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Fishing Articles by Colin D. Crawford

Ice Out Perch
by Colin D. Crawford

Ice out perch are perhaps my favorite part of spring. Small bays and backwater areas will be where we see the first sign of perch. In fact, the main lake could still be frozen over when these locations turn on. As soon as the water starts to warm and bugs and minnows start becoming evident, the bluegills, crappies and perch will go on a feeding binge. If you're there, the action can be fast.

Bays on the north side of the lakes and places where streams feed the lake will be good starting points. Locations of these types warm up first and see the earliest perch activity.

For example, I've had my best luck on shallow points and flats gradually tapering to deeper water. In fact, that's what I'm looking for. I don't necessarily want something that's close to super deep water. Instead, I'm looking for shallow weed growths in two to ten feet of water with six to fifteen feet of water around it. The shallower weedbeds will turn on first with water temperatures ranging from 58° to 66° degrees. Deeper weeds will turn on later in the year.

Weeds are an important source of food for the fish in a lake. They harbor plankton, insect larvae, and minnows. They play an essential role in the food chain in our lakes. Without weeds much of our fishing and fish patterns would be very different.

Once perch are found in weeds, choosing the best presentation can be quite a frustrating experience. Remember to always choose a presentation that can put the odds in your favor.

Late afternoon is probably the best time to be on the water, or in some cases, on the bank. Many of the best spots can be reached from shore. Later in the day is generally best because the water has had a chance to warm for several hours, and the fish will be most active when the water is warmest.

Start off fishing an area with jigs. If your weed growth consists of coontail or cabbage weeds then you might consider a lighter jig. The retrieve that you will use in this pattern will be different than a simple swimming motion, because the weeds will hold on to your jig longer. The retrieve that you will have to use is a lift and glide approach. When the jig gets hung up on the weeds, lower your rod tip and pop the jig free with an upward movement. This will get the attention of those finicky perch that are lying in the weeds and you will find aggressive perch to bite. Unfortunately a jig doesn't always find its way through heavy weed growth without help. Tickle it through, by jiggling the rod tip and most of the time the jig will wiggle through.

With the use of my electric trolling motor and weedless prop it's easy to position a boat right on top of where I want to fish. I can drop the bait straight down, which makes for a more effective presentation, a better hooksetting position and more leverage to fight the fish. After the bait hits bottom, I jig it a few times, let it rest, then jig it again. The trick is to keep the lure falling as much as possible because that's when perch most often strike. If you use the electric motor to present the bait with a slight horizontal movement, take care that the lure remains almost directly under the boat. If it pulls up into the weeds, the offering is worthless.

If trolling for perch is what you want to do you can always pull a three way rig through the emerging vegetation. The sinker will drag along the bottom and keep you offering out of the tough young weeds. Also, if you are on the edge of a large weedbed with a constant deep water edge, the use of leadcore line will allow you to present the bait down to where the perch are. This method is usually reserved for later in the summer for walleyes, but can become very effective in the spring of the year when you want to troll the edges for perch.

Try casting and swimming the jig back. If the perch don't respond to this presentation, go to a bobber and slow down. If the water is extremely cold they don’t want to move fast nor very far even to get food.

When all else fails, a splitshot, a small bobber, and a hook with a minnow attached will commonly be what it takes to get a few fish to open their mouths. There are times when live bait will produce, when nothing else will; and this early spring fishing is one of those times.

If you are interested in a guided trip, a personal media interview, or photo shoot, please call 715-545-8347. I am located ion Phelps, Wisconsin area, close to several fishing lakes. See you on the water this season. Remember NPAA #94 and getting ready for ice out perch. Hope to hear from you soon.

This Fishing Article is brought to you by Colin D. Crawford

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