Catching Yellow Perch on Ice

Yellow perch are mostly found in the north and east, but with stocking can be caught as far south as Kansas or Missouri. They will hit a variety of lures and bait. I’ve caught them with minnows and nightcrawlers under a bobber, casting small spinner baits, and even on my fly rod but mostly while fishing for other species. When the water gets cold enough to stand on safely, many anglers start thinking about targeting yellow perch.

Yellow perch are not large, with most landed in about the 8-11 inch range and less than a pound. The term of endearment, “jumbo,” is reserved for any of this species above that size. Last March in Idaho’s Cascade Lake, 12-year-old Tia Wiese, landed a new ice fishing world record weighing almost 3 pounds and measuring 15.5 inches. Understandably, she would not share her lure except to say it was a “natural bait on a secret rig.”

However, I will share a couple of tips.

First, plan to move around frequently, drilling many holes. These fish roam, often on large shallow flats. It may take a while to locate them, but when you do they probably will be in large numbers. If you can get that first one to hit, that activity may fire up the whole school.

Besides the standard ice fishing jigs, a small or medium sized heavy spoon is a common lure. One technique is to drop the spoon to the bottom and “slam” it a few times to stir up the sediment. This activity in a cold, quiet, dark lake draws the attention of not only yellow perch but walleye as well. Then hold the spoon still for a few seconds before jiggling it slightly above the commotion.

In many lakes when I’ve found yellow perch, I’ve found pike. If you catch enough fish in one spot, other creatures will investigate too.

And I might even be one of them.

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Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.