Lake Erie Yellow Perch: Now is the time to catch them
Posted October 10
George Noleff — If you want to catch Lake Erie yellow perch, now is the time to do it.
Yellow perch are favorite for table fare in the Great Lakes region, and there is no better fishery for them than Lake Erie. While they can be taken from the lake all year, October is the best month to target them.
Travis Hartman, Lake Erie Program Administrator for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife has an answer:
"Yellow perch, especially the females, start feeding heavily in the fall to store the energy they need to get through the winter and to make it to the spawn in the spring."
Because they're actively feeding, it means yellow perch are more likely to take a bait or lure now. And the good news is, their numbers also tend to concentrate at this time of year.
"They school up more tightly in the fall," said Hartman.
So, if you can find them, you can probably catch them.
"It's sometimes hit or miss, but more hit than miss in the fall," adds Tim McCann of Fisherman's Wharf in Port Clinton. Fisherman's Wharf runs daily charters for yellow perch in the fall.
"We are seeing good numbers come out of the western basin this fall," McCann said, "and the size is better, too."
Hartman says a reason for that is the western basin of Lake Erie has experienced some good spawning hatches in recent years. That has translated to more and bigger fish.
"Good hatches mean good numbers now and for the near future," said Hartman.
Where should you fish? Hartman suggests the areas off of Catawba and Marblehead in Ohio. In Michigan, Captain George Cini of GT Charters suggest anywhere from Luna Pier north to the Detroit River.
"We have seen a tremendous number yellow perch in Michigan this fall," said Cini, "and the size has been great, too."
And, because the water is cooling, you may not need a boat, making yellow perch accessible to shore anglers.
"Later in the season some perch will move closer to shore. You can catch them from public fishing areas along the lakefront," Hartman said.
Emerald shiners are the bait of choice to catch yellow perch, though finding the tiny baitfish may be a problem. they are in short supply in the Great Lakes region. If you can't find them, don't worry. Cini says he's substituted other baitfish with great results.
"I'm catching perch on other minnows, the smaller the better," Cini says. "They aren't seeing shiners, so they aren't feeding on shiners. They eat what they see, and they are seeing a lot of other kinds of minnows."
In addition to minnows, yellow perch will also hit worms and nightcrawlers. The most effective way to fish live bait is on a perch spreader or a crappie rig.
"Spreaders or crappie rigs let you put your bait where the fish are," explains John Jokinen of Jann's Netcraft in Maumee, "and that is on or near the bottom."
Spreaders and crappie rigs can be purchased weighted, or you can add your own sinkers. The amount of weight will depend on the depth of the water. Perch will be right on the bottom.
"tt's been gangbusters this week," Jokinen says. "You let your rig settle to the bottom, reel up until it's just off the bottom, and wait for the hit."
Waiting could be key. Jokinen and Hartman agree, sometimes it takes a while for your bait to trigger the fish.
"Once they get started it can be a frenzy," said the ODNR's Hartman.
If the perch bite is on, the fishing can be fast, but remember there are daily number limits in Ohio and Michigan. Ohio's daily harvest limit per angler is 30, in Michigan it's 50.