Wherever you are in the Northern Hemisphere, Perch is likely to be on the menu. These delicious Panfish are much-loved for their white, flaky meat, but they’re also really fun to target. Many families target Perch with a rod and reel as they look to get their kids their first catch. Meanwhile, avid anglers can fill their buckets to stock up the freezer for months to come. Ice fishing for Perch, however, is where this creature makes its name.
Today, we’ll run through the basics of ice fishing for Perch – specifically for the famous Yellow Perch found in North America. While smaller than their European cousins, they’re highly sought-after in all kinds of freshwater. And what better to do than go after them in the depths of winter, as you look to land yourself a hearty meal!
We’ll introduce you to the basics of ice fishing, the best lures and bait, and everything else you need to know before getting out on the ice and dropping your line. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be ready to hit the ice this winter and land your Perch.
When and Where to Go Ice Fishing for Perch
Let’s start with the most obvious: where and when? Naturally, winter is the only time for ice fishing, when the lakes freeze over. But it’s important to make sure the ice is thick enough before venturing out onto it. That’s why the middle of the season can provide the most secure ice fishing, while later on can also be productive as the layers of ice (and sometimes snow) have formed.
If you are thinking of heading out near the beginning of the season, we suggest heading out with an ice fishing guide, who’ll know exactly where to go to avoid any accidents. Otherwise, it’s mainly January through March that offers the best action. Now, you may need to venture further out to find the big fish, but the stronger ice allows for just that. Come the end of the season, and you may find some luck in the shallows.
Success will also depend on the time of day you get out on the ice. Luckily, Perch are voracious eaters that like to feed throughout the day. But coming at dawn or dusk will increase your chances, even with these critters. They can come up for a spot of lunch, too, so drop anything tasty down there mid-day, and there’s always the chance of landing one.
Now, when we talk about where to go, pretty much any body of water that contains fish and freezes over can lead to a productive Perch Ice fishing trip. However, depending on the state or lake/river, different regulations can hinder your attempts. We recommend hitting up areas that allow you to ice fish with multiple lines. That way, you’re multiplying your chance of success!
You’ll also want to explore spots that contain plenty of structure. Perch love to feed around weed beds or in transitionary areas, where there’s plenty of diversity underwater. However, as with every rule of thumb, there’s an exception too. Perch like to roam around, so find a spot nearby structure, but not necessarily on it, and you could well entice the bite from afar.
Top Spots for Perch Ice Fishing
Bearing all the above in mind, we’ve compiled a list of what we think are some of the most productive Perch ice fishing spots on the continent. Head to any of these places when the season hits, and you won’t be disappointed:
- Devil’s Lake, ND. If you’re looking for trophy-sized Perch, then few places can compete with the “Roughrider State’s” premium body of water. Spend all winter long here and you could land some wicked Walleye and Pike, too.
- Lake Cascade, ID. A little off the beaten path, Idaho’s fisheries are not to be overlooked. This lake may be the best-known Perch ice fishing destination in the country. And for good reason. The fish grow to over 10 inches regularly, here!
- Lake Simcoe, Ontario. Crossing over into the “Great White North,” Lake Simcoe is arguably Canada’s best Perch ice fishing spot. Jumbo varieties offer up a more intense fight than elsewhere, with plenty of delicious rewards afterwards.
- Saginaw Bay, MI. We couldn’t talk about ice fishing without mentioning the Great Lakes. Saginaw Bay is a world-famous corner of Lake Huron, offering up great Perch action, along with much more come the season.
- Green Bay, WI. Sticking with the Great Lakes, Green Bay needs no introduction. It bounced back strongly from being overfished in the last century and is ready to go as an ice fishing hotspot for all kinds of anglers.
- And more! That by no means covers all the places you can target Perch while ice fishing in North America, but they’re our top picks. As we said, hit up any frozen lake where Perch live, and you could be in for a treat!
Ice Fishing for Perch: Rigs and Lures
Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty. What equipment will you need on your Perch ice fishing adventure? How best to attract the fish? Don’t worry, we’ve got it all covered below.
First of all, you’ll want to get out on the ice before the fish start feeding. Make sure to drill your holes before they get hungry, as doing it while they’re already nearby may spook them away. To make your hole you’ll want an auger to drill through the ice, and most ice fishing guides will have one of their own.
Next, you have a choice of how you want to fish – i.e., how to set up your rig. You can choose from tip-ups across multiple holes. These drop lines into the water, with a flag to signal when the fish takes the bait. You can then head over to the line once a fish has caught, allowing other lines to stay in the water and attract even more Perch.
Some ice fishermen, though, prefer a hands-on experience. Take a small ice fishing rod and sit above the ice, jigging your bait into the water, as you would to when fishing from shore. Whatever you decide, you don’t need anything fancy, as these creatures are small. A 10 lb braided line should do the trick, with a light fluorocarbon line in the water to do the rest.
Of course, you’ll want to know which baits to use, but be prepared to try and mix things up. Small tungsten jigs can be effective, while small minnows will also do the job. Add a plastic or live minnow or wax worm, and you should be onto a winner. If you want to target the bigger species, you’ll need a bigger lure.
Of course, there are plenty more ways to maximize your catch when ice fishing for Perch. Some anglers like to use underwater cameras to get a better view under the ice. Many like to go in groups to maximize the chance of catching enough fish to fill the freezer. We certainly wouldn’t advocate against either of those, but it’s completely up to you!
One thing that’s not up to you, however, is the rules and regulations concerning where you’ll be fishing. We mentioned earlier that some places will allow you to fish with multiple lines, while others may not. Check the regulations in your area before you go so you don’t fall foul of the law.
As with most freshwater fishing, you’ll likely need a license to go ice fishing, so you should also check that out. Thankfully, we’ve put together some information on licensing in most states.
In addition to that, Perch may be subject to bag and size limits, depending on where you’ll be fishing. Again, check with your local wildlife department or, even better, head out with a professional guide who’ll have you covered.
Now You’re Ready to Break the Ice!
By now you should be familiar with everything there is to know about ice fishing for Perch. These delicious creatures offer hours of endless fun out on the ice. Don’t let the cold weather keep you away from fishing, there’s plenty of opportunities to land something tasty. What are you waiting for? Head out this winter and make the most of it!
Have you ever tried ice fishing for Perch? How was it? Do you have any tips or tricks to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!