October is the month that calls the duck hunters, grouse hunters, pheasant hunters and muskie diehards. For me, it is just about the perch. I love catching and eating perch, the fish I consider to be the best eating of all Midwestern fish table fare. The other great thing about perch fishing is that it doesn’t require a lot of fishing gear or high technical fishing skills. You find them, throw out your bait and fish for them.
The most important decision an angler has to make is to find a lake with big perch. Lots of lakes have good perch populations, but not all feature jumbo perch, those over 10 inches in length. Once those lakes are identified, it is a pretty sure bet that fall perch will be found in the same general areas year after year. Another tip to follow is looking for perch in the right depths. I have always had my best luck fishing in 3-12 feet of water. If I had to pick the ideal depth year in and year out, I would say 3-6 feet.
There are always days when fish do not want to bite, but over the years I’ve found that even on tough fishing days, it is always possible to find some active, hungry perch. I also believe that it doesn’t matter to perch if it is windy, sunny or cloudy. If they are hungry, they will bite. It is important to find areas with small vegetation and places where bait fish can hide. That is where you will find the perch hunting.
The gear I use for fishing perch is a 7-foot, light weight rod with 4- to 6-pound test line. I use the long rod because I catch a lot of my fish casting away from the boat, especially on calm sunny days. My favorite bait is a white or yellow small jig, 1/32nd ounce or, on windy days, a jig that’s a little bit heaver. Some days I tip my jigs with crappie minnows, and when the fish are really aggressive, I use small plastic baits with no live bait attached.
I have found over the years that perch seem to run in schools of like size. If all you can catch are six- and seven-inch perch, you need to move around and look for bigger ones. I have also found that the colder the weather, the bigger the perch. Last year, I fished on a cold day in early November and caught my largest perch of the year.
So if you’re looking for some great eating fish and willing to dress warm, now is the time to get out there and find some perch.