All freshwater fishermen, experienced or beginner, know that fishing for yellow perch is one of the most fun and rewarding kinds of fishing. They may be smaller than bass, pike, or catfish, but they make up for it with how incredibly good they are to eat.
Yes, yellow perch is one of the best eating freshwater fish you can catch! They’re right up there with crappie and walleye (which they are in the same family as walleye).
Going out and being able to catch a freezer full of perch is not at all an uncommon sight. There are many people who fish for perch exclusively because it is fun, it can bring in some money, and puts food on the dinner table. Believe it or not, you can catch some really big perch too! That is if you know where to find them and how to catch them.
If you are someone that wants to learn the tricks of the trade when it comes to perch fishing, then you’ve found the right place. Here we will discuss what to use as perch bait, the best fishing spots for perch, different styles of fishing, fishing gear, and what times of year are most productive, and more!
Stay tuned and we’ll give you the fishing tips you need to get started!
Table of Contents
Yellow Perch Identification
First, let’s start off with the basics: how to identify yellow perch. For all beginner anglers and those unfamiliar with perch fishing, it is important to be able to identify the species you are targeting. This is true for all kinds of fishing. Knowing what they look like, what they eat, and what habitat they live in is all things that will make you a better and more successful angler.
Perch are in the same family as walleye, and as such, they look very similar to walleye just much smaller. Perch can be found in various different depths, but especially during warmer months you’ll find that like their walleye cousins; they prefer cooler and deeper water.
Yellow perch are identified by their dark vertical stripes that go down their body from their dorsal ridge down. These stripes can vary from very pale to almost black which have given them nicknames such as “ringed perch” or “raccoon perch”.
Their dorsal fins are virtually identical to that of a walleye’s dorsal fins. Their pectoral fins and anal fins are usually a bright shade of orange. Perch tend to have bodies that are varying shades of green/ greenish-yellow, and they have a white underbelly.
Perch As Prey
It is important to keep in mind while yellow perch fishing, that they are a prey species themselves. Actually, perch is one of the best baitfish to use for many other larger predatory fish species.
Fish like pike, pickerel, bass, catfish, and more all love eating perch too. Whether it is their taste or the attraction of their bright perch yellow colors, there is a lot of other fish that like to prey on them. They are like a quintessential panfish. The most top tier of all other baitfish species.
That is why yellow perch caught in succession in your chosen fishing spot will inevitably attract other kinds of fish. It is not at all uncommon to have large smallmouth bass drawn to the feeding frenzy that may be occurring as you fish over a school of perch. So, you may even end up catching your biggest smallmouth ever while just out fishing for yellow perch to fill your freezer.
Perch Feeding Behavior
If you want to catch perch, then you need to learn what they eat, and where they are because it changes throughout the seasons. You may find one thing works great in a certain area in spring, but come summer there’s not a perch to be found there. Getting to know the fish and their habits will help you to find success.
Yellow perch are typically in schools, some may be large, others small but usually when you catch one there will be more. The most productive time to catch perch is during the spring, early summer, and fall. It will be more common to find them in shallow water because the water is cooler at those times. They are technically considered shallow-water fish because you will usually not find them any deeper than 30 feet.
The kind of water they inhabit is typically clear and cool water, lakes, ponds, rivers, or streams that have a gravel or sand bottom with rooted vegetation and any sort of structure. This is why you will have luck dock fishing, fishing drop-offs or cliffs, weed edges, sunken trees, and more. The structure is important for virtually all fish species.
Now, that we know more about where yellow perch like to be, let’s go over the different kinds of bait, live and artificial, that they will strike most often:
Live bait can be the best bait because using what a fish naturally eats is a great way to lure in a school for a feeding frenzy and to trick the big ones into biting the hook.
Some live bait you could catch or find on your own, but if you do find that you need it usually your local bait shop will have exactly what you are looking for. Some of these baits may include small minnows: like fathead minnows, insects, and insect larvae, nightcrawlers, live crayfish or crayfish meat, and more.
Experienced perch anglers will know that some of these baits will work better than others depending on the season and what depth all the perch are located at.
All of these baits are great for not just most perch, but other fish as well. A plain hook and worm will catch just about anything after all. Do not be surprised if you catch bass or panfish while targeting perch.
Also, yellow perch have relatively small mouths so the baits you are using aren’t going to be huge, so be sure to have the appropriate tackle!
