Opening day for Lake Erie Perch is today, regardless of when today is because every day is the best day to go “perching.” While fall is the best time to get a box full of really big fish, any other time is good enough.
To be sure, Erie’s big stuff gets most of the hype. Walleyes, Steelhead, and Smallmouth Bass hold fast to their positions as headliners, but Erie’s Yellow Perch attract more fishermen than any of the others. That’s because they are more accessible and more willing to bite at any time, and arguably provide the best eating of any Great Lakes fish.
Why go perching? Lake Erie produces perch by the millions. That means fish are available from one end of the lake to the other. For some reason, probably habitat and food sources, Perch seem to grow larger in the east where the water is deeper and the forage. On any given day, Perch caught in the western basin of Lake Erie, from Toledo to Jumbo size. Sandusky Bay, might go eight to nine inches with a few ranging into the jumbo realm of 12 inches. Now hike on over to Conneaut where ten inch fish are just so-so and jumbos come fast and often. Keep in mind that average size is a relevant factor. It all depends on when and where the fish is caught. A nine-inch perch fillets just fine and eats just as good as any 12-incher so don’t get hung up on trophies.
Here’s another plus for Perch: while Walleye, Bass, and Trout chasers tend to burn more fuel, spend more on line counter reels, planer boards, and all the other stuff that goes with the sport, Perch anglers operate on the cheap. Needed tackle is minimal. A light rod, a reel that turns, and a handful of hooks about covers it.
Add to that a few dozen minnows (shiners are best) and it’s game on. When Perch fanatics are asked about what they like best about Perching, most recite the expected verbage that includes taste and numbers, but the honest ones also add the satisfaction of setting the hook, something trollers miss.
Lake Erie Perch anglers are allowed 30 fish per day in Ohio waters and while that doesn’t sound like a lot of fish, it’s plenty. Add five or six friends to the day and if the bite is one and fishing rods ready, it can take a long morning to fill out all the tags. Skilled Perch fishermen learn quickly that the best bite is within inches of the bottom. Captain Bill Huber, who operates a busy Perch charter boat out of Conneaut, preaches braided line and vertical rigs. His reasoning for both is that even a raw beginner can feel what sometimes is a barely detectible bite.
“I like the rig because there’s no stretch so the bite is felt instantly and that’s what it takes on some days,” Huber said, adding that perch usually bite just once and if the fisherman isn’t quick enough to set the hook, it’s time to rebait because the minnow is gone. It isn’t fancy and it isn’t glamorous but Perch fishing is fun, affordable, and the resulting fish fries are memorable.
Want to know what’s happening on any given day of Perch fishing at Conneaut, Erie’s top Perching port, call Sung arbor tackle shop at 440-593-3755. Get real-time lake conditions and current fishing success and ask about the availability of lake shiners. Snug Harbor also offers fish cleaning. Captain Bill Huber and mate Gary Huber (yes they are brothers) operate a “Perch only” charter out of Conneaut and can be reached at 330-805-2959 or 330-221-8648.