What about perch?

When I was a kid, I was taught that you were to never get caught dead with a perch in your bucket or on your stringer. I learned this from my Dad and his fishing buddies.
Perch were for the seagulls and eagles in the open water, and for the foxes that would come around out on the ice in the winter.
It was different back then because people simply didn’t know any better. Catch-and-release still was a foreign concept to most anglers. If they caught a big fish of any species, they were bringing it home to show their friends and family–that’s the way it was.
Thankfully, times have changed and our fishing opportunities here in Northwestern Ontario are pretty good overall. In fact, probably better than they were 30 years ago.
The perception of perch has changed over the years, as well, because people have realized how tasty these plentiful panfish are.
As a fishing guide, perch have saved the day for me a few times over the years for providing steady action for my guests–or even shore lunch–on a tough walleye bite. Often found in similar locations as walleyes, getting into a batch of larger perch means fast action and fun fishing.
Usually you can use plastic instead of live bait and they typically are not very picky.
Over the past few years on Lake of the Woods, the quality of the perch we’re catching in the winter has improved significantly. We used to catch a bunch of really small perch, which were a hindrance to our fishing, but we’ve been catching a number of big perch in recent years.
A 12-inch perch is a trophy in most places and those size fish are common on Lake of the Woods right now. The bright orange fins and black stripes on a large perch are a nice sight to see.
Most often when I run into perch, it’s when I’m chasing walleyes and they just show up. The more that I fish and run into perch, however, I’m discovering some really good perch spots that I can go back to and catch fish on multiple trips.
Often, they’ll be slightly shallower than the walleyes.
They usually are aggressive and fairly easy to catch. I use the same Northland Buck-Shot Spoon tipped with a minnow head that I use for walleyes and since it’s a slightly larger bait, I think it selects for bigger perch, which is what I want.
If you are seeing perch chase your bait around and they are not biting, you could consider trying a smaller bait or a different colour but most often, those changes are not necessary.
Perch have the same bone structure as walleye so they are easy to clean, just a little smaller. The thin fillets cook quickly and are maybe a little bit firmer than a walleye fillet.
I batter them in flour, egg, and then something like corn flake crumbs or panko crumbs. Killer Crumbs are made regionally and they are great, as well.
The next time you run into some nice perch, bring them home and you’ll be glad you did. Besides, in the long run, keeping more perch in place of walleye probably will favour the walleyes in our lakes–and that’s a good thing!

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