Ryan Matuzak: Catching perch tops on many fishing agendas

Record-Eagle photo/Jan-Michael StumpRyan Matuzak

Perch fishing is one of the most common discussions we have at the fishing shop. Not surprising that these tasty buggers are still one of the most popular fish to target here in northern Michigan for young and old.

Regularly we get questions about how and what to do to get in on the Grand Traverse area's great perch fishing. Here are a few of the details that can help you catch some nice perch, too.

First, I like to tie my own perch rigs with a lighter fluorocarbon line, or use a Warrior Lures Perch Pounder rig —lighter line being the key in both, although the perch pounder comes with a mini fly tied to its hooks that can be deadly. Sure, I hear it all the time that this or that works. but truly lighter line or fluorocarbon line can be a big factor in catching wiser jumbos.

It comes down to feel for the bigger fish and on the tougher days. They will feel the heavier line's resistance and tend to “blow” the bait out of their mouth, so lighten it up.

Another common advantage we use is shorter Ultra light rods. The lighter rods do a few things. First, they can be very sensitive which is key to feeling the light bite of the jumbo. Next is the way the hook set works. A lighter rod will help the hook to more firmly set rather than jerk out of the fish's mouth as a more rigid rod would tend to do. Lastly, the lighter and shorter rod is perfect for gently working fighting fish closer to the side of your boat.

With the numerous places we can catch perch around here, finding out a depth range is more important to me than exact locations. Yes, everyone likes an easy trip by following someone else, but knowing a depth range will open up more opportunities. If the boats are all fishing and catching in, say, 50 feet of water, in most cases the perch will be in that range everywhere on that body of water in about that depth. Jumbo Perch can show up as tight to bottom and appear as ripples, so look around for your own school away from the crowd.

The last point is probably one of the biggest questions about catching perch. What are you using for bait? The ultimate secret. right? Not really because perch are voracious eaters and will eat most everything you can put in their face, but some baits are always better than others. For us a perch fishing trip will include wigglers, perch minnows, walleye minnows and shrimp. We always bring wigglers, dead or alive. They are always used first to “prospect” a school of fish. No perch can resist the wiggler. Using the big minnow can be the way to get big perch. It may sound crazy but the fact is that a perch will try to stuff huge baits down, so make your bait magnum size occasionally if you're having trouble getting through smaller perch.

Hopefully the water stays open a little longer so you and your anglers can get out catching nice perch and carrying on a tradition of fishing here in northern Michigan.

Ryan Matuzak runs fishing trips in the Grand Traverse region through North Country Sportfishing LLC, which is the local Minn Kota Authorized Service Center. Drop him a line at northcountry.mi@gmail.com.