Great opportunitay to catch perch at Presque Isle Bay

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

The river has been roaring. The ice has melted. So what is an angler to do?

How does a nice mess of yellow perch fillets sound? Better still, Lake Erie perch?

If you are not now salivating, you do not know enough about Lake Erie Perch. They taste better than most other perch, and they grow larger than most other perch. Perhaps some other perch are in the same class, maybe at the Finger Lakes or Lake Simco, Ontario.

I think I see a relationship between taste of the perch and the amount of weed growth in their habitat. Big lake + deep lake + few weeds = good tasting yellow perch.

With this break in winter, Presque Isle Bay is open water. This is a once in every few years opportunity to fish for perch in Presque Isle Bay during winter. This is a period when untold numbers of perch move from the lake into the bay, maybe in and out all winter long. Fishing can be excellent.

Of course perch fishing can also be slow. But you can expect to catch at least a few. If you put in your time, commonly you should catch as many as you can eat.

Perch probably are being caught in at least fair numbers wherever you see anglers gather. Fishing can be very good at the South Pier and the North Pier, the Intermodal Transportation Center, Dobbins Landing, Liberty Park, the Stink Hole, the Water Works and who knows where else.

Get out in a boat and you are even less limited. I have enjoyed some very good perch fishing while drifting past the condos, and while drifting off the yacht club.

Terminal rigging is nearly the same for most perch anglers in Presque Isle Bay. It normally consists of a ‘perch rig’, which is two or three hooks on a stiff leader, and a sinker at the bottom. Sometimes these are labeled as ‘crappie rigs’. Another popular variation is a ‘Sabiki Rig’. Try the latter. These have small, colorful pieces of what appears to be vinyl dressing the hooks.

The addition of color to bait minnows can be a real game changer. It is but rarely done here. One cheap way to add color is to cut pieces of jig bodies or plastic worms. Just thread these onto a hook ahead of the bait, maybe add a drop of glue at the hook eye. An effective search method for shore fishing uses color and flash. Tip a Swedish Pimple with a shiner. Cast the lure, then count it down to bottom. Retrieve either with a very slow, steady movement, or by lifting the rod tip to bring the lure forward and up, then letting it sink. The reason for counting the lure down is so that on subsequent casts it can be counted down less deep than bottom.

If you are casting from a pier, try vertical jigging that Swedish Pimple/shiner rig. The structure under your feet is as likely to attract perch as the structure on the opposite side of the slip. My best lure colors for perch have been red, orange, yellow and green.

Still fishing from a pier takes full advantage of the terminal rig by suspending baits at slightly different depths. This is the most common way to fish places like the Intermodal, the South Pier or North Pier, and Dobbins Lading. It is so common that mid-depths do not get much attention. The truth is, a lot of perch suspend well above bottom, and sometimes the suspended perch are larger than bottom perch.

It takes 1/4 ounce to 3/8 ounce of lead to anchor the perch rig on bottom. Vibrations caused by hits are easy to detect with the leader attached between the rod tip and the sinker. This is one of the biggest advantages of using this rig. It is the same rig used out on the perch charter boats.

Use the same rig fished under a slip bobber to get the bait in front of suspended perch. The only difference in the rig is that a smaller weight should be used at the bottom of the rig, Try one large split shot, maybe two medium-size split shot. And the slip bobber must be large enough to suspend the weight, usually about one size larger than you would use for fishing a jig under a bobber for panfish.

Now might also be an opportunity to catch burbot. I have never caught them this late, but they are still around the end of the point when the first perch boats get on the lake in spring.

The biggest obstacle to catching burbot is getting bait that is large enough. Some burbot anglers threat a bunch of shiners on a hook. Sometimes local bait shops carry larger golden shiners. Try to fish at the outer end of the South Pier.