I just love perch, not only catching them but eating them too! They usually don’t make for a very good trophy camera shot, in fact, to have a good perch fishing day usually takes a bucket full of fish, but when the bite is on fishing these little critters is just a blast!!
The best perch waters in the Midwest can be found in the northern half of Minnesota; Leech lake, Mille Lacs, Winnibigoshish, Red Lake and Lake of the Woods. I think it is fair to say that some of the best perch fishing for size and numbers today is in our neighboring Dakotas. The Devils Lake area in North Dakota and the Webster area in South Dakota are great perch fishing areas producing good numbers of fish and good size as well.
Young perch feed on plankton and algae but as they grow larger they hunt for aquatic insects, crayfish, snails and leeches. Big perch, 10-15 inchers, will feed on just about anything that a small walleye or northern pike will eat.
The fisheries managers in Minnesota working on lakes like Leech, Mille Lacs and Winnibigoshish are seeing historic drops in perch numbers. According to research done by Leech Lake fisheries biologist Matt Ward, perch numbers are some of the lowest ever recorded on Leech Lake. Two reasons appear to be the cause; more fishing pressure and lots more big walleyes feeding on the young perch. Cormorant pressure on Leech has been reduced by 90% likely reducing these birds as a factor in the perch decline.
Perch in both North and South Dakota have an abundant supply of fresh water shrimp, a forage base that does not exist in Minnesota. The abundance of food and less fishing pressure has been good to the perch populations in the Dakotas. Thirteen to fifteen inch perch are not uncommon in the Dakota’s perch lakes.
Perch can be found anywhere in lakes, from 3 feet deep in the weeds or suspended 10-15 off the bottom in 30 feet of water. For winter fishing I like to drill holes in an area and then go from hole to hole to see if I can mark fish before I start fishing for them. They love to hunt the weeds in shallow bays in the fall looking for young of the year shiners. Find the little shiners and you will find the perch. Some days it might take catching 100 of them to find 10 keepers, but the action can be awesome!
I like to fish perch with 1/32 ounce jigs tipped with minnow heads or fatheads. I also use plain yellow and white Puddle Jumpers or other small plastic baits or tiny spoons tipped with minnow parts or wax worms will also do the trick.
But, without a doubt, the best part of perch fishing is the eating!! They are slightly richer in taste than walleye and ounce for ounce I think they are the best eating fresh water fish in the Midwest!!