs off a cordless drill, is super lightweight, and does a great job of quickly cutting holes. Those features make it perfect for the perch search when fishing “the rock”!
After the holes are drilled I rely on my new FLX-20 sonar unit and its outstanding zoom feature to really key in on what’s going on below the ice. The unit also has a super bright color screen and a night mode for comfortable night viewing as well.
After Big Stone’s perch are found, a variety of traditional jigging spoons tipped with spikes will usually catch them. The Buck-Shot® Flutter Spoon has become a “go-to” perch bait on Big Stone. “Once word got out about that bait, we were constantly restocking those pegs,” Arndt stated when asked about it.
Big Stone’s water clarity seems to improve every year, meaning the early-in-the-morning and late-in-the-day bites can be good. During these times the all-new Glo-Shot™ Spoon is a top choice as well. This spoon also features a fluttering action but comes with interchangeable Glo-Shot™ Sticks that add to the spoon’s attraction during low light periods.
Regardless of your baits of choice, Big Stone Lake is a good place to fish them. Anglers interested in a trip to “the rock” can talk to Arndt or one of his guides by stopping at Artie’s Bait and Tackle in Ortonville, or calling the bait shop at (320) 839-2480.
In addition to fine fishing, the Big Stone area also has fine dining and a variety of lodging options for the out-of-town angler as well. Information about the entire Big Stone Lake area, including food and lodging details, can be found by visiting the Big Stone Lake Area Chamber at www.bigstonelake.com
Mike Frisch is a western Minnesota fishing guide and co-host of the popular Fishing the Midwest television series. Learn more by visiting www.fishingthemidwest.com or following Fishing the Midwest on Facebook.
Photo 1 – Mike Frisch with a Big Stone Lake perch that fell for a Buck-Shot Flutter Spoon!
By Mike Frisch