Kidding Around With Perch by The On Ice Pro Tour Staff
Catching Perch through the ice can sometimes be like taking candy from a baby. Cut a dozen holes, drop an underwater camera down, find a school of perch, drop a minnow or a lure down, watch the lines come together on the Vexilar, feel the bite, reel ’em in one after the other. Suckerrrrrrs (unintelligent perch, that is). At other times, you do everything the same as above just to watch the perch swim away like it didn’t even notice your presentation. It’s kind of like the way a 5-year-old ignores both the vegetables on his or her plate, as well as the parent’s instructions to eat those veggies. Who’s the sucker now? The ardent angler doesn’t have to be the stooge. All it takes is a little understanding. If the perch are going to act like children, then treat them like children. Get down on their level, make a game out of it, and sooner or later you’ll have a mess of them. Here are some great tactics to use the next time you run into punky, pesky perch.
Tease the Perch
Perch do not fit the mold when it comes to the classification of panfish. Where bluegills and crappies like slow, subtle, pulsating movements similar to that of a freshwater shrimp, zooplankton or other aquatic insect or larvae, perch usually like something that’s moving. Instead of dropping the lure just inches above the face of a waiting perch and holding it there, pretend your lure is saying, “Na-na-na-na-na-na, you can’t catch me.” Drop your presentation below the perch, snap it up six to twelve inches, wiggle it wildly, drop it down again and repeat the action. Sooner or later, the perch will jump on the lure like a crazy chicken on a wounded June bug. And once you figure out how to get one to bite, the rest will often follow. Sometimes peer pressure can be a good thing.
Hide and Go Seek
Sometimes, you know you’re in the right spot. You’ve caught a few jumbos, and you can still mark them on your electronics or spot them on the Aqua-Vu; but as quickly as they bit, they went into naptime. Move to a hole close by and wiggle and jiggle your presentation. No bites? Make another small move, again and again until you get bit or find yourself back at the hot hole where you started. Somewhere along the line, those perch will usually bite. If not, you might want to leave the area for more active fish, returning every hour or so until they turn back on again. Ready or not, here we come!
Trick or Treats
Cold fronts, an overabundance of forage, clear water or too much fishing pressure will usually make perch sluggish. Although these fish can be enticed to approach aggressive and/or large presentations, they usually can’t be goaded into striking them. If they do hit, they often won’t fully inhale the lure, and the result is a missed fish. Have a second rod on standby rigged with a small horizontal ice jig, such as a Lindy Techni-Glo Fat Boy or a Northland Forage Minnow Fry, tipped with a tiny offering of a waxworm or a Berkley Power Natural Maggot. The slow rate of fall and easy-to-inhale features of this presentation will usually result in a follow-up strike and a positive hook up. To pull this off in deep water, use this same offering and a six-inch piece of Berkley Vanish 3-pound test to attach this same small offering to a hook less rattling spoon. Northland’s Buckshot Rattling Spoon and the Lindy Rattl’r Spoon are both great choices. Drop it back down in place of the unsuccessful presentation, and get ready to set the hook. Sluggish perch a knockin’? Trick ’em with a spoon and treat ’em to a tidbit.
Kamikaze perch will sometimes rise 15 feet to hit a descending lure. Perch can see a long way, especially in the clear water of winter. Use this to your advantage the next time they get stubborn. Reel your lure up to the hole, and on a slack line, drop it back down again. Let it fall all the way to the bottom. This will usually get their attention causing them to swim from great distances to see what’s up. Take the lure away from them again, back to the surface, and repeat the process. Pay close attention to your flasher or underwater camera. If you notice a fish that is rising to meet the lure, hit the brakes about a foot above it, and start slowly pumping and swimming the lure upward. The aggressor will usually follow and strike. If you see the reverse happening — a fish following the lure down after the lure passes it on the drop, let it sit on the bottom until the fish gets there. You’ll be amazed how many will slurp it off the bottom. Now look who the sucker is!
Nap Time – Lunch Time
Regardless of which tactics you choose, most perch fishing situations require one additional motion mixed in. Actually, it’s no motion! From aggressively jigging a spoon to the subtle strokes you use to swim an ice fly, an opportunity for consumption must be offered. “Napping” (pausing) the lure provides that opportunity by stimulating the predator instincts of perch, and it will usually entice them to gobble up the offering. The key is to vary the length of the pause until you determine the most effective time frame. Usually, this will correlate with the aggressiveness of the perch. Pause lengths may vary from 2 or 3 seconds to a minute depending on the mood of the fish. The more sluggish they are, the longer the pause. When it comes to perch, sometimes the right move for success is no move at all. Not only are these effective techniques that will put more perch on the ice, they also have a tendency to put a smile on the face of both the youth and the adults in your angling party. Kids can simply be themselves and be successful perch anglers. For the adults it’s an easy rule of thumb to remember: Stop acting your age and start kidding around!