I’m sure it has happened a million times or so, that going ice fishing has been a bit like buying a lottery ticket, drill a hole take your chances, or worse follow the crowd.
Some may argue for which species of fish taste best, I seem to be caught up between my two favourite’s walleye and freshwater yellow perch.
What’s your favourite, leave me a comment…
Closely resembling their European cousins yellow perch (freshwater gamefish) are greenish in colour with dark lines running down the sides and have a yellowish hue, average size 15-20 inches (38-51 cm.), weigh 1-2 lb. (.5-1 kg.) on average. At least for the most part, if they seem to be paler in your waters or darker, fish in different waters or even depths can have slight colour differences.
They spawn in the spring like most fish and get a lot of attention all winter long, ice fishing for these bad boys is more than a pastime it helps move the economic wheel, at least around here it does. (Ontario, Canada)
These little fish can eat and eat they do at times they will chase down lures twice their size, at least in open water. Under the ice is no different at times they can be caught on just about anything that sits in front of them, then again there are times where they will look and go the other way.
They will feed on freshwater shrimp, nymphs, plankton, blood worms and of course minnows. Minnows are attracted to the weeds as well as rock and gravel bottoms along with the freshwater shrimp. Mud flats will attract insect life, another treat for the perch to feed on.
There are three times during the winter that seems to have a factor in where to start looking for these tasty little morsels.
- First ice conditions seem to be a hot time of the year for catching yellow perch through the ice. They can be found occupying shallower water at this time of the season, now the exact depth may be a bit hard to figure here as it really depends on the lake you fish and the lakes topography. Shallow flats that are between 5-15 feet deep are not out of the question.
- The mid-winter humps is usually a hit and miss in my experience, deep water is the key here anything around 25-40 feet maybe even deeper, they do not typically hang around big drop offs but are found more on big flats with some type of structure change and winter vegetation, small changes in the depth can attract perch. Soft to hard bottom transition areas are a hot area and must not be overlooked.
- Late winter is another hot time of the year for this freshwater gamefish, finding them in deep or shallower water that is the key. This is a time of the year they could be making their way to shallower water or at least staging for the spring spawn. My best thoughts on this time of the year are to drill a lot of holes, drop the transducer and search for them.
If the lake is unknown to you, look for the crowd, if they are catching get as close as you can to get in on the action.
Technology is playing a bigger part in fishing all the time and as time goes on they come out with some great ideas, like the underwater camera/TV. You have a camera with a cable on it and a TV monitor on the other end, add this to your sonar unit, see how they react to your presentation, are they there.
At the End of the Day
The biggest problem you face is knowing where these areas you should start looking are. The best way to figure where to start fishing when winter swallows up fall is to do your homework with your sonar, maps and any other equipment you may have before the freeze up.
Yellow perch use their keen sense of smell in their choice of food so live natural baits are a good choice here. Tip your lure with one of their favourtites, make sure you have a variety on hand in case one is not working tempt them with another. There are many great imitation plastics on the market today, Berkley maggots are one of my favourites.
They travel in schools pending the lake; they could be as big as a thousand + to just a few (10-20). If I know I am in a area that holds perch I will drill more holes and sit and wait for them to swim over my offering. If I am not sure on the spot I will drill enough holes to find them with my sonar.
Catching yellow perch ice fishing makes a great day out on the hard water and a great meal afterwards.
Let’s go fishing…ice fishing….
When the sun shines and the temperature raises above usual get out on the ice as this high pressure time can be very hot. Remember vary your lures and tip them with their favourite live bait, they use their sense of smell when feeding…