One of the most frequently caught fish in Michigan – and certainly among the top choices as table fare – yellow perch are widespread denizens of both the Great Lakes and inland waters. Perch travel in schools, sometimes very large numbers, and can often be caught all day long without ever moving the boat.
During the summer months, perch are typically associated with deep water, sometimes as deep as 100 feet in the Great Lakes, and are usually caught on the bottom. They are typically associated with rocky or rubble bottoms in deep water, but may be found in and around weed beds in shallower lakes. A typical perch rig for fishing deep water consists of a sinker on the end of the line with a pair of hooks (No. 6 or 8) tied on leaders about a foot apart just above the sinker. All manner of live bait – minnows, wigglers, earthworms, leeches, wax worms or small crayfish – will produce. Perch typically bite all day long, though not at night, and are delicate biters, so watching the rod tip is in order. Typically not targeted by anglers with artificial lures, they are often taken incidentally on small spinners, jigs or plugs intended for other targets.
Perch spawn in the spring, moving into shallower water – sometimes only a few feet deep – and can be caught from piers, breakwalls and in cuts and canals and rivers off of the Great Lakes. Perch are popular with ice fishermen and can be caught at a wide range of depths, often quite shallow toward the end of ice-fishing season. Small tear drops tipped with insect larva (spikes, mousies or wax worms) or plain hooks with minnows are preferred ice-fishing baits.
Although perch tend to run small, with 7 or 8-inch fish considered keepers in many waters, they are capable of reaching twice that length. Good fishing for perch can be found out of numerous Lake Michigan ports, the Les Cheneaux Islands area of northern Lake Huron, Saginaw Bay, Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie. Inland lakes with notable perch fisheries include Gogebic, Independence, Burt, Hubbard, Crystal, Higgins and Elk.
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