Boy can Cook's Bay be a busy & confusing place once 2 feet of ice cover it from shore to shore and 3,000 bodies scatter across its surface. It seems that people are fishing everywhere - but where are the perch today?
Certainly the lake has changed with the Zebra Mussel invasion as weed lines that stopped in 18-20 feet know extend into the 30 foot range and better as sunlight penetration fuels aquatic weed growth. One thing that remains constant is that weeds are the foundation of an underwater food chain that leads to perch. The key element is the "SCUD" which is actually an Amphipod and is related to Crustaceans but often mistakenly called "Freshwater Shrimp". They range in size from 3/16 to 3/4 inch in length and colour varies from pale brown to green to brownish black. Scuds scavenge on decaying organic materials and swim by "flicking" their bodies.
From all the perch I clean, its never ceases to amaze me how the perch gorge themselves on these Scuds as most perch have several tablespoons of Scuds inside them. Now that the biology lesson is over, lets look at how to capitalize on this information for more & bigger perch.
Finding weeds in Cooks Bay in not that hard at all, finding weedlines requires some work. Weedlines form because of either a change in depth or bottom composition, so a proper Hydrographic Chart is needed to pinpoint these areas. Within the below section of map, most of my fishing is confined to an area south of Lefroy to Keswick from about 18 feet to 35 feet of water. Locals call this area "The Fingers" and they are thick weedlines that drop into deep water directly out from Gilford. If you are walking out-count on 20 minutes at a normal pace from the Orange Roof known as Kontiki Marina.
Now, I've collected several dozen key spots on my GPS over the years that rarely let me down and more rarely have anyone near them. The above mentioned information I’ve provided already has narrowed Cooks Bay down considerably; the rest is your hard work to pinpoint your own honey holes. Most of my best weedlines have other elements that make them productive year after year, the best ones being strips of sand. I would recommend the tried and true method of drill, if no fish in 10 minutes; move on 100 yards method to finding the schools of perch. You will eventually find your own sweet spot.
Sonar's, flashers & underwater camera systems are important tools you may want to invest in should this become your new obsession that will speed up the process of finding productive weedlines and schools of Perch. If I could only have 1 of the 3, I choose the flasher for the instantaneous information output and ease of use. It's amazing how many BIG perch are 3-5 feet off bottom that the flasher can alert you of to raise or lower your lure to. For more info on how to use flashers more effectively, click here.
As far as lure selection, match the hatch is best. One of my new favourites is the 1 inch Berkley Micro Power Nymph in Pearl Olive Shad colour. I modify the lure by removing the 2 feelers from the head of the bait and place it on the Wolfram Tungsten Jig available at Fish On Line. I’ll have some fun with you and say that there is one specific colour that crushed over 500 perch over one weekend. This combination is fast to get back to bottom and hooks perch very well with 2lb fluorocarbon line.
I lightly lift the lure off bottom followed by some slight twitches of the tip to simulate the swimming motion of the scud. For light bite days, a spring bobber is a necessity for even the most sensitive of ice rods.
I hope I've encouraged some of you to get away from the crowd this winter to find fish away from the crowd, even if tha's just 200 yards away because the lack of noise & pressure makes for some better fishing. Be safe on the ice and see you out there.