By Nick Simonson
While yellow perch are most notably pursued through the ice and are a primary target of many anglers throughout the region during the cold weather months, these fish can provide fast summertime action and a stockpile of delicious fillets that can rival the stash that winter anglers accumulate. Connecting with roaming schools of large yellow perch can require some work, but once found they can provide fast action using some very simple methods throughout the summer.
Touch ‘Em Trolling
Many times, anglers will encounter sizeable perch while trolling transition areas for walleyes. Here, larger yellow perch will also be feeding on the minnows, small crayfish, freshwater shrimp and other prey items that their bigger cousins are seeking out. Offering up a minnow on a single-hook Lindy rig, or trolling half a crawler on a harness or slow-death setup is a great way to make initial contact with schools of perch, which by their nature tend to roam and follow break lines, weedlines and other natural edges underwater. Once a perch or two are picked up in a particular area through trolling methods, consider offering up a more targeted presentation to stay on the school and effectively bring fish to the boat.
The Jig Is Up
Utilizing a jig can help quickly add perch to a fish basket or livewell for a summer fish fry. Whether transitioning from trolling for these fish or making contact while working a weedline and finding a school stacked up, a jig allows a precise presentation of bait. Jigs in sizes of 1/16- to 1/8-ounce typically match up with the mouths of those desired perch from 10- to 12-inches in length, and they can deploy a pinch of crawler, small leech or minnow effectively. Consider using compact plastics such as Lindy Fuz-E-Grubs, or three-inch curlytailed plastics to add some bulk when fish are aggressive and keying in on larger food items. Additionally, jigs dressed with krystal flash or marabou will also provide some shimmer and additional attraction to set perch off.
When perch are encountered away from shore, utilize jigs to further pinpoint holding areas along bottom transitions where mud turns to gravel, sand or chunk rock. Look for schools to hole up along weedlines as well, especially those where the wind has been blowing in for any amount of time, as current-driven prey items such as small baitfish and aquatic insects will be stacked up in the area as well. Rock reefs and rip-rap can also provide natural and man-made barriers that corral perch in a particular spot, especially in funnel areas where water pushes under bridges or narrows in a lake. Mark these as key jigging places for perch on a GPS or lake map.
Offering a minnow or small leech under a slip float is another great way to target summertime perch in these prime locations and the depth can easily be adjusted if the school moves out or down from where they were first encountered. A simple setup of a #4 or #6 octopus hook under a splitshot or two to balance out the buoyancy of the chosen float is all that’s needed for fast fishing when a school of yellow perch is discovered. It’s a great way to get young anglers in on the action and utilizes any wind or current to provide added action to the bait below as the bobber moves with the slightest breeze or surface disturbance. Swap out a small jig – plain or dressed depending on fish preference – for the plain hook and experiment with the offerings to find what works best on a given day.
While perch may be a primary pursuit in the winter, they can provide a good deal of action in summer as well, especially as things warm up and they are actively feeding. Knowing how to find them and identifying school location through trolling tactics and then staying on them with more precision through jigging and slip floating are great ways to add a few more fillets to the frying pan and summer memories to the photo book.
Featured Photo: The author with a pair of 12-inch perch, part of a limit discovered while trolling and then switching to a jigging presentation. Simonson Photo.