Ice fishing for Perch gets anglers excited! When you find a school of feeding Perch, the bite can be non-stop and last until you feel like quitting. However, jigging for perch ice fishing can be difficult. Staying on top of biting fish is a challenge as Perch schools move fast and quick changes in conditions can slow down the activity. We give you the five key ice fishing tips for Perch to help you find big schools and stay on top of a hot bite.
1. How to Catch Perch on Hard Water
At first ice, look for Perch in the healthy vegetation that still remains in shallower water. Vegetation provides a vertical grass edge that supports minnows and other forage that Perch feed on. In mid-winter, Perch will push into deeper water with silty bottoms that hold insects. The mid-winter move generates larger schools of Perch roaming expansive mid-lake flats. As winter comes to an end, Perch will once again move shallow migrating towards spawning grounds. Shallow bays, secondary points, and reefs provide ideal habitat for spawning Perch. Bays that have a mix of rocks and vegetation are a favorite and will hold larger Perch. Perch move in schools, some in small pods and others in giant masses of 100+ fish. Focus on finding larger schools by staying mobile and drilling a lot of holes. Even if you get a few fish on the ice, keep moving until you find a larger school. Bigger schools hold bigger perch.
2. Jigging for Perch Ice Fishing
Start your jigging cadence by dropping the bait down and poofing the bottom. Rapidly pick up and drop the tip of your ice fishing rod to create a ruckus on the bottom. The disruption signals a struggle of feeding activity in the area which calls in Perch. Start by fishing the bait right above the poofed bottom and slowly work it up a few feet. If you have a flasher and notice fish on the bottom, try to pull them up with your jigging cadence to seperate them from the bottom. Once they begin to separate, Perch will typically close the gap with an aggressive bite. For more finicky fish, you may have to subtly jig. Start by shaking the jig head closer to the bottom and working your jig back up slowly. Regardless of the bite, jig upwards in 1-2 ft increments once you get Perch to follow. Separation drives Perch to commit to the bait. Jig at a greater separation for more active fish (4-6 ft) and at a lesser separation for dormant fish (1-2 ft).
3. Ice Fishing Perch Bait
Perch feed on insects, freshwater shrimp, and smaller baitfish. Start with an ice jig and soft plastic tipped with a waxie to mimic insects and shrimp. This smaller presentation generates the largest catch count of average sized Perch. The waxie is added for scent to improve commitment, and the soft plastic allows you to catch fish if smaller Perch steal your waxie. Big perch will hit the jig & plastic, but once you get into a feeding frenzy a large portion of your catch will be small to average sized Perch. To target the jumbo Perch in a school you need to filter out the smaller fish with a larger lure. Tie on a flutter spoon tipped with a minnow head to mimic a baitfish. The larger lure profile will intimidate the smaller fish, and the smaller tipping of bait renders an optimal lure presentation.
4. Ice Fishing Perch Rigs
Cold fronts and other weather changes can affect how Perch bite. When the bite gets tough, you have to mix up baits and presentations to get them to commit. Sometimes Perch love to be called in with a lure but won’t commit to the bait. When this happens, rig up a Perch Spoon Dropper Chain, which sports a spoon to call in Perch but also offers the bait a few inches below for a less intimidating commitment. For even slower bites, a slip bobber with a ball of wax worms or small crappie minnow will incite a bite. Drill two holes 1 ft apart and set the depth of your slip bobber rig to 6 inches off the bottom in one hole. In the other hole, jig your Perch Spoon Dropper Chain to call in fish. On a tough bite, your live bait set-up will see the majority of hits. Once you get the bite revved up however, lethargic Perch can turn competitive and start striking your lure.
5. Handling & Releasing
Getting on a good Perch bite makes it easy to fill a bucket and to enjoy fresh fish fillets. However, when you do not plan to keep fish, properly handling and releasing Perch will ensure a healthy population. When air temperatures are in the single digits, it is important to get the fish back into the water as soon as possible to prevent freezing. Avoid setting them on the ice/snow as it will affect their slime coat. Use bare hands to hold the fish and quickly remove the hook. Deeper water Perch should not be targeted unless you are committed to keeping the fish. Landing fish from deeper than 35 ft inflates their air bladder and disables them from re-submerging. When fishing for fun, use the opportunity to explore shallower areas and save the deeper water for a fish fry.
Ice Fishing for Perch Tips
Finding a larger school and taking advantage of feeding frenzies are the keys to successful ice fishing for Perch. Plan on moving around and drilling several holes as Perch schools move fast and far. If you can get the first fish to bite, it may fire up the whole school. As long as you are actively catching perch, the school should stick close by. Start with smaller bait profiles and work up to larger sizes as the bite develops. Work the bait up off the bottom and maintain separation to keep Perch interested. Jigging separation will force the fish to move up in the water column to and commit to your bait either out of competition or anxiety.