It’s perch season on Lake Erie, and given the uncooperative weather, winds and waves that can ruin a day of perching in a hurry, it’s about the most enjoyable kind of fishing one can find on this huge pond.
And while many savvy anglers know full well that yellow perch can be caught nearly year-round, it’s the weeks and months of autumn that produce the most, and largest, fish. It’s just that way.
We are talking plain fishing for plain fish. Nothing fancy about the sport, the gear, or the anglers who pursue them. Fancy and fine tend to come later when a few fillets of fried Lake Erie perch plop down on a hungry diner’s plate. Nothing could be finer. That’s a fact.
At times, it seems that the basement of Lake Erie must be literally swarming with perch, relatively small fish that right now are tempting fishermen from one end of the lake to the other.
Like unpopular cousins, perch stick to themselves, seldom hanging with walleyes and steelhead — the glamor guys — probably because they live in a world of eat or be eaten, but more likely because they find the table set with the right things near the bottom of the lake.
Perch fishermen often haul in fish in that are obviously stuffed with water fleas and minnows but still willing to grab one more shiner minnow simply because it’s there. Like too many of us, they just can’t resist one more mouthful.
But not always
Some days, it seems more like the fish are there, but they aren’t biting on anything. Go figure.
Lake Erie’s perch get bigger from west to east. While perch fishermen in the western basin settle for 8- and 9-inchers, the fishermen near the eastern border of Ohio waters often bag fish exceeding a foot each.
Spotty this year
But to be sure, there is a question of consistency this year, especially near the most popular perching ports of Cleveland to Conneaut. Blame it on the winds and waves, but there are a lot of questions being asked about the simple fact that perch fishing is, at times, pretty tough this year.
Maybe too many walleyes are eating all the bait fish, called forage. Maybe too many perch have been swept up in commercial nets. Maybe the recent hatches have been less than stellar. Maybe some of all those things, plus others, are in sum total problematic.
And maybe less than limit catches are what we ought to be satisfied with. Maybe we ought to call it fishing instead of catching.
On the good days, it’s a whole lot of fun followed by a whole lot of great eating. On the less than great days, it’s still a lot of fun followed by a fish sandwich.
Best gift ever
Especially if a perch fishing trip is a thoughtful father-son holiday, a birthday gift of love and fellowship that won’t soon be forgotten by either — after all, isn’t time the most generous gift of all?
Now toss in the tug of a chunky yellow perch, mix it with some good clean storytelling and joking, and, well, a young guy named Anthony Brungard, a seventh-grader hailing from rural Mahoning County, had himself a recent fishing trip/birthday present that will stick with him for a good long time.
Anthony and dad Matt Brungard enjoyed their special perch trip fishing just north of Conneaut — and you can bet they’ll be back for more.