How to Catch Yellow Perch

First published:

How to Catch Yellow Perch

First published:

Whether you are a beginning fisherman or an experienced angler, yellow perch can be extremely fun and rewarding to catch. They’re active fish that not only put up a nice fight on the line, but can also be delicious to eat as well.

Yellow perch are highly adaptive fish that can be found in a wide range of areas. They will take most types of bait, and can be very forgiving if you are learning how to properly cast a line into the water for perch fishing.

If bass and trout fishing hasn’t been fully enjoyable for you, try some yellow perch fishing instead. This article will take a closer look at the different habits and useful yellow perch fishing tackle you can use when going after yellow perch.

About Yellow Perch

Distribution

The distribution of yellow perch can be very diverse. These fish are native to North America and cannot be found naturally in other countries. They love cold water, but can be found in some warmer areas. 

However, if you are specifically looking for yellow perch fishing areas, the northern United States and parts of Canada can be a great place for perch anglers. If you want to catch perch, their favorite tributaries are around the Great Lakes and can extend south into the Mississippi River basin.

If you’re yellow perch fishing in Canada, they can be found in various rivers throughout Quebec and into Nova Scotia. Some of the best locations for northern yellow perch fishing is the Mackenzie River that spans through the Northwest territories.

Habits

Yellow perch are a smaller fish that spend time in small to medium sized schools. Perch tend to come into the shallow water to feed a varied diet, but in doing so, they can become food themselves. As such, most perch can be extremely timid, highly active, and will commonly stay hidden in weed beds and tall grasses.

Preferred Habitats

Yellow perch are commonly found in cooler water that stays in the 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit range. They will normally stay in clear lakes that can be somewhat deep with a sand or gravel bottom.

Since perch are a prey item for larger fish, they will try to stay in areas that have thick underwater vegetation for them to hide in. This means, if you are specifically yellow perch fishing, you’ll need to deliver your live bait or artificial lures down towards the bottom of the lake where the fish might be hiding.

Size

Yellow perch are smaller fish that can reach up to 12 inches in length. Similar to other panfish that are perfect for the table, they are usually found in 1 to 2 pound weights. Perch are closely related to walleye, another delicious fish which can also share some of the same distribution range and habitat areas.

How to Catch Yellow Perch

Yellow perch are highly adaptive fish that can be found in a wide range of areas and they are not picky when it comes to live bait and cut bait options.

Bait Fishing for Perch

Perch are not picky when it comes to live bait and cut bait options. Most perch regardless of their habitat will go wild for live bait minnows and cut minnows. Once they see this small fish in the water, they will strike with speed and aggression regardless of how timid they may be otherwise.

Additionally, perch in some areas will prefer leeches or worms over minnows. Even though leeches may be preferred, you can attract perch with minnows and other bait types. They may be a bit more suspicious of unfamiliar or unfavored bait choices, however.

Many yellow perch fishing anglers can get great results using crayfish, waxworms, crickets, insect larvae or maggots, and more. Since yellow perch feed on smaller prey with their smaller mouths, it’s important to present the best baits that are appropriately sized. Bait that is too large may end up scaring the perch more than enticing them to bite.

Lure Fishing For Yellow Perch

Jigs

Jigs are the most commonly used lure when it comes to yellow perch fishing. Most anglers will focus on small jigs less than 2 inches in length. Some of the best jigs to consider are tube jigs and split-tail jigs (buy one here), though other anglers have had excellent results when using crappie jigs such as the marabou jig.

Crankbaits

If you don’t have a jig or simply want to use something else, crankbaits are the one to reach for to get yellow perch caught. These highly effective lures are great for helping you find a small pocket of perch in shallow lakes as they are easy to cast at maximum distance. With yellow perch, you want to focus on using micro cranks as they are the most appropriately sized for this smaller species of fish.

Spinners

If you’re targeting perch that have come into the shallow water to feed, one of your best options for a lure will be a spinnerbait. In-line spinners are also extremely popular and successful. Either way, spinners are much better suited for shallow water fishing. If the perch are staying near the bottom of the lake, spinners won’t be a suitable choice.

Spoons

If perch are staying in extremely deep water and not being active in the shallows, or if you are ice fishing, small spoons can be a great choice. Jigging spoons are a highly effective lure to use for deep and murky water as well as ice fishing.

