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By Danny Coyne
One of the most enjoyable fish to target during the ice fishing season has to be the yellow perch. Once the schools are located, these fish are plentiful and they make some of the best table fare to be had.
Perch are found throughout the interior of the Pacific Northwest in many freshwater lakes that are not accessible during the winter months. Perch fishing is a great species to target while ice fishing, especially for families, newcomers or young anglers, as it can offer non-stop action.
The key to a good day of ice fishing for perch is to locate the schools. These fish tend to school up tight during the winter months, so once you locate one, you're likely to locate others. Early ice season offers some of the best fishing for perch and they will tend to bite anything you throw at them.
In the first month of fishable ice, you'll find perch hanging around in shallow bay areas feeding on insects among the weeded bottom. As the season progresses, the perch will move out to deeper water, holding on points and drop-off ledges. Unlike its distant relative, the walleye, perch don't just hug the lake floor. Rather, they can vary from one foot off the bottom to suspending within a few inches from the ice surface. Start by targeting near the bottom, then work your way up the water column until you locate the school.
A good tactic in locating the school of perch is to drill multiple holes in a crisscross pattern that covers an area of approximately 40 yards. Start fishing the hole closest to the shallow water first. I like to begin the day by jigging a small spoon, such as a Mack's Lure Sonic BaitFish (1/16 oz.) tipped with maggots, meal worms or even regular cocktail shrimp.
Once you get on top of an active feeding group of perch, you have multiple options, including switching to a Mack's Lure Glo Hook, which can be illuminated with the light on your cell phone and it will glow underwater for up to 20 minutes, captivating the surrounding school of perch.
If the perch are near the bottom, slap your presentation on the bottom to stir up silt, as this will attract the fish even more, thinking its a feeding frenzy. Then, continue your consistent jigging cadence. Don't be afraid to let an interested perch chase your presentation up the water column by slowly jigging and reeling simultaneously, especially if you can feel them nibbling, but not taking.
In no way are perch trophy size fish, but they do provide a lot of enjoyment to catch, especially during ice-over. Once you get a grasp on the basic understanding of how to locate the active fish, you will be in for an enjoyable day of non-stop ice fishing action. Not to mention, the white, flaky meat of a perch is a perfect ingredient for some great tasting fish tacos.