By Mike Frisch
Yellow perch don’t get a ton of fishing attention in the summer. Why that is, I am not sure. During winter, however, these fish take center stage, or at least a leading role, on lots of waters across Minnesota and other places, too. Leech Lake, Big Winni, and Mille Lacs have good populations of jumbos that get ample attention from winter anglers. Closer to home, Otter Tail and Big Stone Lake are also good winter perch fisheries.
The key to perch success on these bodies of water is locating the fish. Perch are notorious for roaming large flats and basins so drilling holes and staying on the move is important. In fact, the fish may be in one spot one day and gone the next, so keeping an open mind and aggressive approach in drilling holes and staying on the move often is key.
In addition to staying on the move, using aggressive fishing techniques that help “call in” fish can be advantageous during the perch search as well. Jigging spoons like a Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon or the new Buck-Shot Flutter Spoon both fish rather aggressively and do a great job of calling in and attracting bites from aggressive fish.
The traditional Buck-Shot fishes “heavy” and is often best worked with short, erratic motions to activate the jig’s rattle which clicks and clatters to call in fish and trigger bites. The Flutter Spoon also has a rattle but, as the name implies, has a bit more flutter action as it falls. I often have both spoons rigged and let the fish tell me which they prefer on a given day.
Regardless which spoon I use, the 1/16-ounce size often works well, and I will also experiment with lure color to try to determine which color the fish prefer. The Super Glo Perch patterned Buck-Shot is probably my all-time favorite fish producer during winter, regardless the fish species sought. However, last winter some of the new UV-colored spoons like electric perch, purple tiger, and pink tiger all were good producers as well. As with any fishing situation, the only way to determine the best color on a given day is to experiment. Regardless the lure selected, I usually load the treble hook with several waxworms or spikes and re-bait often to keep “fresh meat” on the hook.
Many winter days a jigging spoon is all that is needed to fill a pail with perch. Some days, however, the fish will be attracted to the spoon, but will be reluctant to bite. When that happens, trading the spoon for a small tungsten jig is often the ticket to triggering bites. In fact, I often have a small 1/28-ounce Mooska Jig in either fushia pink or yellow stone patterns rigged and ready when finicky fish appear. Baiting this small offering with spikes or wax worms and dropping it to fish that won’t hit a jigging spoon has saved the day several times during recent winters.
If you want to get in on some good winter fishing action this year and haven’t given perch a try, you probably should. These fish are numerous in several lakes, are often good biters, and provide a tasty meal as well. Using some of the tips just detailed can, in fact, help you put a bunch of winter perch in your pail and then on the dinner table! As always, good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure.
Mike Frisch is a western Minnesota fishing guide and co-host of the popular “Fishing the Midwest” television series. Follow “Fishing the Midwest” on Facebook or visit www.fishingthemidwest.com for more fishy information.