Early season perch patrol is one of the first things I do after the lakes open back up after a long winter in the north country. Perch are one of the most popular of all panfish. I absolutely love launching the boat — even if there are still ice chunks on the lake —and going on the hunt for them in the shallows. They are also fun to catch and are arguably the best-tasting fish in all of North America.
Bu many anglers simply don’t target perch during early Spring. One of the main reasons is probably because the window of opportunity (timeframe) is so short. Perch generally start dumping their eggs when the water reaches between 45- ad 50 degrees — so it’s a pretty tiny window. However, it’s also totally worth the effort.
Start by using your electronics to scan the area. Wear polarized sunglasses and look for perch in the shallows while you keep a close eye on the water temperature. The key is to find water temperatures right in that 45- to 46-degree range. It only takes a few degrees difference, so keep scanning the area until you discover a school of perch.
Look for rocky areas or logs, anything that will attract fish and where the water is going to be warmer. Find a zone that has it all — rocks, weeds, wood, and warmer temperatures — and it can be an absolute nuclear spot for perch. Again, I use my electronics and I’m always ready to drop the Aqua-Vu to identify perch in deeper water.
For a jig, I like to use a Northland Little Thumper head and tip it with a large crappie minnow. Cast out and let it sink to the bottom, then start the retrieve right along the bottom using short, small, jerky moves that imitate a crawfish scooting across the bottom. When you get a bite, start reeling quickly, sweep slightly, and let the perfect action of the St. Croix Panfish Series of rods load up and set the hook for you.
Another tactic I like to employ — particularly if the perch are holding deeper — is to vertical jig them right over the side of the boat. I like to use a short 5-foot rod and an Aqua-Vu camera. It is just so much fun to watch their interaction with the bait on camera. It truly gives you an understanding of how perch are reacting to the bait —plus you can see when they’ve inhaled it.