Portly yellow perch are always a joy to catch. But finding these wandering footballs during the transition from winter to spring can be a challenge. Whether you’re tapping the late ice or early open water bites, the following locational pointers can help you find fish fast.
For starters, perch are spring spawners. The spawn usually occurs soon after ice-out at water temperatures of 45 – 52 degrees, right after the walleye spawn. Although perch don’t make long-distance spawning runs like some other gamefish, they do head for preferred spawning areas.
Top locations in lakes and reservoirs include shallow marshes, sloughs, and dark-water lakes connected to the main lake by a narrow channel or creek. Shallow, sheltered bays along the edge of the main lake can be good, too. If such options are limited, perch may spawn in the main lake.
Weeds are often the preferred habitat. Lindy pro and longtime guide Jeff Sundin looks for small bays with modest weedgrowth, either in the form of old bulrushes or healthy stands of coontail or cabbage that survived the winter. Flowage systems adjacent to larger perch lakes can be particularly productive.
Perch gravitate toward such areas before ice-out, and may remain in the vicinity for some time after spawning, provided food is available.
“Post-spawn perch often hang around emerging weeds like coontail that are three to four inches tall,” Sundin says. “Although perch don’t spawn on rocks or gravel, there’s a connection due to crayfish, so a patch of rocks or gravel in or adjacent to the weeds makes a spot that much better.”
Sundin notes that the best weeds hold a variety of minnows and other forage that can keep perch in the neighborhood well into summer. “Perch typically stick with the weed pattern until the water gets up into the middle 60s,” he says. “In many systems, the next big thing on the calendar is the first major crayfish hatch, which causes perch to move a little deeper, but until it happens, they hang around the weeds while the food holds out.”
Top presentations include a Lindy Frostee Jigging Spoon tipped with a minnow head or waxworms for late-ice action. In early open water, a small Frostee Jig with a live minnow, fished under a long-casting Thill Wobble Bobber, is hard to beat.