Catching perch from kayaks

No, this is not really about fishing for perch from kayaks, although it can be if you wish. This is more inclusive. Now while big numbers of very big yellow perch are in Presque Isle Bay, they can be caught by anglers in smaller boats. An angler could easily take a 14-foot boat with a small motor and fish anywhere perch may be hitting in the bay. I have watched it successfully done by anglers in rowboats and kayaks this spring.

Large numbers of perch move into Presque Isle Bay months before the ice leaves the bay, and will remain there until the water is warmer. This is one of the best fishing opportunities in the region, if you enjoy catching jumbo perch and dining on Lake Erie perch fillets. Lake Erie perch fillets are considerably better than inland perch fillets, in my opinion and that of most other perch fans.

Recently Herb Wagner and I went to Presque Isle Bay with the intent of fishing for crappie. That is another excellent subject for another time. We motored to the Stink Hole, a popular fishing hot spot at the bay, then started wind drifting. But before locating crappie, in fact seconds into the first drift after my fishing partner saw marks on his sonar and tossed a marker buoy, we started catching extremely nice perch.

Take what the water gives. We could see anglers fishing for crappie closer to shore. They were not doing well. That did not enter into our decision to stay with the perch, though. If you are after panfish and some good eating, it would not be wise to leave a place where you are catching perch in the 10-inch to 13-inch class.

It was mid-afternoon when we started fishing. The action slowed soon after 5:00 p.m. We moved closer to shore then to try for crappie, but the slow fishing the crappie fishermen had earlier was slower still. We decided to end the day of fishing on a high note.

One factor that entered into the decision to leave a little early was that we had launched from the Presque Isle State Park side of the bay, where you must leave by sunset. That is the time crappie fishing typically is best at this time of the year.

Later that evening I filleted my catch of perch, and put the fillets into a mixture of cold water, salt and baking soda. This I have found improves the taste of just about any fish. Five days later with the fillets on the top shelf of the refrigerator, I kept enough fresh fillets for a couple of meals and froze the remainder.

What fantastic eating. I fried them with a Cajun coating, one day along with a big salad, another day with a side of fried rice.

Catching perch at Presque Isle Bay is not difficult. The first step is to ask where to go at a local bait shop. It may be best to get your minnows in the bay area since it gets complicated to transport minnows. Minnows, preferably emerald shiners, will be the more effective bait.

Getting to the right area might not be enough. You probably will have to zero in on the location of perch. First, try to spot perch signals on your fish finder. Determining whether the signals are perch is not an exact science. The bay is loaded with various kinds of fish now, including a few kinds of bait fish, some of which have long outgrown their usefulness to perch. In fact, some of the gizzard shad may be bigger than the biggest yellow perch.

I want to see medium-size marks off bottom. When all of the fish marks are tight to bottom it usually means the fish are not active. Nothing can be done about that. Just because this is maybe equal to the best yellow perch fishery available to anglers in small boats to be found anywhere does not mean perch are always hitting.

Any angler who does not realize this is doomed to numerous depressing days, and will result in whopping lies.

My favorite method of locating perch, and most other sport fish, is by wind drifting. This is very effective any time there is wind and it is not too stiff.

There will be times when wind drifting is the end fishing method, typically when it is just a mild but steady breeze so the boat moves slowly enough to stay over perch for a reasonable length of time. Perch schools can be extensive.

Which terminal rig is best also will depend on wind velocity. If the wind is sufficiently mild, a single hook and minnow with a medium to large split shot about 18 inches up the line is all that is necessary. More weight is required when the wind has more velocity.

If you decide to drop an anchor over the perch, also very effective, many anglers use two-hook rigs. These can be found at just about all of the Erie area bait and tackle shops. Usually they are labeled as ‘crappie rigs’.

Catching two perch at a time is not unusual when the fishing is fast.

Normally perch would begin moving out of the bay any time now, but great perch fishing in the bay may last longer this year due to cold water. This is something that should not be missed.