Riege: Jumbo Perch with ATV mobility

Published 7:46 pm Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I received a call last January from a fishing buddy of mine, Brad and he said. “Hey I hear that the big jumbo perch are biting like crazy up on Mille Lacs.” “What do ya say we hitch up our Polaris ATV’s and make a weekend of it?”

It didn’t take me very long to throw some clothes in a bag and gather up the fishing equipment. I hitched up my Polaris Ranger 800 and drove over to Brad’s house to load his gear as well. Within four hours we were on the ice with our ATV’s moving to our favorite fish haunts.

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When looking for a productive perch lake, I usually look for a lake that is large. It seems that in order to grow the jumbo perch you need a lot of water. For example, Mille Lacs Lake in Central Minnesota is perfect for these dandy jumbo perch. Also lakes like Devils Lake in North Dakota are great because the large lakes are not subject to fishing pressure and anglers will not really hurt this prolific fish. These fish are so prolific that on a normal large lake anglers probably won’t make a dent in their population. Now jumbo perch start at about 12 inches and move the scale from there. If you are catching them less than 10 inches, then move.

Photo submitted Brian “Bro” Brosdahl holds a puppet minnow and a nice jumbo perch. -- photo submitted

Never spend too much time in one place. When it requires some effort to make a move sometimes it’s just easier to sit and wait for the fish to come to you. With all the innovations in ice-fishing gear, making anglers more versatile and more mobile, it makes sense to have an attitude that will have you moving, searching for active fish. Both of our Polaris Rangers allowed us to pick up and move to any point on the lake that day. These are awesome machines and the reason that I prefer them is they have 4WD and the payload allows me to haul my Strikemaster Auger, Thermal X Summit ice shelter, rods, minnows, ice skimmers, Vexilar units and even lunch.

The key to ice fishing as it is in any fishing is location. For perch and other gamefish, try long tapering points; inside channel turns; rock humps, neck downs, and structure near spring spawning areas. Use the sonar to spot fish. Try submerged brush piles and blowdowns for crappie and bluegill. Watch the screen or flasher. You can actually see fish appear on a graph. My Vexilar will track your lure so you can put it right in the fish’s face. I have actually seen a day when a mark appeared on the sonar screen while reeling in a lure. A pause and the mark moved closer to the bait. A twitch of the wrist brought a powerful strike. A heart-racing fight put a nice jumbo perch on the ice.

After about five minutes of this type of action I was ready to move to a new location, when all of a sudden I noticed a wide flash at about 20 feet. I quickly released the spool and watched the Northland Forage Minnow Jig sink to about 18 feet. The perch immediately rose to the lure and I tightened the line and set the hook. A nice jumbo perch poked its head into the hole in the ice and I was off to a great day of ice fishing.

What I try to do is to drill a series of holes along a particular structure. I will start shallow and drill a couple of holes about six feet apart. Then I will move along the breakline of this structure until I reach a depth of about 22 feet or so. Depending on the weather I usually like to start in the shallow areas to see what type of activity is there first. Then I move along my series of holes until I reach a productive hole and the active depth.

This is why mobility is so critical at this time of the year. Your series of holes could be along a line of a 100 yards or so. If you are moving from point to point looking for the active perch it is essential that you arrive to your next destination quickly and relaxed. With the smooth ride of our Polaris Ranger ATV’s they got us there with very little effort and we spent more time fishing than if we had had to walk a great distance. In essence, what we did was create a tour of fish holding hot spots and we kept on the move as much as possible fishing the active perch.

I have good luck locating fish holding structure through the ice using my portable locator. By making use of the zoom feature, I can identify fish that are holding very tight to the structure being checked. By simply wetting the ice and placing the transducer on the wet spot, you can examine the bottom make-up before drilling your holes. This saves you both time and work.

I don’t spend more than 15 minutes in one particular area before moving on. I don’t over-jig either; my rod tip constantly quivers about one-eighth to 1/16 of an inch. Or it remains stationary. When selecting an area to fish you might have to come rigged up with a variety of lures and color combinations.

Don’t forget to bring along those minnows. I like to tip my spoons with a head of a fathead minnow, that way both flash, and smell are a triggering factor to the perch. Your lure selection might have to change also. If that color isn’t productive move on to other colors. The style and shape of the Forage Minnow Spoon allows it to flutter as it falls. This will simulate a wounded minnow and turn those inactive fish into active ones. Another type of lure that suspends the rate of fall is the Northland Puppet Minnow. I like to start with a tiny #2 Puppet Minnow and tip the center treble hook with either a tasty morsel of the fathead, either the head or the tail. These types of jigs have a swimming action and they dart as they fall. This will give the fish the impression that minnows are darting and swimming towards them and escaping from them, and it will trigger a response from the perch.

With a number of jumbo perch in the bucket, Brad and I loaded up our Polaris ATV’s and headed back to our homes knowing that there is no special mumbo jumbo to catching jumbo perch, only the ATV mobility that allowed us a great time on the ice.