I have always enjoyed catching big perch. It is an activity I have experienced on a number of different lakes in several states. Although most of my perch have been caught through the ice, I recently learned about a new open water opportunity for popping jumbos.
It all came together at a sport show in Minneapolis. I was visiting with celebrity angler, Brian Brosdahl, about the spring panfish bite taking place in his part of the country. Somehow, our conversation drifted from crappie and bluegill to jumbo perch.
As Brosdahl explained, it had been years since he had discovered the secret to locating big jumbo perch in their pre spawn mode. More recently, he had refined his approach into something that is quite simple and logical.
Perch like to spawn in and around vegetation. On many big, windswept bodies of water, the vegetation that is preferred is bulrushes. Bulrushes grow in areas that have a pretty firm bottom and are a favorite spawning location of many fish species including bass, crappie and sunfish.
According to Brosdahl, pre spawn perch stage in areas close to their spawning grounds. Sand flats in 10-12 feet of water that are adjacent to bulrushes are ideal, especially if they contain light weed cover and forage opportunities.
After all of this perch discussion, I became pretty interested in a spring fling with some football shaped jumbos. It didn’t take long before a tentative date was set.
It was cool and brisk when fishing partner, Charlie Simkins and I met Brosdahl at a designated landing in Northern Minnesota. As we added on extra layers and loaded gear into Brosdahl’s boat, we talked about the prospects of the day.
During the discussion, Brosdahl made it very clear that we would not be keeping many fish. He explained that the perch were very vulnerable at this time of the year and it would be easy to hurt a lake’s population by keeping limits of big jumbos.
As we motored through a channel to the main lake, Bro went on to tell us that this spring perch phenomena took place on all good jumbo perch lakes. The examples he gave were Cass, Winnie, Leech, Bemidji and Black Duck. In Central Minnesota, he suggested Osakis, Minnewaska and Mille Lacs.
Our fishing strategy was much like walleye angling. With the aid of a LakeMaster map chip, we located a ten foot shelf that was close to a bulrush spawning area. Next, we cruised the flat and looked for fish on our electronics. Brosdahl also watched for signs of remnant weeds and new growth cabbage.
Once a school of fish was pinpointed, we fished these perch pretty much like walleye. The combination we used was a Northland 1/8 ounce Thumper Jig tipped with a small minnow. The drop spinner on this jig offered a little extra flash that the perch couldn’t resist.
For the next couple of hours, we drifted across the flats taking perch of many different sizes. Although we did not break 13 inches, we had lots of fish over 12. Several of the fish spit up tiny crayfish.
When it was all said and done, I was a believer in the spring perch theory. The fish we caught were fat, scrappy and plentiful.
I could also see how easy it would be to decimate a population of big, spawning perch at this time of the year. When Brosdahl said they were very vulnerable in the spring, he wasn’t kidding.
Many anglers think of perch as a small, bait stealing pest. Under the correct circumstances, perch are anything but small and pesky. Getting into a school of jumbos is like stepping into fishing paradise.
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