This week’s Ice Fishing Report brought to you by Tom Neustrom, owner of MN Fishing Connections Guide Service. If you are looking for a winter ice fishing guide, check out Northern Drift Outfitters. Give Jeff a call at (218) 259-8893.
When I moved here a few decades ago, many angler frowned on catching, cleaning and eating yellow perch. My have times changed and now they are one of the most sought after species of fish caught and eaten, especially in the winter months. Make no mistake when the word gets out that there’s a good perch bite on lake X, anglers come by the numbers to catch them. The firm sweet meet of a yellow perch is hard to compare with and size wise if they are 8-10 inches and some to 12 inches in length, start the cooker. Many anglers in Minnesota have grown to respect perch more than they did 25-30 years ago. Folks from Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa come hundreds of miles in the winter and other times of the year to sample the perch fishing we have to offer.
Wisconsin anglers actually grew up fishing for perch on Lake Michigan, Madison Lake Chain, Lake Winnebago, Green Bay and several other lakes that lay on the Michigan/Wisconsin border. They were treated to Friday night fish fries and it was a standard family night out at restaurants, churches, and taverns. Fried to a golden brown with French fries and coleslaw on the side, it was a tradition like no other in the culinary world of eatery. Even after generations of angling the yellow perch have stood tall and continue to be sought after.
Tackle is fairly simplistic and they are not as fussy in their dietary preference. I prefer a soft tip ice rod like the St. Croix CCI32 Tungsten that gives me plenty of backbone but a tip the telegraphs even the slightest bite. It’s important that you have the finesse in mind when you are purchasing a good quality rod for perch and other panfish. Put on a Daiwa QR750 Spinning reel, with 4# test Mono or Sufix 832 Braid and you are in business. Small spoons with a minnow head, or a #3 Jigging Rap with 2 or 3 waxies can trigger the most stubborn perch into biting. I do like having a dead stick line in another hole close by with a plain hook and split shot. It can make a difference in getting bit on a slow day.
Some of the lakes to pay attention to in the Grand Rapids area are Pokegama, Jay Gould, Trout, Big Winnie, Bowstring, and Round. Each lake is different structurally but all offer the chance at a nice mess of delicious perch when you’re done for the day. As winter begins to wind down, try fishing shallow rock piles in 8-12 feet. Many times these can be hot spots before the ice comes off and perch are staging to spawn.