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Riege: Primetime for Ice Time Perch


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.

Crappie minnows fished near the bottom provide some of the finest mid-winter perch fishing to be found anywhere. On good days, fish from 11 to 13 inches can be caught two at a time, as fast as the angler can get rebaited and back to the bottom.

The typical “perch rig” two #6 snelled hooks attached to the line 8 and 16 inches above a 1/2 ounce bell sinker, works well. Some anglers use tiny spinner blades and beads on their hooks to serve as additional attractors. Hooking a crappie minnow either through the lips or behind the dorsal fin works equally as well. The perch aren’t fussy sometimes striking bare hooks. Light spinning tackle and 6# test Berkley Trilene Sensation line completes the tackle required to catch these great table fare.

I am not one of those ice fisherman that will sit and sit waiting for a bite in fact, one might say that I am really aggressive when it comes to ice fishing. Oh, it is true that fish are sluggish in the winter and you often need to tease them into hitting. Perch, walleye, northern pike, bluegill, crappie, and trout are attracted to movement. They respond to it automatically. In the warm months, trollers and casters tend to catch more than still fisherman. In the winter, about the only movement you can create is a vertical hop or jig, but that is better than letting your bait hang there like so much wet laundry.

Panfisherman especially like to wiggle those tiny ice flies and teardrops tipped with grubs or waxworms. Originally, most panfishing was done with light lines and small bobbers. Anglers bounced the bobber up and down on the water, then waited for the fish to bite. Many of these fisherman could tell you that they often time would get bit off and didn’t even detect the slightest nibble.

Always adjust your ice fishing presentation to the fish. For instance, if you have all the right conditions for a good bite (fish showing on the sonar, stable weather, and rumors that fish are biting) use a technique that will work on aggressive fish.

One of my favorite aggressive fish tactics is to take a Lindy Rattl’r Spoon and work the rod tip so the lure has a very erratic action. Hop, skip, and bounce that lure. When an aggressive fish hits the bait you’ll feel it. If the fish are in a neutral mood they will often hit a bait so lightly that you don’t even feel it. Scale down the rod and line size to compensate for the light bite. I might go to a reel that has six-pound test Berkley Cold Weather line or even a four-pound test Berkley Trilene Sensation.

Lures for ice fishing are like the stars on a clear night, they seem to be infinite in numbers. Even in the summertime, my local bait shop devotes a whole wall to various sizes and colors of teardrops and ice flies. Most lures are designed to be fished with live bait. The lure attracts the fish while the bait satisfies the fish’s sense of taste. One only has to look at this combination to realize that a jig on the end of a pole needs to be moved around if it is going to act as the attractor.

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.

One Sunday afternoon last year, I went out on my favorite large lake in Minnesota to find on one side of the lake fisherman were catching nice walleyes using spoons tipped with redtail chubs. Yet on the other side of the lake the fisherman were just sitting and waiting for a bite. I told them how the action was on the other side of the lake, but most of them didn’t budge. They either didn’t believe me or maybe they weren’t interested in catching fish.

Fisherman that are interested in catching fish use aggressive tactics and these techniques will help, especially when there is hard water all around. Hope to see you all on the ice soon!