When Perch Break the Rules

First ice perch fishing … there is nothing quite like it!  And, so far the winter of 2006 has been just spectacular on Lake Simcoe - especially for numbers of perch.  Despite the warm weather that began just before Christmas and is still with us today, we were very fortunate to have some unseasonably cold conditions throughout early December.

Those couple of weeks of sub-zero temps; particularly at night when there was little or no wind, were just what we needed in order to still be able to walk on water now.

Perch

Perch 14 inch

Frigid temperatures saw some brave souls venture out by the 2nd week in December with four inches in some spots. I was late this season, not getting out until Dec. 23'rd (as per last column for Fish On Line) but ever since then we have experienced very few really cold days and more than our share of rain and warm temperatures.  Fortunately for perch anglers … the ice has held up and places like Cooks Bay, the Virginia basin and areas out from Pefferlaw and Port Bolster are still in full winter perch mode. 

Perch

Fish came from as shallow as 11 feet when Wil finished fishing.  The week before … he finished in 43 and the fish were still there. What a difference a week makes!

First Ice Action … Hot, Hot, Hot!

Lake Simcoe ice anglers and many Fish On Line regulars have for the most part experienced very good action so far. This is especially true for those who have been willing to work for their fish in order to find them and then to use some basic ice fishing principles in order to "stay on fish" afterwards.  One of these principles applies to first ice perch which normally dictates that you start shallow and work deeper from there. This has worked very well for many avid perch anglers so far … including myself. On New Years Day I moved away from the crowds in Cooks Bay that I had fished in late 2005 and claimed a virgin area where I seemingly had the whole lake to myself.  It took me 30 minutes or so to find em, but by 8am I was on a mess of decent sized perch in 25 feet of water. When my buddy Gerry Heels got out there to meet me at 8:30am, he was happy to get into action right away and we enjoyed consistent success until 12 noon when we decided to call it a day.

To stay on fish, we employed the basic rule that dictates … As the day goes on you generally move a little deeper. We did so though immediately after the action slowed down in our holes, not giving the perch a half a chance to stop biting or worse - move away from the area entirely. A simple hop scotch of 10 yards at a time was all that was required… and the Normark Fin Bore 3 only had to drill about 20 holes that day.  By noon the depth was 43 feet and the perch were there just like they were at every other depth. 

The next day when I returned with my two sons and their cousin Bon - visiting from Texas, my Eagle I Finder GPS brought us to the exact holes from the day before.  And the action was just as good with the same scenario occurring as the day before when we started in 25 feet and finishes in 43 feet.

Seeing my two teen-aged sons and their warm-weather cousin from Texas catch all those fish through the ice was a real thrill. Bon, who had only ice fished a couple of times before (with limited success) when visiting us in prior years, learned how to detect the subtle strikes, when to set the hook, how to reel em in and …take the hook out. He had a real ball catching … and eating all those delicious perch afterwards.

When Condition Change …

A week later and I'm back out there.  I Cross Sled out to the general area in no time and figure I don't even have to turn the GPS on because the same holes are right there as the week before.  I begin fishing and catch a few … but something is wrong - these are much smaller fish than last week. After half an hour in that general area I'm tired of catching 7-9 inchers and begin to doubt the sustainability of the great area we had going last week. I turn the i Finder on and am surprised to learn that I'm2 miles away from Waypoint 169 … the magic spot of a week prior! Oh my God … am I ever off the spot. "Darn - You goof! You should have known better", I mutter to myself.  Quickly I cross-sled over to where the GPS takes me within a foot of where we were last week.  25 feet deep is where I start.  The fish are here and lots of them but they seem to be much smaller than the week before.   I move out a bit - again the fish are there but I am not interested in those 7-9 inch dinks. I punch more holes all over the immediate area - covering the spectrum of habitat within the 25-45 foot range we had 'em going in last week.  By 10 am the ice begins to look like Swiss Cheese and all I have to show for it are a couple of 10 inchers in the pail.  "What to do … oh, my oh my, what do? Where have all those bigger perch gone?"

I contemplate my options … and seriously consider abandoning the area all together and Cross-Sledding the 1 ½ miles to were I'm pretty sure some big perch are as well.  But before I do … could it be that today the perch are breaking the rules?  Maybe, the bigger ones aren't deep at all. Even though it's already pushing 10:30am now and the rules dictate that the prime bite is over, I move back in to where I had my first hole in 25 feet.  I now walk ten yards towards shore and punch a new hole.  The Lowrance Ice machine tells me it's 20 feet here and it's marking fish.  Whack … the small fire tiger Jigging Rap gets hammered and I battle a nice 12 incher through the hole. I lower it quickly again and pick up her twin.  Then the action stops but I'm still marking fish.  I switch rods - this one with an HT Alien Jig tipped with a Berkley Micro Power Craw. The line slowly tightens and the rod begins to bend towards the hole. Up with the rod for the hook set and then that all-too-familiar thump, thump, of a big perch - with big shoulders…Man how I love that.   I slide her up and out of the small ice hole and quickly measure her.  A tad over 14 inches … definitely one that deserves to go back.

Perch

Perch On ice with Mormyshka Jig and Berkley Gulp! Maggot

For the next couple of hours I continue to break the rules and find myself moving closer and closer to shore in 10 yard increments. One very hot area was a weedline were the dark colored perch were obviously hanging out - feeding big time. Mouths full of those familiar scuds or grass shrimps as some call them, were a sure sign perch were still eating.  By the time I call it quits around 12:30 though, the perch were barely moving the bait after mouthing it. For this reason, by 11:30 am, I had already switched to a small chartreuse mormyshka jig tipped with either Berkley Gulp! Maggots or the real thing.  This tiny morsel proved too irresistible for the many 10-13 inchers I managed to catch during what should have been the tough bite part of my outing.  By 12:30 I was in about 11 feet of water, had 23 beautiful 10-12 inch perch in my pail and had released twice that many of the same size … plus several 13 inchers.

Yes … first ice can be a rewarding time for sure … and this year is almost as good as it gets. After 20 years of serious winter perch fishing on Lake Simcoe though I know that all this great action won't last all winter - so it's definitely not something I take for granted. And although it appears there may be fewer 13-15 + inch PIGS than there was ten years ago in Simcoe … you still have a realistic chance at one of those trophies almost every time out. So if you haven't had a chance to get out and walk on water yet this year … make some time soon because this great action won't last all winter … in fact by the end of the month, things could already be slowing down considerably as we approach the mid winter bite through February. But remember … whenever you get out winter perch fishing have an open mind because sometimes it pays to break the rules … as long as the perch break them first!

Perch

Live released back down the hole…