It might be hard to believe but sooner or later we will have open water. When it does open up and you do get out, don’t overlook jumbo perch.
Most of the early season attention is directed toward sunfish and crappies, but there really is some primo perch fishing to be had.
Perch will make shallow water runs and are quite catchable, but the action is usually short-lived and you better be on your toes if you want to get your share. Movements correlate with optimum water temperatures and typically occur when they have warmed up into the 45- to 50-degree range, but it doesn’t always happen that way, especially with a late ice-out. Ranger Boats pro Kevin McQuoid of Isle owns a resort on Mille Lacs Lake which is one of the state’s top perch producers and has been in on some red hot bites.
Kevin on the early run: “The action starts quick and you don’t want to wait too long or you might miss out. We’ve had big schools of perch show up in shallow water even before the ice is completely off the main lake. We’ve also had people fishing off our docks pitching bobbers to the edge of the ice that have done really well.”
Some of the better areas to start searching are in the back ends of shallow bays and channels. Not so much the black bottomed sloppy pad field bays though, but something with a firmer bottom like sand. An incoming creek can be another early season magnet and will help warm things up faster than areas that would otherwise be the same. Female perch will move in and lay their eggs by stringing it out across old vegetation and they don’t seem to be that fussy about where they do it.
Last year’s stands of reeds, cane and cabbage beds, etc., are all potential spawning sites.
It really won’t take that long to find out if you’re in the right area once you start looking because in most cases they can be seen and readily caught.
The catching is what it’s all about and is as pure as it can get. Casting and pitching light jigs tipped with a plastic body and maybe a minnow is what we’re really into and is a great way to give your jigging skills a tune-up. Slowly trolling along with a Minn Kota and making short casts to the edge of a weed bed, a close-in drop off or break line, or the middle of a bay will get you started and all of the aforementioned has the potential to hold active perch.
Ice-out perch action can be absolutely phenomenal at times and is really a matter of perfect timing and the window of opportunity can slam shut much too fast. A little too soon or a little too late and you could miss the whole thing. See you on the water.
Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.