I once was a walleye snob. If I wasn’t catching eating-sized walleyes, in that perfect 1-2 pound range, with the occasional lunker, I wasn’t fishing. Northern pike were a hassle and perch weren’t worth messing with. While pike can still make a mess of your lines when ice-fishing, I have changed my tune on perch.
Perch are an ideal winter quarry. They are great eating (walleye are in the perch family) and easy to filet. Perch are often very prolific in the right fishery and their numbers can swell quickly, making them available and aggressive. When the perch population booms, a bucket of fresh perch in an afternoon of sitting on the ice is a real possibility. The goal is to find the happy medium between good numbers of perch, but also maintain that “jumbo” quality, not a bunch of stunted fish.
This past trip was a perch outing on somewhat shaky ice. Once on the ice, it was a matter of finding the proper depth and the right presentation that attacted the larger perch. Eventually, I settled on 30 feet of water, with a small spoon and a minnow head. A full minnow was too large and caused me to miss too many fish on the hookset. A waxworm encouraged too many small perch to race to my lure. As a result, I only had about 18 perch to clean that evening. They weren’t perch pushing that coveted one pound threshold, but they were close. Dipped in Italian bread crumbs and fried in olive oil, they were as good as I expected. Who needs walleyes to be happy?
Editor: Montana Sporting Journal