I switched to a bigger bait — a walleye-sized jigging Rapala — and the first perch I caught was a nine incher. I dropped it back sown the hole and caught a 10. Dropped it back in and caught another keeper.
Freiburger noticed. He switched to a Rap, and the average size of his fish improved commensurately, too.
There’s no mystery there. Bigger baits typically catch bigger fish. Instead of sorting them out on the ice, you’re culling the little guys before you catch ‘em.
We caught fish at a variety of depths, though I seemed to be doing best in areas with some weeds on bottom. That’s not unusual, Freiburger said.
“I like to find that transition zone between hard and soft bottom,” Freiburger said. “You have minnows feeding on the invertebrates in the softer substrate and you’re more likely to find vegetation on the softer material. And the perch eat those invertebrates, too, so, my thought is, if you can find that interface between soft and hard bottom, you can find a diversity of foods.
“If you look at any animal, that transition zone is kind of an efficient place for them to be.”
Perch are not especially picky. Some guys never use anything more than teardrops tipped with insect larvae — wax worms, spike, mousies — and they do well.
“I’ve generally had more success using bigger baits on bigger lakes,” Freiburger said. “It seems to me on smaller lakes, spikes or wigglers are a better bet. But in many cases, I don’t think they’re particular.”
They didn’t seem to be here. We fooled around with spikes and even perch eyes — and caught fish — but, truth be told, once I went to the Rapala every perch I caught hit the ice. I went through some dry spells, but every fish I caught was filet-able. (I’ll file that experience away for the future.)
So is there a moral of the story? To my way of thinking there are two rules for perch fishing: Pound the bottom and, when you catch one, get that bait back down there quickly.