Perch Ice Fishing – Catching Bottom Huggers

February 7, 2009 by  

Bro with a huge iced perch

Bro with a huge iced perch

It was a call from outdoor writer friend, Ron Anlauf, which got the ball rolling. He had heard the perch were hitting on Mille Lacs, a huge lake in North Central Minnesota. Although I have pulled a lot of perch from this body of water, it has been a few years since there was a decent bite taking place there.

Anlauf was already on the ice when I arrived at Mille Lacs. With the aid of cell phones and a little luck, I was able to locate his selected spot. He was just getting set up when I arrived and had not yet been able to do any serious fishing.

It didn’t take long for things to get going. By the time my StrikeMaster sliced a half dozen holes and I was aligning my Fish Trap, Anlauf started throwing perch out onto the ice.

Once my electronics were set to go, I began the process of preparing my offering for the fish. I am fussy about this process. Even though our goal was to catch the lowly perch, I have discovered that paying attention to detail can help. The new generation of jumbo perch on Mille Lacs seems to be a lot more sophisticated than they used to be.

I  have two favorites when it comes to selecting perch baits. One of these favorites is minnow heads and the other is Euro larvae, or maggots as they are often called. Both of these baits work well on Genz worms as well as jigging spoons.

For the most part, perch are bottom dwellers. They stick tight to the mud and silt that provides them with winter food. They do chase baits from time to time, but generally need to be plucked off of the bottom.

Chris Hustad raising a winter perch

Chris Hustad raising a winter perch

As in most winter fishing, electronics play an important role. It is critical to be able to detect fish that are hovering close to the bottom and read their mood.

I like to start by getting my bait right down on bottom. From there I will gently raise it up as I jig. During this time I am intently watching my electronics for any sign of life that is coming up to chase.

On some days, it can take an incredible amount of coaxing to get a fish to show interest in an easy meal. You may have to go through a wide variety of jigging strategies to find out just what it is that they want.

There are days when less is more. When perch get finicky, they may want little or no action to the bait. At other times, they seem to be suckers for a bait that is aggressively jigged as it is lifted higher and higher off of the bottom. About the time they think it is going to get away, they pop it.

Because perch are such bottom lovers, it can be beneficial to drop your lure and let it lay right on the bottom. Perch will dig it out of the mud if they are hungry. This bottom thumping also can create a bit of a sediment explosion that is known to attract fish.

It is also important to note that you can’t always tell if perch are hanging around by just checking a hole with a sonar unit. For perch, you really need to drop a bait down and see what you find on the bottom.

Like most of my other winter fishing, I usually don’t stay very long in one spot. I have found that a fresh hole means fresh fish, even if the hole is only a few yards away. Coming back to a hole after it has been rested for awhile can also be productive.

Ted T. sporting a perch on plastics

Ted T. sporting a perch on plastics

Jig color is a hot topic amongst perch anglers. Personally, I have had the best luck with chartreuse as well as red glow. Chartreuse retains its hue in poor light better than other color. Low light turns many colors gray where chartreuse remains green.

Perch, a species that was once thrown on the ice for crow bait, is now a very popular winter time fish. And rightfully so. They are prolific spawners, tasty to eat, and found in lakes all across the Midwest.

The key is getting them to bite. This process starts by realizing they are bottom huggers, and not fish that are going to be suspended high in the water column. Knowing that they can be extremely finicky is also important.

By trying a variety of jigging methods and different baits, anglers that find perch can usually spend an enjoyable day plucking these babies off of the bottom.

Article provided by the Ice Team.


One Comment on "Perch Ice Fishing – Catching Bottom Huggers"

  1. Matt Wheeler on Fri, 12th Mar 2010 10:19 pm 

    It is true that the nature of the perch is to remain close to the floor, but this is not always the case. I feel that by limiting the presentation to the bottom few feet you might miss out on some aggressive fish much higher. I’ve found this to be the case many times, especially on the sizeable walleye factories of the Midwest. In the latter half of ice season jumbo perch can be found roaming structural transition areas with schools of tullibee. My personal theory is that these perch are able to lessen predation by hanging with the more desirable ciscoes. Perhaps the connection has to do with food instead. Regardless of why these piggie perch are so far from their traditional haunts on the bottom the opportunities they create when suspended should not be overlooked.

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.