Hit and Run Perch
By: Jason Mitchell
Schools of perch often seem to continually be on the move. When there are several mouths to feed, sitting in one location doesn’t work. A school of perch can devour everything in its path. I would hate to be a minnow or crawfish when jumbo and all of his friends roll through. Because schools of perch are typically here today and gone tomorrow because of their nomadic lifestyle, finding and getting on top of fish can be always fleeting.
How do you land on a moving target? Sitting in a good location where fish are likely to roll through isn’t a bad strategy. If the fish are moving through and you have good traffic underneath you… why move? The other strategy is a run and gun mentality where you approach the ice much more aggressively and move when you are not on fish and move when you stop catching fish. If you are experiencing some success, cycle back through the holes until you wear out your welcome.
Finding and landing on fish is half the battle but the other factor that can enhance your success on the ice is how you capitalize on the opportunities. Perch fishing is often intense where a ten percent window can often produce ninety percent of your catch. You can go from zero to hero in a hurry. This all depends however on how quickly you can get back down into the water and how long you can keep these drifters down below.
The “turn around” is probably one of the most important factors that dictates how many fish you catch. How fast can you get the fish up into your hand and unhooked and how fast you can get back in the water. There are a few ways to increase the turn around.
Choosing lures that fall fast is one angle. Fast dropping lures include the classic Buckshot Rattle Spoon and the Northland Tackle Puppet Minnow. On a really torrid bite, using lures that can be unhooked more quickly (one hook versus treble hook) can speed up the turn around. You can also bend out the hook slightly and pinch off the barb so that the fish can pop off the hook easy. Lures like the Forage Minnow or the classic Russian Spoons. The final way to increase turnaround is to speed up the elevator ride. Stiffer rods allow you to reel in fish faster, heavier line also allows you to lift the fish out of the water and can make you more effeicient. So in a perfect world on top of a crazed school of perch, you want to throw a fast dropping lure with one hook on the heaviest line you can get away paired up on a heavier rod so that you can just windmill fish.
Of course we don’t live in a perfect world all the time so often, we can’t get away with maximizing the turn around on every front. Usually, we can only incorporate pieces of the basic formula above. What can often happen however is that while the overall conditions or tone of the day might require more finesse like using three pound test and a Meat Stick, when the fish finally do get wound up, you can do a lot of damage having that extra rod nearby that is rigged up for total destruction. So often, we might get the school started on the more subtle and finesse and do the real damage once we get into a rhythm where we get the school to rise up higher and start competing.
Besides being conscience of and manipulating the “turn around,” the other variable is how you can manipulate the school. Keeping fish around and staying on fish is much easier to do with a few other anglers. When you get a good school below you, get your friends in as tight to you as possible. Often, in shallow water especially…. I am not a big fan of drilling holes right next to somebody catching fish. If there are no holes close to you and you have fish stacked below, tag team the fish. When you reel up a fish, have your buddy drop down. That way there is a line in the water as you are unhooking the fish. When the bite gets intense, you can literally double the damage.
Besides keeping a line in the water, some other ways to increase your success is to pick fish off the top of the school, lift the fish higher in the water column by either fishing above the fish or using a fish on your line to pull fish up higher.
All of these variables can enable you to maximize your opportunities. In the end, you have to take what the fish will give you but the more things you can get going in your favor, the more perch you can catch. Only on the best days do all of the factors above work. Usually, you can increase your success exponentially with each facet you can incorporate.