Outdoors column: Late Winter perch tactics

by Steve Carney
Contributing Columnist

As the inland walleye and northern pike seasons come to an end we still have state-wide options for excellent late season perch fishing.

Great perch fishing is available well into March and April with many lake choices throughout Minnesota.

The options available within the state of Minnesota are vast as we have a great variety of lakes to choose from as well as a few in the Dakota’s.

Here is a summary of the choices available and some tactics that will put those jumbo’s in the five gallon pail.

Lake of the Woods
Probably the premier choice statewide as the perch are the perfect option during the month of March. As a bonus the walleye and sauger season is extended here and you can target walleyes, sauger as well as perch on Lake of the Woods. My experience is that this body of water is a tremendous choice for large fish if you are looking for a perch for the wall although the numbers seem to be less than other waters throughout the state. If you like the walleye options included with the perch this is a top destination spot.

Round Lake near Squaw Lake
This is my sleeper lake located just north of Deer River. A great spot that the locals keep quiet because the fishing is just that good. Great numbers of perch as well as size and not the pressure you see on the larger more well known lakes in the area.  Easy access off Hwy 46 just north of Lake Winnibigoshish. I like this lake because it is just small emough to cover water quickly and you can usually find the perch in a morning of hard fishing.

Leech Lake
One of Minnesota’s premier perch lakes. In March the secret to success is to follow the crowds. The best perch spots will have a plethora of vehicles on them with scores of perch enthusiasts gathering on these spots. By moving in to these groups politely, you’ll have good fishing throughout any given day but especially on bright sunny days. Leech Lake perch are very active on those types of days. Expect to find perch very shallow or very deep depending on the area of the main basin you choose. My favorite one-two combination for Leech Lake perch is a small, 1/16th ounce jigging spoon on one line and then an artificial one-half inch minnow imitator on the other. When I mark a perch, I quickly lift the artificial minnow rig and then actively jig the spoon.  Between the two offerings, you can’t miss.

Bowstring Lake
One of the premier perch lakes in the state again just off the beaten trail. Located just west of Grand Rapids this lake is an up and comer especially for jumbo perch. You still have the crappie and bluegill option available on this lake as the perch often mix with the panfish. You can’t beat this lake for pound plus crappies and one pound perch on the same spots.

Size or Numbers ?
As with all perch lakes, you have to decide do you want size or numbers.

Livebait such as eurolarvae or waxworms are fine for numbers of perch but I prefer a jigging spoon or minnow imitator bait for the larger fish. By using larger baits from the beginning, you can avoid the hassle of the smaller fish and key in on only the perch that are big enough to handle your larger baits.

Go big or stay home!

Steve Carney is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.

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