Ice Fishing Tips -Check your local regulations! > Perch

Where are they?

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Hunt n Fish:
I'm looking for some ideas on finding these tasty critters.  I've been ice fishing a particular reservoir for about 5 years now and have never been able to really get into them.  I've caught them up to 12" and 10"+ is pretty common but usually only a few in a day of searching.  Everything I read and hear is "perch school so once you find one you will likely get more".  I however have found this not to be the case.  On rare occasions I've gotten into schools of  really small ones (>7") but the bigger ones are always loners or a pair at most.  They really have no predators since trout are the only other fish and are pretty small in there.  There are also almost no baitfish and the only thing I've found in there bellies is an occasional crayfish.  I've fished almost everywhere from the few available flats to the breaks and main channel from 5'-40'.  I've caught them everywhere but never any numbers.  It's filled with clear cold water and is mainly a trout lake.  It's fairly small and has no contour maps available that I can find.  I also don't have a boat so bottom structure is just found by punching holes.  With that said it is a pretty structure less body of water.  Most of it slopes pretty quickly into the main channel and there are almost no weeds to speak of.  It maxes out at around 60'.  I'm starting to think that the numbers just aren't there and 5 keeper perch is going to be about as good as it gets in a day.  Any of you perch pros have any ideas?

most of the time perch do school, but i've found that -as with your experience- double-digit perch often prefer to wander around in smaller "wolf packs" rather than the massive schools the species is known for.

this is purely a theory, but i think these fish are actually hunting smaller perch, minnows, and other large prey rather than seeking out the same food sources that small perch look for; bloodworms, shrimp, etc. in your case, it sounds like they're hunting crayfish, but i'll remind you that perch ARE a baitfish, and perch themselves tend to be heavily cannibalistic. you might try finding one of those schools of smaller fish, and working them with a larger jigging lure like a rapala slab rap or a salmo chubby darter. something in the 2 to 3 inch range. i've had some pretty good success doing that this year.

in my area depth maps aren't really a thing. a couple major lakes are mapped out, but that's it. so i use satellite photos to find interesting characteristics of a lake that i plan to fish.

all that said and done, most lakes just don't have a large population of large perch. you'll catch a hundred under ten inches, and a handful over ten. it takes a really special set of circumstances for a lake to grow a lots of trophy perch.

Interesting topic. A couple years ago I had a conversation with an older gentleman who fished a Black Hills trout lake that has some large perch in it, Sheridan Lake. Several years in a row he won the annual ice derby fishing the deepest water in the lake 50-60' deep. The perch were 10' to 15' down. He believes the fish are eating zooplankton. He uses light line and maggots. Worth a try. 

Hunt n Fish:
Thanks for the input guys. Perhaps Iíll have to try deeper.

Is it possible the perch are moving fast enough on you to make you think there are only a few in the school? If I find perch and they stop biting I drill holes to find them again. Rule number one with yellow perch with me is you can't go wrong staying close to the bottom. I've found that is where they are 99 percent of the time. Also I have better luck catching them on flats vs. drop offs. And soft bottoms seem to have the bloodworms they like to feed on (midge fly larvae).


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