Some friends invited me to join them for an afternoon of fishing recently. I quickly and gladly accepted their invitation. We wanted to enjoy each other’s company and the nice fall weather, but we also wanted to catch some fish. Several in our group wanted to take a few fish home. The walleye bite had been tough and we didn’t want to catch and keep bass. We heard that the perch bite had been good on a nearby lake. Perch are as good as it gets on the table, so we hooked up the boats and headed for the perch lake. We found the perch to be cooperative, but, as in any fishing, you have to be on the fish and then give them what they want.
Perch can be found in a variety of areas in a lake depending on the lake. In some lakes they’ll be in 20 feet of water or more, in other lakes they’ll be less than 10 feet deep. Ask for suggestions at the bait shop when you stop to get minnows. You’ll want some 2-3 inch minnows and maybe some nightcrawlers. Even when the bite is on, the fish can be a bit selective as to what they eat.
A good way to start looking for perch at this time of year on many lakes is to find a large sand flat that tapers gradually into deeper water. It’s best if there is scattered vegetation on the flat. If you can find a flat that is 5 to 10 feet deep with access to deeper water you are probably close to some perch.
A little wind, just enough for a nice drift, is helpful. The wind disrupts the surface of the water, and that seems to prevent the perch from spooking. Move upwind of the flat, position your boat horizontal to the wind, and begin your drift.
On our recent afternoon on the water, we had 4 people in the boat, and we were on a lake where we could use 2 lines per angler. We each lowered a line directly over the side of the boat and set it so the bait was just above the bottom. In 7 feet of water, we had 8-10 feet of line out. This length of line allowed the bait to drift just a bit behind the boat yet stay close to the bottom. We caught lots of perch on those lines. A 16th-ounce Fire-ball jig tipped with a minnow or a hook/splitshot set-up with a minnow was productive. We placed these rods in rod holders and watched the tip of the rod for strikes. It’s important to use a rod with a soft action. If the rod is too stiff, the perch will feel resistance and reject the bait. Six-pound test P-Line CX Premium monofilament or Tactical fluorocarbon is as good as it gets for this technique.
We also cast and slowly retrieved light jigs and small rip-baits behind and in front of the boat. By doing so, we were able to cover a lot of water. When there are several anglers in the boat, it’s good to try different things. My boat partners were catching lots of perch casting their jig/minnows and rip-baits. I attached plastic tails to my jigs and caught just as many and just as big perch, and was able to catch at least 10 perch per bait. The far and away best plastics were Mr. Crappie Shadpoles and Mr. Crappie Slab Slangers. Bright colors were best, but the perch did become conditioned to color. I had to change plastic color after catching 4 or 5 fish from a school.
On this day, we accomplished our goal. Everyone enjoyed the camaraderie and the weather, and the anglers that wanted some fish for the table got some fish for the table. If this sounds good to you, the next few weeks will be prime for perch.
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