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Updated 2012!

By John A. Vance, Environmental Eng.Tech.,
& Outdoor Writer (member Outdoor Writers of Canada)
All of the information and pictures/photos here is/are original, and is copyrighted by John A. Vance, and may not be reproduced by any means without his express written permission. For 'clubs' that wish to copy this and similar articles in their newsletters ( for free), my name and web site must be mentioned, but still must have written permission!

2012 update – I now have audio cd's available for both open water and ice fishing. Be far more efficient with your time – learn while driving to work!

I also put on summer workshops(courses) for those wishing to have a northern holiday and learn while on holidays. Contact me for more info on either the audio cds and titles/topics or workshops available for your holidays!

Perch, like other panfish such as 'gill & crappie can be a real blast to ice fish for! - Perch are some of the mildest flavored fish that nature has to offer - especially when it's from ice cold water. The flesh is white and flaky, and perch taken from ice cold water doesn't have the muddy flavor it  can have in the summer months- what a bonus!  Perch are a  smaller cousin of the much larger walleye, and are similarly a schooling fish. If you get into an active school of feeding perch - they can provide  frantic and almost non-stop action for yourself and others that are with you!

As you can see in this pic - a mighty nice 'jumbo' perch!

As with any fish species - in any frozen water - a trip to the local bait/tackle shop is a great source of info before hitting the ice. Ice fishers will sometimes share their catch info and ANY recent info  you can find out at the bait/tackle shop will be in-valuable and save you much time and effort - as long as it's reliable and credible!
Generally though, perch will be in water anywhere from ninety feet deep( usually larger lakes such as the Great Lakes) to three feet deep, with my favored depth being roughly  twenty five to thirty-five feet. Smaller in-land lakes will most often see them in considerably shallower water than where we find them in the big lakes, and look for them from 18 to 25 feet deep in these smaller lakes. Perch do, but rarely suspend as do walleye and crappie, and most often the 'age old'  method of 'go to the bottom, and up a foot' rule of thumb of ice fishing applies here, for sure! Perch, like most fish like to be around structure( if any exists), but in larger lakes the structure may well be the water column itself. In smaller water perch are more solitary and may not school appreciably, as they do in mid sized and large water bodies.

In water that host beaver houses - fish out off the beaver house ( being very careful of thin ice) in any water deeper than ten feet deep and you should locate actively feeding perch.
This article is a great overview and with info here you should easily be able to catch perch. If you enjoy  perch fishing - you will want more info to enable yourself to be even more consistent at catching perch.  My "ICE FISHING BASICS" book will supply you with pertinent info so you can find perch in almost any water, anywhere. I urge you to purchase it - it'll save you time and money and will easily pay for itself on the first couple of ice fishing trips you make! It'll save you a LOT of grief - by 'doing it right' the first time instead of 'the trial and error' method that'll leave you cold and fishless much of the time.

There are thousands of ice jigs suitable for ice fishing perch - and most will catch fish. My own personal preference are several that I've taken years to develop using  my experience and knowledge and education - the science is behind me - these are not just 'a few more' ice jigs! I'm speaking of my EXCLUSIVE 'glow on black' Ice Tick Jigs, Sunfish Jigs and Teeter Totter Jigs. But make no mistake, the standard and common/popular Tear Drop ice jigs, Genz Worms, Russian Hooks ...just to name a few - all work well too! After my 'glow black' coloration I prefer using chartreuse, hot pink, florescent red and orange, and even florescent yellow for perch.  If the water is stained or stained badly ( as some smaller lakes/ponds sometimes are), I use the chartreuse most of the time after my glow black concept. The Glow On Black concept can be seen further than most other colors - and draws in fish from a good distance.    information on ordering Ice Tick Jigs, Teeter Totters and Sunfish Jigs!

Whatever jig ( info on using jigs) you use for perch, it should be sufficiently heavy to quickly get your bait back down to the depth you are catching fish at! This is mighty important - you must keep the fish's interest up or they'll leave. Having said that, I like jigs of about a size eight to ten ( hook size) for perch, using the smaller jigs if they are neutral or negative. I will use add-on weight if the jig isn't dropping back into the 'kill zone' quickly enough, and like my slider weights for this. If you need relatively heavy weights, then use a heavier jig ( not a bigger hook, though) or use a small egg sinker - which are inexpensive sinkers available at most tackle shops. If you are 'into' a lot of big perch - don't be afraid to go to a size six hook - for ease of removing the hook more easily with your cold fingers!
For bait - a live minnow is SOMETIMES hard to beat - especially for perch - but wax worms, maggots and mousy's are also excellent - without all the mess of the water and big bucket associated with minnows! Berkley GULP! baits can also prove to be excellent - and I use them often. You'll have to check with your DNR/MNR to see if live bait can be used in your area. If using small maggots I'll use several of them bunched up on the hook. I only use a perch eye which can be a good and tough bait -
when the HOT bite is on so I don't have to waste time re-baiting due to a fragile bait coming off almost every fish. Perch eyes as an attractor/bait by themselves are only mediocre - and I'll most often use one of these other baits and switch to a perch eye when the fish move in and the HOT bite is on!

IMPORTANT THINGS - just do it!
Finding perch can be grueling work - I'll  easily often drill up to fifty
or more holes to find 'em as perch move around a lot in search of food - you will have to move around as well. Of course the smaller the water you're fishing - the easier they are to find, but most often the best quality and size perch seem to consistently come from mid sized and large water bodies. Smaller water bodies can see perch more territorial than schooling. This means to take 'numbers' of fish, you'll have to cover more water/shoreline area.
Keep that bait in the water - a foot above the bottom - and jig very( bordering on extremely) lightly - perch don't want too much jigging action most of the time. I like to gently jig, then allow my bait to sit motionless for  while before starting to jig again. Again - KEEP THAT BAIT in the water - once a school of perch is working your bait/area YOU MUST hold their interest or they'll move on - and fishing'll go dead!
The basic info here will enable you to catch decent  numbers of perch - if you are really 'into' ice fishing and want more information to be the best you can be at it - I'd urge you to consider buying my book 
Ice Fishing Basics where you'll find much more information and explanations of why we do what we do.
For a LOT more info on Ice Fishing techniques, see blue side bar for ice fishing JIGs - much "How To" info is found there! For my 'specialty' perch jigs - see product section - these are what I use as a 'pro' 
For now -
BEST OF LUCK! Do contact me for more info - I'm here to help - it's what I do, now that I'm semi retired!

Author: John A Vance
Copyright © 1998 John A Vance. . . 

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