Putting perch on the ice

Growing up in Kenora and on Lake of the Woods, it was ingrained in me at a young age that you don’t keep perch.
I think many of you reading this could say the same thing—that you would not get caught dead with a perch in your livewell or bucket.
In my experiences, there are several reasons for this. First off, we have great walleye fishing (they are bigger than perch and generally are thought of with more regard).
Secondly, sometimes perch—particularly in the warmer summer months—have worms in their flesh. I have been told many times by biologists and fishing people, however, that these small white worms are harmless and are eliminated when the fish are cooked.
Regardless of the reason, perch were not a popular fish for sport anglers. But times are a’changing.
Across much of the ice belt, perch are the most popular species anglers target during the winter months. Here in Sunset Country, outside of a few super-deep trout lakes, nearly all of our lakes have healthy perch populations.
Obviously, they get bigger on some waters than others and some offer better fishing.
Anglers target perch because they usually are easy to catch, so there is a lot of action, and they are very good to eat (much like walleye, only with smaller fillets that cook fast and crispy).
I have cooked hundreds of shore lunches in my life, and I can tell you that the first piece of fish that everybody grabs is always that small, little crispy one.
When it comes to catching perch, one of the things that makes them so fun is that they usually are schooled up. So if you find one, you usually find a few and their activity level is generally good.
On Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake, perch can be found in many of the same locations as walleyes. Sometimes they are slightly shallower than walleyes; other times they are just mixed together.
Main lake humps and flats are my favourite places to drill holes. On Lake of the Woods, the north end of the lake, just out from Kenora, is prime perch country.
Countless smaller inland lakes have good perch populations, as well. On these smaller lakes, large weed beds can be hotspots.
When it comes to tackle, simply downsizing your walleye baits usually is all you need to do. Smaller spoons or jigs tipped with minnows work great.
Once you find fish and start catching them, then upsizing your bait slightly can help to select for bigger perch.
When you’re out on the ice this winter, pack along a rod with some lighter line and a handful of smaller lures and be ready to catch some perch if you happen to run into them.
Twelve-inch perch are considered trophies anywhere they swim and they are common across our region. A perch of this size will give you a good-sized fillet, as well.
Perch have nearly the same bone structure as walleye and can be cleaned exactly the same way.
If you catch some this winter, keep a few and eat them up—I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Perch are no longer for the birds!