I used to fancy myself as a walleye specialist. If I was not catching eating-sized walleyes, in that perfect 1-2 pound range, with the occasional trophy, I was just wasting my time. Northern pike were slimy and perch weren’t worth messing with. While pike can still make a mess of your lines when ice-fishing, I have changed my opinion on perch.
Perch are an ideal winter species. They are great eating (walleye is a member of the perch family) and easy to fillet. Perch are often very prolific in the right fishery and their numbers can swell quickly, making them available and aggressive. When the perch population is robust, a bucket of fresh perch in an afternoon of sitting on the ice is a real possibility. The goal is to find the happy medium between good numbers of perch, but also maintain that “jumbo” quality, not a bunch of stunted fish.
A trip north this weekend was a perch outing on somewhat thin ice with the warm temperatures of late. Once on the lake, it was a matter of finding the proper depth and the right presentation that attracted the larger perch. Eventually, I settled on 29-30 feet of water, with a Swedish Pimple and a minnow head. A full minnow was too large and caused me to miss too many fish on the hookset. A mealworm enticed too many small perch to race to my lure. My Vexilar was worth its weight in gold.
As a result, I brought home about 18 perch to clean that evening. They weren’t perch pushing that coveted one pound threshold, but they were close. Dipped in Italian bread crumbs and fried in olive oil, the white flesh was like candy. Who needs walleyes, anyway?