For more perch fishing tips, check out the following video:
The good thing about yellow perch bait is that there is no end to the variety. You can use artificial baits and live baits. No matter what, if you are in the right place then you will attract perch and catch fish. Any avid angler will have what they think is their best yellow perch bait and it could be a lure that the fish just can’t seem to resist.
Such lures could be small jigs, small spoons, small tubes, soft plastic minnows, crayfish, or worms, and even small spinnerbaits. Sometimes a big enough perch will hit a full-sized spinnerbait even! Using a combination of soft shells and jig heads is a great strategy too. Soft-shell crayfish or soft plastic lures are effective and by combining them jig heads you can get them to sink deeper faster and give the lure a different action too.
Personally, I have a favorite that I’ve caught a plethora of perch and other fish on. It is a tiny, realistic crayfish jig. It comes in a package of 3-4 crayfish bodies and 2 very small weighted hooks. I get them at Walmart all the time and they are phenomenal. My family and I have used them the past few years and have caught nearly cooler fulls of perch, and even caught largemouth bass up to 4 and 5 pounds!
Artificial bait can be just as effective as any present live bait you may have in your arsenal. Check out the following video to learn more on using artificial bait for yellow perch fishing:
Best Perch Fishing Setup
If you want to catch perch, then aside from the right baits you want to have the right equipment to fish with. Don’t worry you really don’t need anything crazy for catching perch, especially if you’re just starting out. Like with panfish fishing and some trout fishing, you can go light with your yellow perch setup.
A light power rod that has a fast action rod tip is what you will find to be most effective. Having a sensitive rod for these fish is ideal so you’ll know when you’ve hooked them even in faster flowing water. Pairing your fishing pole with a 6-8 pound monofilament line is the way to go since mono has a near-translucent quality so the smarter larger perch won’t pick out your line in the water.
Using a tiny terminal tackle will cover all the basics when it comes to fishing for yellow perch. Like we previously stated, they will strike most things that regular panfish will strike too. So, filling your arsenal with small jigging spoons, soft plastics, or using wax worms with a small bobber will produce fish.
As you gain more experience and find what works best for you and the kind of water you fish then you can adjust your perch setup as needed. Starting out this is the best kind of setup to go with.
Best Fishing Tips for Catching Yellow Perch
Shallow lakes and other shallow waters are the most common places to catch yellow perch, but how does that change during the seasons? How do you catch big yellow perch? Well if you have just a few minutes, then we’ll tell you!
It’s important to utilize effective techniques because perch are constantly on the move. They’ll be in different areas and at different depths during early spring, late spring, and mid-summer. It all depends on water temperature and the characteristics of your body of water.
- Fish from shore and near structures on warm days in early spring. The perch will be in these places where the water will warm up the fastest at the time and where their prey will be located at that time too. Areas with submerged vegetation, trees, or rock structure is where all kinds of fish will school.
- During the fall and winter, months on those chillier days try fishing in open water or through the ice to reach deep water. Certain depths hold warmth during those times so it is a little warmer than the surface and will be where the fish will hang out during those more lethargic seasons.
- When yellow perch fishing, always fish from the bottom. No matter how shallow the water is, perch will be found near the bottom. This means when you cast, let your bait or lure sink until you feel it touch the bottom. Once that happens then begin to retrieve your bait slowly, or when using something like crayfish or jigs, lets it bounce along the bottom for more realistic action.
- You can use a fish finder to locate fish schools more quickly. They are very convenient especially if you’re someone that is a dedicated perch angler.
- If the bites have slowed in one spot, try casting in the area around you. Do so in a circle until you find the school. The schools will move around so it’s just a matter of finding them again.
- When yellow perch fishing you can leave your boat motor running for a little extra time when you get to your spot because the sound and vibration actually attracts smaller fish like yellow perch.
When you find a school and begin fishing for perch you’ll discover that quite the feeding frenzy behavior will occur. This is the kind of thing you want to happen because it is so much fun! The perch go crazy trying to gobble up your bait. As this goes on it may attract bigger fish. Smallmouth Bass are known to be attracted by this and before you know it, you may wind up catching bass along with perch!
It’ll increase your chances of catching some of those large perch as well. Yes, you may think that all yellow perch are rather small, but if you hook into a 12-13 inch yellow perch you’ll know it!
Honestly, if you’re trying to fill a cooler and put some perch dinner on the table then those are the ones you want. They’ll have the most meat on them after all. Typically you’ll want to catch perch that are 8 inches or more in length for them to really provide a good amount of meat.
