Corpulent perch on the prowl
By Jason Durham / For the Enterprise
There’s a silver lining to the elongated winter of 2013, though you might call it a yellow with green striped lining.
Anglers are still able to easily access most of the area’s lakes. Bluegill and crappie have been active and abundant. But some anglers are finding prime success by branching out slightly to the larger lakes in search of perch.
Right now is one of the absolute best times to target perch since they actively feed in preparation to spawn. And the fish are plump like miniature footballs.
It wasn’t many years ago that Minnesota had a very liberal possession limit for perch. In my own lifetime, the limit has gone from 100, to 50 and then to 30, where it stands today.
Even though perch reproduce at a fast rate, angler harvest can greatly impact populations that can take a few years to replenish. Not to mention the fact that small perch are a prime food source for many gamefish species.
Though some bodies of water in the Park Rapids area can produce decent sized perch, most of our lakes don’t have the right elements for growing large numbers of jumbo perch. Sprawling flats and specific forage sources are necessary for developing strong perch populations.
Big bodies of water with those necessary attributes that are close enough for a day-trip of perch fishing include Leech Lake, Cass Lake, Mille Lacs, and Lake Winnibigoshish. Of course there are others that are smaller and can produce nice fish, but these larger lakes are known nationally for their perch abundance and size structure.
If you’re willing to drive even a little further, Lake of the Woods and Devils Lake, N.D., are two other well-known jumbo perch havens.
This time of year perch are typically very shallow, which offers a unique experience for anglers since you can literally stand above the hole and watch the fish dart in to inhale the bait. Popular depths for this time of year are often less than 7 feet.
Since perch are very aggressive by nature, larger, flashy lures like jigging spoons and horizontal swimming lures get perch to come to your fishing area from a distance. A minnow head or waxworm on the end of the hook almost guarantees a strike.
Aggressive jigging is often beneficial when fishing for perch. Many anglers have discovered that perch are also attracted to slight disruptions on the bottom. Dropping your lure right into the weeds, sand, mud or silt, then ripping it upward can get perch really excited.
However, perch primarily feed during daylight hours since they lack the visual acuity to effectively feed after dark. It’s not uncommon to catch a perch after dark, but the opportunity to land numbers of large perch is much greater during the day. Because of their compromised vision after dark and the acute vision of walleyes after dark, perch are a favorite target for walleyes all year long.
And if the ice ever leaves our lakes, the perch fishing will still be good.