By David MacDonald, Founder Lunkerhunt
No matter the season, perch fishing can be a lot of fun and the rewards can be plentiful. Late season perch are no exception. They can be found in large groups and can become aggressive, eating almost anything you put in front of them. Perch are also known for their tasty fillets. What are the secrets to catching late season perch, and what do you need to know before heading out on your perch fishing trip.
Successful perch fishing
Find the fish before fishing. The key to successful perch fishing, as well as the fast and furious action associated with it is to find the fish before you start fishing. Let’s face it. You can be using the best baits in the world but if you’re not fishing where the fish are, you will not be catching.
Electronics are key. Having a good fish finder (electronics) is key to finding fish in the fall. There are a bunch of great electronics on the market. Ideally the fish finder you choose will enable you to detect fish and baitfish. It will also have settings that will help you determine the bottom consistency, whether hard/rocky, soft, weedy, etc.
If you are new to using electronics:
- First, get comfortable finding fish or baitfish using your electronics.
- Once you’re comfortable locating and catching fish, start playing around with your settings to understand bottom structure and how different bottom densities such as a hard bottom or soft bottom will look on your screen.
Paying attention to other factors such as cover, bottom formations, depth, and current (if present) will help you develop patterns that will enable you to locate fish in other areas of the lake if your school moves or the action dies down.
Watch out for possession limits. Perch travel in schools so if you catch one, chances are you’ll catch many. Perch possession limits on most bodies of water are can make perch fishing worthwhile, too. Before heading out make sure you know the possession limits of the zone you are fishing, as limits can be caught in a hurry.
Be mindful of weather conditions. Be sure to know the conditions you will be fishing. If on the ice, make sure to test the thickness before venturing too far and always be prepared for what Mother Nature throws at you.
Follow the school. Perch travel in schools throughout the day and are relatively easy to locate. They’ll appear as a cloud rising a few feet off the bottom. Pods or clouds of baitfish will also often indicate perch are nearby. Baitfish are usually higher off bottom and more often than not you will see perch or other gamefish either under the baitfish or cutting through it. The Baitfish will appear as dots and the perch and other gamefish will appear as arcs, “hooks,” or thick lines that are passing through the baitfish.
Catch the fish. When looking for perch, search for sand with rock or areas with a hard bottom. Slowly idle through the area and locate a drop, flat, or piece of structure that you think may hold perch.
Start idling in 6′ to 8′ of water and then zig zag. Go out to 20’ and then back to 6′ again until you find fish. Keep a close eye on your fish finder for a pod or cloud described previously. If you don’t spot fish, extend the limits of your idling. Go deeper or shallower depending on conditions.
When you have located a school of perch or baitfish, set a waypoint using your electronics. If you do not have this feature on your fish finder, you can also toss a marker buoy into the water to identify where you saw the school and back away so you are not spooking the school while you are fishing for them.
After setting your mark, either hold in the area using your trolling motor or drop an anchor.
Most successful late season perch techniques involve presentations that are within a few feet of the bottom. More often than not, this is where the perch will be. Drop shoting and vertical jigging with ball heads are two great perch presentations. Small soft plastics, micro spoons, or minnows are usually deadly this time of year.
Perch fishing gear
Artificial plastics that are 1.5 inches to 3 inches like Lunkerhunt Bait Jar series and Bento Baits are very effective for perch fishing year-round.
If the bite is hot go to a larger 3″ bait to appeal to the larger fish in the school. If the bite is slow scale down to a 1.5″ bait or switch to live bait.
Bottom line: In summary, fall perch fishing can be fast and furious. It can also be very easy and super productive with 50+ fish days being common. It’s a great way to get new anglers hooked on the sport due to the excitement and relentless action. It will also yield some tasty results.