The Winter Perch Search!
By Mike Frisch
One of my favorite winter fish species to chase is the yellow perch. These fish grow big and feisty in some waters and are very tasty table fare too. Here is a look at some tips to put jumbos on the ice and in the frying pan this winter.
The first step in finding winter perch is choosing the right body of water, targeting a lake with a reputation for producing jumbos is sound advice. Lots of Minnesota’s bigger bodies of water host good numbers and good–sized perch as well. Mille Lacs, Leech Lake, and Winnibigoshish are three lakes that draw a great deal of winter perch angling attention. Closer to home, Ottertail Lake and Big Stone Lake are two favorites.
Once a lake has been chosen, the next step is finding the fish that swim there. Basins and flats are typical winter hot spots and the key when fishing those locations is drilling holes until a perch school is located. Winter perch are notorious for roaming so staying on the move is important. In fact, winter perch will often move from day to day and even within the same day so mobility is vital.
In addition to drilling lots of holes, another key becomes using a fishing lure that quickly gains the attention of nearby fish. Jigging spoons, especially those with a fluttering action, are very good at this as they cause a great deal of commotion on the fall, a commotion that seems to say “here I am” to nearby fish!
Oftentimes, I will use a jigging spoon when “hole hopping” in search mode trying to quickly locate fish. Once found, I will continue to use a jigging spoon as long as the fish will eat it. If, however, they are a bit reluctant, then switching to a more finesse-style approach is necessary.
For example, this winter I have been on Big Stone Lake several times and the fish have found the new Buck-Shot Flutter Spoon to their liking. This bait flutters on the fall and has a high-pitched glass rattle for more attraction. I have been tipping the spoon with several spikes and fishing it very aggressively, snapping it up and letting it fall.
Fish seen on the sonar screen often are triggered into biting with a pause in the jigging action giving them a chance to eat. This technique has been downright lethal as the spoon also allows me to quickly get back down in the water column to a pack of hungry fish when one has been caught. Though I haven’t needed to do it too often, a switch to a tiny tungsten jig tipped with spikes has been effective if the fish won’t hit the spoon. The flutter spoon comes in several colors, though I have had really good results with the UV Glo-Perch and UV Pink Tiger patterns. Though available in three sizes, the 1/16-ounce size is perfect for perch.
Once I find an area that has fish present, it often pays to spend some time there as the fish seem to often hold in small groups that roam through periodically. If I get on some fish, they disappear and don’t reappear within half an hour or so, then I resume the search.
If your winter plans include a search for perch, following some of the tips just presented can probably help make that search successful. As always, good luck on the ice and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoor adventure!
Mike Frisch is a western Minnesota fishing guide and co-host of the popular Fishing the Midwest and Fishing the Midwest ON ICE television shows. Learn more by visiting www.fishingthemidwest.com or by the following Fishing the Midwest on Facebook.
Photo– Big Stone Lake fishing guide Tanner Arndt caught this jumbo perch while fishing with the author last week.