The yellow perch is a popular cold-water species. In fact, its scientific name, Perca flavescens, seems to give an indication of why it is often targeted, with the first part of the species name beginning with “flav.” Indeed, one of the reasons the yellow perch is highly sought is because of the tasty fillet potential. However, “flavescens” seems to actually mean, “becoming yellow.” Curious about additional naming of yellow things, I was surprised to find “flavescens” is not found in the scientific name for banana. However, after further reflection, bananas should be named for whatever is Latin for “rapidly turning brown.” But I digress…
Yellow perch are cooperative biters all year, but yellow perch ice fishing is eagerly anticipated in much of the North. Perhaps this is due to competition from other warm water fish during warmer months. Another theory is that this already schooling fish forms even larger groups during winter. Whatever the reason, there are a few common factors among yellow perch fishing winter tips.
First, be sure to check your state’s yellow perch winter fishing regulations. The New Year starts during the winter season so make sure you get that new fishing license when the time comes. Also, check your state’s yellow perch winter fishing gear. For example, Pennsylvania is limited to five “fishing devices” (tip-ups, rods, etc.) but there is no restriction for the number of hooks if you are using bait. In addition, if you are keeping fish, make sure not to exceed the limit, which may vary between bodies of water within the same state.
Baits and Lures
The best bait for yellow perch in winter probably is the best bait the rest of the year: minnows. However, yellow perch will also hit any live bait such as night crawlers, leeches, and mealworms, especially if you wiggle the line slightly occasionally to attract attention.
The best ice fishing lures for yellow perch usually mimic baitfish, such as small spoons capable of fluttering on the fall and small lipless crankbaits jigged up and down. However, any tiny jig tipped with a piece of live worm can be just the ticket for a successful yellow perch ice fishing expedition.
Where to fish yellow perch in winter is a common question. Initially, a little investigation online, with local anglers, or a nearby bait shop should reveal if yellow perch are in the body of water. If yellow perch are present, deep holes with structure are always a good place to start, but these fish are known to roam, often on shallow flats. If ice fishing, sometimes you may need to move and drill additional holes. Other times, patience is helpful as a school may eventually come to you. Pay attention to the bottom. Stirring up a little silt by bouncing a small spoon off a soft bottom can gain favorable attention. However, the best lakes for yellow perch ice fishing may have a harder, rockier bottom. Once you figure out a pattern, you may find yourself on many cooperative fish as the activity of biting fish and resulting lost bait fragments can trigger the entire school, even in cold, dark winter water.
And every list of yellow perch fishing winter tips needs to include a safety reminder. Be sure to take all necessary precautions such as fishing with a friend and bringing safety equipment such as life jackets, ice cleats, ice picks, a cell phone, and warm clothing.