Ice Fishing For Yellow Perch
We’ve talked about all the general ways to catch yellow perch during those warmer seasons with open water. Yet, the secret known by perch anglers and avid ice fishermen is that catching perch through the ice is the absolute best!
They taste their best during this time and they’re generally bigger when you do catch them. Something about the colder water just brings out their flavor and their vibrant perch yellow colors.
You can catch perch year-round, they are one of those fish that you can and most definitely want to do just that.
When ice fishing for perch you’ll be fishing for them in one of two different ways. Some fishermen will even do both. You can use tip-ups that allow you to set the depth and send your live bait down (usually a fathead minnow or something similar) where it will hopefully attract fish. Once a fish is hooked and it runs the line out the tip-up will have a flag that will fling up so you know there may be a fish on it.
Or you can try jig fishing through the ice. There are a lot of ice fishermen that do this, and if you know where the school is or you have a favorite spot that has always produced then this form of ice fishing can be highly productive.
The following videos illustrate how these two methods for ice fishing work:
Verdict: Get Out and Catch Yellow Perch Year Round!
Perch fishing is incredibly popular amongst anglers. More so than you would think, just like with people who love to fish for crappie. They are a diverse species of fish that can be found in a great many waterways. Anywhere from the great lakes, to rivers, ponds, and small streams.
Even though they are located in shallow waters, remember that they stay near the bottom especially in the summer so they can escape that mid-summer heat especially in the late afternoon.
You can catch perch many different ways and at all times of the year and if you figure out the best baits that work in your body of water, you’ll find there will be no shortage.
Yellow perch are highly sought after because of how delicious they are, and even if you’re someone who doesn’t usually eat fish, you should really give them a try! I never liked eating fish, but the first time my mom cooked up some yellow perch my dad and I caught ice fishing, I absolutely loved them and have been hooked ever since!
You don’t need any kind of crazy fishing equipment to get started, just a little bit of knowledge and luck will set you on your way! So, get out there and enjoy a day out perch fishing!
Frequently Asked Questions
What do you use for yellow perch fishing?
You’ll be running a lighter setup when perch fishing. You don’t need anything crazy or outrageously expensive to catch the plentiful species. Whether you’re fishing in the great lakes or your local pond you can still run the same kind of setup.
A light and fast action rod are perfect for this kind of fishing. Even using an ultralight set up, like what some people use for trout fishing, is actually great for panfish fishing and perch fishing. Spool it with either monofilament or fluorocarbon line 6-8 pound test, and you’re ready to go!
Keep your tackle small, you don’t have to bring out a giant tackle box that’s filled to the brim. You can try a combination of different small artificial baits and live baits to see which perch will strike the most, and depending on the depth they may be at depending on the season you’re out there fishing.
What’s the best bait for yellow perch?
You can catch perch on almost anything from live baits to artificial as long as you can find the school. Sometimes they can get tricky. Do your research and take note of what they seem to feed on at different times of the year, and then mimic or use those baits when the bite is tough.
Using anything from fish eggs, wax worms, nightcrawlers, fathead minnows, insect larvae, and crayfish meat can be some of the best baits because anything live will produce and attract fish.
However, utilizing jigs, spoons, tubes, soft plastics and other lures can be just as productive. Let them sink so that they reach the bottom, then reel them in. This is the best way to reach and incite perch to bite.
How do you target yellow perch?
Targeting perch is something that takes research, knowledge, and observation. Or simply the use of technology like a fish finder so you can locate schools of fish. If you know the body of water you plan to fish like it’s a local or favorite spot then it’ll be easier for you to find the perch because you’ll already have an idea of good spots and places you may have already caught them.
If you are fishing a new body of water then it is a good idea to ask at the local bait shop to find out some of the hot spots that yellow perch are usually caught. You can get a lot of information at these bait shops. Otherwise, you can look at maps and find areas of structure, or streams that feed into the lakes or ponds are a great place to start.
Just like with anything it takes a bit of practice and some time, but you’ll find success at one point or another!
Are yellow perch easy to catch?
Yes and no. They are like any fish, you could have a great day where you’re catching them left and right, then the next day you can be completely skunked. Even experienced perch anglers will have their good and bad days, they may have the spots, but sometimes the perch just aren’t biting that day.
In the grand scheme of things, once you get on them they are easy to catch. They are almost just like panfish in the way they bite and their numbers. You can find them almost anywhere and when you catch one there is always more.
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