Yellow perch are the mainstay of winter fishermen wherever safe ice is formed. Common and plentiful throughout their range, perch can be taken using a variety of methods. Here are four proven ways to catch your limit of these tasty panfish this winter:
Often considered “old school” by today’s tech-minded anglers, it’s safe to say that billions of perch have been caught using parts of other perch.
The once-common practice of using perch eyes, pectoral fins or belly strips is still practiced in areas where grandfathers pass on their knowledge and traditions to the younger generations. The trick, of course, is to fool that first perch, but once the catch piles up the most efficient and cost-effective way to harvest more perch is to use those parts that other fish will readily take on hook and line.
Fished singly on a fine wire hook, eyes, fins and strips will continue to attract more fish especially when used with a jigging or thrumming rod. Using finesse tactics, it’s possible to catch several additional perch with each bait. Of course, anglers should check local regulations to make certain that fish parts are legal for use on winter perch.
WET FLIES AND STREAMERS
Ordinarily considered good summer baits for perch, wet flies and streamers are great winter baits when fished singly or in tandem, as droppers or on spreader rigs. The most effective flies are the brightly-colored patterns such as the Mickey Finn, Royal Coachman, Parmachene Belle and Silver Doctor, as well as nymph-imitating patterns including the Black Gnat, March Brown and Light Cahill.
Perch are not as interested in famous patterns as they are in small, moving prey they can easily swallow. The key to successful wet fly fishing in winter is having just enough weight at the end of the line to allow immediate control of the fly (or flies) using the tip of a jigging or thrumming rod. Keep the flies moving using short up-and-down strokes of the rod and work the entire water column from just below the ice to the bottom. When the perch start hitting, mark the line for the proper depth and then keep those flies moving!
Small, single-hook streamer patterns are also deadly for winter perch because they are designed to emulate various minnow species — and perch eat a lot of minnows!
The best streamers include the various dace and Marabou patterns as well as the Mickey Finn, Nine-Three, Supervisor, Gray Ghost and similar flies tied on a single hook.
For best results, ice-fishing streamers should be tied with a split shot, bead or other weight attached at the eyelet or just behind the hook barb. This will get the fly down to the fish quickly and allow some line control when jigged in deep water.
Also considered passé by some modern anglers, pork rinds make ideal winter perch baits because they are all but indestructible and perch seem to love their undulating action when slowly jigged with a rod or by hand.
Most pork rind baits are sold in large chunks or strips designed for bass or pike anglers. To make winter fishing easier, spend a few minutes at home slicing the rinds into inch-long strips. Use an ice-pick or large needle to run a hole through the widest end of the rind so it will be easier to get them on a hook when the fishing starts. Or, put stainless steel hooks in the rinds at home and keep your pre-hooked rinds in a glass or plastic jar. Freezing temperatures won’t hurt pork rind baits, but keeping the jar inside your clothing while fishing will keep them pliable and resilient.
Successful hand lining requires a rare combination of patience, dexterity and “feel;” hand lining works best with heavy, braided lines. A short piece of monofilament is used as a leader, to which a sinker, hook and bait are attached. The most adroit hand liners drop their baited hooks to the bottom in increments of one to two feet, pausing at each stop to gently jig the bait in case a school of perch is passing by.
When fish begin to hit, the angler will coil only the necessary amount of line on the ice beside the hole and continues fishing at the same depth till the action begins to slow.