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Riege: Looking for jump perch on the ice

By Bob and Ginny Riege

When looking for a productive perch lake, we 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, Leech Lake, Lake Winniboshish, Devils Lake in North Dakota and Lake Gogebic in Michigan are perfect examples of some dandy jumbo perch fishing. 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.

However don’t overlook smaller lakes within a state especially if the structure for jumbo perch is present in the lake and you have visited the DNR website where you will find if it has the specific species of fish and usually the numbers. The other point of research is actually being on the water in the fall months searching for jumbo perch. We have caught good size perch on Winnie this past summer. We have experienced great perch fishing on Devils Lake and Leech Lake last year in what some might refer to shallow water fishing. Whether it is deep-water basin bite or a bite with three feet of ice on top of three feet of water, jumbo perch key in on specific pieces of structure.

Larger spawning bars usually draw the most perch; so if you’re fishing an unfamiliar lake, start searching on or adjacent to the largest potential spawning bar.

A classic spawning bar will have a variety of structural elements that perch like. But remember one thing, the perch is a fish of the flats. That creates a problem for fisherman conditioned to think, “drop offs.” Perch may be in the vicinity of a drop off, but they rarely are on one unless they’re moving. Major drop offs are not feeding areas.

Of course, perch relate to edges on flats. Thus, on a shallow flat, weed edges congregate fish. So do weed pockets in large weedbeds. Perch also like bottom transition points where, for example, sand meets rock or gravel.

The method we prefer to use is to tie on a Clam Drop jig. The Clam Drop jig is a large tungsten jig with a line tie coming out of the top at nearly a 90-degree angle. New this year, is the Drop Jig XL with a larger hook, this allows the angler to load it up with a lot of maggots. We fished this jig last year and tipped it with a Maki Plastic Mino. The action was great with this combo. In deep water we prefer to use the Clam Speed Spoon or the Bomb Spoon. These spoons drop like a rock in deep water and if you tip some of the hooks with Maki Plastics and maggots, you will discover that they stay on the hook longer. This combination is dynamite especially when it is dangled right in front of a nonaggressive perch.

The rods and line that we like to use going after these jumbo perch is the Genz Legacy Series spooled up with 2-4 lb. Vicious Fishing Line. If we are on a deep-water basin bite we will switch to Berkley Fireline Fused Crystal in 4 lb. test so we can detect the light bite of these jumbo perch.

Using a Vexilar depthfinder in conjunction with your fishing eliminates the guesswork because you can see the exact depth of the perch. Schools of perch often group horizontally, but vertical grouping isn’t uncommon. When you’re on fish and they are biting well, try to catch the top fish (those highest off the bottom) first and then work your way down toward the bottom. If you keep pulling struggling fish through a school, you may scatter the school. No matter what level we catch my first perch at, the next time we drop the lure we raise it about 2 feet to see if there are higher fish. If there’s not quick response, we return the lure to the level we originally caught the fish.

Jumbo perch are also affected by cold front conditions. When the weather on the surface of the lake is poor or very cold you will notice a decline in fish activity. You really need to time your fishing trips to avoid these conditions if at all possible. But, of all the fish that are taken during the winter months you will have the most luck with perch. It seems no matter what, you can usually get a few to bite.