Fishing & Boating News

Targeting Ice-out Perch

by: Ron Anlauf,

Ron Anlauf got out early and went in shallow for this nice jumbo.
Photo by courtesy Ron Anlauf
(Mar. 01, 2011 - Braham, MN) Don't forget about perch when it comes to ice out panfish. Most of the early season attention is directed towards sunfish and crappies, but there's one more member of the family that usually gets passed over and its jumbo perch. Big fat jumbos are what we're talking about and can really help get the early season started.

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. Unlike sunfish and crappies whose earliest runs are mainly feeding forays that can last for up to a month, perch come in to feed and spawn on the same run, and it happens fast. The good news is the action can be extremely intense and you can hit it big if you're in the right place at the right time.

Movements correlate with optimum water temperatures and typically occur when they have warmed up into the forty-five to fifty degree range, which closely follows the walleye spawn. To stay on top of the early perch move it would help if you had a contact on the lake you intend to fish, like someone who lives on the lake or maybe a resort owner. For me and Mille Lacs it's Kevin McQuoid, owner of Mac's Twin Bay in the SE corner of the big lake (1-320-676-8709). According to Kevin: "The action starts quick and you don't want to wait too long or might 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." Kevin is a member of the Ranger Boats Pro Team and a big time tournament champion and typically starts the season out with a brand spankin' new boat. He uses the early season to help get ready for bigger things to come. "For me it's a good time to get out and make sure everything on my new rig works and is ready to go. Besides that; it's just plain fun and when the perch are really going you can catch a nice mess of fish in a big hurry."

Some of the better areas to start searching for all of that green and yellow gold 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 years 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 like a Northland Tackle Small Fry 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. My bow mount Minn Kota Terrova also has been rigged with an I-Pilot which provides the ultimate in boat control. When I do run into fish I can simply push the "anchor button"on my handheld control and the motor will hold the boat in one place, providing hands free operation and the freedom to concentrate on fishing and the next bite. A little twitch might be all you feel, or maybe your line starts moving off to the side, or you can't seem to pick up your slack, all indicates that it's time to set the hook.

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