by Bob Jensen
In the minds of many of the most successful ice-anglers, the best fishing of the season is quickly approaching. The last few weeks of ice-fishing are here, and the fishing action is picking up. Several species of fish are particularly active under the ice right now, but perch are what many folks are fishing. Here’s how you can get in on the action.
There are several reasons to go ice-fishing late in the season. For one, the weather is generally milder. There will still be some cold days, but odds are good the fishing will be comfortable.
The days are longer so you get to fish more. For perch, mid-day can be really good, but if the sun is still up, you might as well stay a little longer.
Best of all, the fishing is good, and the fish are fattening up. You can catch some real jumbos this time of year.
So, now that we know that ice-fishing for perch is a good idea this time of year, how do we go about it? That’s the fun part: Lots of different bait styles will work. What we need to do is find the one that works best.
You can employ a very simple hook/splitshot, bobber rig, and it will work well. Put a small minnow on the hook, and if there’s a perch down there, it will probably eat the minnow. However, most hard-core perch anglers prefer a faster approach. This is when a Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon, a Forage Minnow Spoon, or a Puppet Minnow tipped with a Gulp! Alive Minnow Head or Maggots will really shine.
This is a time of year when you really want to be mobile. If you can find the perch, most of the time they’ll bite. The more area you cover, the more fish you’ll be showing your bait to. Don’t spend more than a couple of minutes at a hole if you’re not seeing fish. Load up a portable shelter, a Frabill Commando is about the best, put in an auger, depthfinder, some baits, and just take off walking. Move into an area that should hold perch, drill some holes, come back and fish them. If you see or catch some fish, hang around. If you don’t, keep moving. I like the Commando because it has room for the needed gear, it pulls easily, and it’s comfortable to fish from.
A few years ago we were on Lake Winnibigoshish in north central Minnesota. We were catching the perch really good in about twenty feet of water. We were using eighth ounce spoons, and the perch were hitting them as soon as they got to the bottom. We discovered that if we went to a larger spoon, the spoon would get to the bottom quicker, so we’d get bit faster than if we were using a slower falling spoon. When the bite is fast, you’ll catch more fish if your bait is in the fish zone more. Larger spoons that fall quickly will often catch more fish and bigger fish when the bite is hot.
There’s still lots of ice-fishing to do across ice-fishing country. Watch the ice, make sure it’s safe, then get out there. Some of the best ice-fishing of the year takes place at the end of the season.