The color of your spoon can also play a big part in how successful you are in catching the biggest perch. Some of the best color spoons you can use are natural tones of green and brown to imitate shellfish, or chartreuse and watermelon colors to provide a decent silhouette in the darker water where perch are hiding.

Perch Fishing Tackle

Rods and reels

While you can use almost any rod and reel for perch fishing, the best option would be an open-faced spinning reel with a light panfish rod. The longer rod helps cast bait and lures farther, so try to go for a rod that is around 6 or 7 feet in length. A light power rod with a flexible and responsive tip can help you feel nibbles and light strikes when you have a yellow perch caught.

Hooks

Perch will sometimes strike with speed and aggression on a tasty looking lure or bait, and can sometimes end up swallowing the hook. Many anglers prefer using a plain hook that is somewhat on the large size for panfish as it helps prevent larger yellow perch from swallowing it.

Hook sizes from 4 to 8 are the most common for many of the smaller baits that anglers use with perch fishing. Try using a variety of different hook and bait sizes to see what works best for the perch in your specific area.

Sinkers

When fishing for perch that are staying deep, you’ll need to use a sinker that is large enough to pull your bait or lure down towards the bottom. If fishing in an area where there is waterflow, a larger bell sinker might be your best choice. Otherwise, split shot sinkers are normally the chosen weight to use.

Jig heads

Using a jig head can be very effective with yellow perch schools. One of the best things about jig fishing is that you can adjust the size to suit your needs and still have an extremely successful time on the water. 

Normally, a 1/16 ounce jig head is the best choice for yellow perch, though depending on the area you are fishing in, some anglers will have better results with larger or smaller jigs from ⅛ ounce to 1/32 ounce.

Bobbers

Floats and bobbers are normally a good choice to have on hand if you are fishing with live baits. This helps keep the lure off the bottom of the lake and gives the yellow perch a good chance to see and strike at it. 

When used with an artificial lure, a surface bobber can also give you a notification on whether or not fish are taking notice of your small lure. If the tip of your rod doesn’t transfer vibrations very well, a bobber can help as an early warning system.

Line

Almost any line will work for yellow perch fishing, though monofilament line is the most ideal for all situations. Six pound test light line is your best option with ultralight tackle, but if you have other weights on your spool you can use it. The line type isn’t as vital a choice as things like your hook or bait will be.

Ice Fishing for Perch

Since yellow perch enjoy colder water, they can make an outstanding target for ice fishermen. They are commonly found in schools even throughout the winter, which makes it much easier for you to haul in multiple fish from the same ice hole.

Using a tiny jigging spoon would be your best option to get bites from yellow perch during the winter months. This sought after species will not be as active as they would be in the summer, but will still take easy prey items without much hesitation.

Where to Catch Yellow Perch

Yellow perch often like areas with a mixture of rocks, gravel and aquatic vegetation, and they hunt near the bottom more often than not.

Lakes and Reservoirs

Perch will be found in most lakes of all sizes. They love clear bodies of water that have a variety of depth ranges. In these lakes and reservoirs, you’ll find perch in large numbers in the deeper water throughout the year, while they move into the shallows during the spring to spawn.

Rivers

Rivers are not the most common places to locate perch, however, if you can find large rivers with a healthy population of walleye, chances are good you can find perch there as well. Slower moving rivers are the best option, and those with some depth are more favorable than shallow waterways.

When to Catch Perch

Spring

During the spring and spawning times, perch will move into the shallow water. This can range from February to June depending on the area.

Summer

As the temperatures warm up, larger perch will be hovering around water up to 12 feet deep. As it moves further into mid-summer, more perch will move into much deeper water that can reach 35 feet in depth.

Fall

As summer leaves and fall takes hold, perch will remain deep near rocky areas. Late in the fall, they will start to become more active in searching for food in preparation for winter.

Winter

During the winter, perch can be found gathered together under the ice in the middle of the water column. Once you find one perch, chances are good you have found a whole school.

Best Time of day to Catch Perch

While the year-round seasons are important, so too is the time of day. Perch are most active in the early morning hours, though the late afternoon and evening in the cooler months can be equally as successful for anglers.

Final Thoughts On Catching Perch

Yellow perch can be an extremely fun fish to search for. They are not only attractive to look at, and exciting to catch, but they are also delicious and make an excellent panfish to put on the table.

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AUTHOR
Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village.