Targeting Spring Perch: Written By Shelley Langley
Spring has sprung, and another soft water season begins. Before our northern sportfish seasons open up, what shall we do? I’ve got a great idea for you, how about targeting yellow perch in their easy to locate shallow spawning areas.
Taking a drive down to the boat ramp, I could see that the ice on Lake Erie is starting to melt and once again displays the banks of the shore. One of my favorite species to target in spring is the yellow perch. As soon as the ice booms are removed and the ramps are cleared, I head out to the Eastern basin of Lake Erie for the spring spawn of perch.
Perch come into shallow water and spawn at night and early morning to lay their eggs. They spawn once a year in shallow areas of lakes and low current tributaries. Perch do not nest, rather, they lay gelatinous egg mass “strings” over dense vegetation, roots/fallen trees/flooded timber in wetlands, and other substrate such as sand, gravel and man-made structures such as rip-rap, docks etc.
Perch’s eggs contain a chemical “sheath” that is said to make them very undesirable and rarely get eaten by other fish. In this case, Lake Erie has a sandy bottom which makes it ideal conditions for perch, with dusk periods being the best times to get to the spawning areas to achieve one’s daily limit if that’s what you’re after. If you do not have the luxury of getting on the lake in the early morning or just before dusk, I have had success in water as deep as 50+ft during the daylight hours.
As a tournament angler, my fishing season entails using predominately lures or plastics as live bait is forbidden in order to catch fish during the tournaments. Whereas in this case, before I head out in the morning to target perch, I make a visit to my local bait and tackle shop for live minnows, preferably emerald shiners, to use as bait. If minnows are not available, I like to use the Vok Flasher Minnow 3″ as they have a “life-like” appearance. Since perch have a smaller mouth, smaller hooks are used and I use Mustad snell hooks. One trick I find effective is to rig the minnow through the dorsal fin which has lots of action and helps to keep the feel of the minnow.
Other effective rigs are micro/panfish tubes under a float and panfish sized grubs both rigged onto very light 1/32oz-1/16oz jigheads. I set these up on a 6’9″ St. Croix medium-light extra fast action rod paired with a Shimano Stradic CI4 Plus spinning reel spooled with 4-6lb fireline or braid tied to a 4lb fluorocarbon leader or a simple 4lb fluorocarbon mainline. The combination of this rod/reel/line is ultra-lightweight and allows for great sensitivity. Also, a simple technique of drop-shotting with a weight and light jigs off the bottom will contact these fish.
The perch stay down, spawning in the sandy bottom. They are very light biters so a soft tug/weight on the line will be your only indicator that perhaps you have a fish on. Other presentations to note are multi-hook spreaders rigged with emerald shiners, and even flies such as streamers and a particular fly known as the “superglue buzzer”. Light versions of different walleye rigs and modified Carolina style rigs have been known to be effective as well while still utilizing light panfish type of tackle.
The use of electronics when targeting perch will always prove effective as last year my Humminbird fish finder was a wild display of rather large schools of baitfish and the small arcs that represent perch. We were able to quickly catch our limit that day and our live well was full of many fine specimens.
One thing to note here was that we moved around/tried to follow these schools, keeping an eye on the sonar and looking out for bait busting on the surface. Fish catching action that day was absolutely non-stop, we had a blast as not only were we catching one after the other but so were the kids and my brother. There were no complaints of boredom as my youngest was busy handing minnows from the bait box to fellow family members. We literally took one off, and set up another minnow only to have another yellow perch on the line. The banter in the boat made that day one to remember and the reason why I love to perch fish in the spring with my family.
Once you find your hot spots, perch are definitely a species that you can readily catch, no matter your age demographic. Since I practice catch and release for the rest of the season, this is one time that I enjoy a great meal of panfish at the end of a day of fishing and so can you. So, don’t wait for walleye, bass and musky to open up, get out and enjoy targeting spring perch!
Written by Exist To Fish Canada Writer Shelley Langley. Edited by Lead Writer/Editor Jamie Wilson