Yellow perch highly respectable fish
Ah, those pesky perch. Anglers in the Park Rapids area often curse the consistent rat-a-tat bite of the yellow perch while utilizing live bait to catch walleye or small jigs to capture crappie or sunfish.
Some of the large bodies of water in Minnesota have some highly respectable perch; Mille Lacs, Leech, Winni and Lake of the Woods are some great examples. Those lakes are big perch destinations.
Those lakes have prime spawning habitat for perch in addition to an ample forage base to accommodate the species, allowing the prolific species to thrive.
When perch spawn, the females excrete a gelatinous ribbon of eggs, which attaches to short weeds. The process typically takes place just after the ice melts from the surface. Female perch can lay up to 40,000 eggs.
A male, or sometimes several males, will fertilize those eggs. Perch don't build a nest like a bass or bluegill would, so they are constantly roaming to accomplish the task, typically in somewhat shallow water, 6-10 feet or so.
When those young-of-the-year perch hatch, they instantly become forage for nearly every species of fish that swims in the lake. Tiny perch typically feed upon plankton, aquatic insects and when large enough, small natural minnows.
As they mature and water temperatures warm, larger fish species rely upon perch as a food source.
Currently, on the Park Rapids area lakes, massive schools of juvenile yellow perch make catching larger fish a little harder.
First, the small perch, now between 2.5 to 4 inches in length, readily grab onto a nightcrawler, leech or even artificial lures. This past week, as a guide client in my boat tossed a 5-inch crankbait replicating a perch, he caught a 4-inch perch, one slightly smaller than the bait they investigated.
Another disadvantage due to the influx of small perch is tricking a larger fish to take you're your instead of one of the tasty striped tidbits naturally swimming in the lake.
Don't let this dissuade you from targeting walleye, northern pike and bass since they can only react to bait. Something slightly out of the ordinary often triggers a strike, such as differing minnow types, artificial lures and soft plastic baitfish replicas.
With the increased populations of local yellow perch, one might think catching a true jumbo perch, a fish 10-inches or greater, would be easy in a couple years.
Understand that this perch "boom" occurs nearly every year and by fall most of the smaller perch have already been devoured by predators.
A handful of keep-able sized perch in the livewell is the exception rather than the norm. Yet if there's this annual addition to the perch population, those tiny ones that provide such a strong attraction for larger fish, the bigger fish will keep getting bigger.
Logically speaking, if a jumbo perch is the goal, the Park Rapids area won't sate your angling appetite. Instead, drive a few miles northeast to Winnie, Cass or Leech for some huge perch, both in population and in size.