Every area angler knows that Lake Erie yellow perch bite all 12 months of the year, including under the ice, but it's just in recent weeks that the perch season really began.
The fish have had long months to grow, so catches will run larger than usual, and since they're feeding up for winter, action can be fast enough in the right place to fill a 30 fish limit in a very short time. Possibly more important, autumn perching is usually done in crisp, cool weather under a blue sky with fluffy white cumulus clouds. A perfect time to fish.
If there's a problem this month and next, it's finding schools of perch willing to bite. They seem to bunch up tighter in fall, and while fishing here might produce goose eggs, moving just 50 yards or so might see a full cooler. So, if there's a secret to this fall fishing, it's to move until you catch some. A good friend of mine was up last week and he and two friends took a 90-fish limit. But it wasn't easy.
"We couldn't catch any," he said, "After three hours of moving here and there we had just two perch. So, we kept moving, fishing here 10 minutes and there 10 minutes. I bet we moved 15 times at least before we found a school ready to feed, then we were catching two at a time sometimes and filled our cooler in less than an hour." Something to remember there.
Another fact that I've known for long years is to watch out for "packs" of boats. Sometimes it happens that a boat heads forth, anchors at random and starts fishing. Another boat passes and its owner thinks "He must have something going there," so he stops and joins him. Then a third boat sees the two, and so on until there are two dozen boats in one spot and often nobody catching anything. It's OK to join a pack, but watch the other boats and make sure they're jerking perch before you stay long.
Here's another point. Too often a boat marks some fish, slings an anchor out, and starts fishing. Sound carries well through the water, and that big anchor crashing into the bottom will scatter perch like a covey of quail. Instead, drop it gently over the side and hand line it carefully to bottom. Then start fishing.
Veteran perchers know that there are several ways to fill that 30 perch limit, go out yourself or with friends in a private boat, walk onto a head boat, or book a charter on a six pack. The first is probably least expensive, since most just share gas. The head boats will charge anywhere from $25 to $40 depending on days of the week, age, and other factors, and the charter boats usually run $350 to $400, though that might be shared by up to six fishermen.
If you're going out with one of the latter two, you needn't worry about where the fish are, since the guides will take you there, but if going with friends, the hot places in recent weeks have been off C and E Can, south of Green Island, Northwest Reef, a half mile west of Green Island, and a half mile west of Rattlesnake Island.
I've mentioned more than once in these pages that I don't like spreaders, though they'll work well enough when perch are eager and hitting hard. But when they're moody and just tapping a minnow, those wire arms absorb the gentle pull and you can miss plenty of fish. I prefer a sinker on lines end with two No. 6 snelled hooks about a foot apart above. Since the hooks hang straight down, any bite at all will register and you've got him.
Finally, I hook my minnows firmly, always through the head and back around through the body. Perch will eat a dead minnow as readily as a live one, and if you simply head or back hook the bait, they'll often pull it off. The double hooking ensures they'll have to eat it, and that's what you want them to do.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org n Ohio hunters are encouraged to shoot any feral swine they encounter in the wild in order to limit the spread of this destructive species in the state. Wild pigs are eating machines that destroy crops, degrade wildlife habitat, consume the eggs of ground nesting birds and just about anything else they can find. There is no limit and no season, so if hunters holding a valid Ohio hunting license can make multiple kills, they're welcome to do so. Wild pigs are excellent eating, but since they carry multiple diseases, should be dressed with rubber gloves and the meat cooked well done before eating.
More than 19,500 advanced size muskie fingerlings, averaging 10 inches in length, recently were stocked in nine Ohio lakes and reservoirs by the Division of Wildlife. "I am very proud of the dedicated hatchery personnel and all the hard work they did to accomplish this great task," said Elmer Heyob, fisheries administrator. The lakes stocked include Clearfork Reservoir (2,069), Leesville Lake (1,068), and Salt Fork (2,273).
Ohio's fall crop of acorns is very good this year, and will again provide a vital food source for more than 90 forest wildlife species. Statewide, white oak acorn production is up 10 percent, while red oak acorn production is up 2 percent over 2006 figures. Hunters can expect to find deer, wild turkeys, and squirrels feeding on the sweeter nuts of white oaks this fall, and later in the season seeking the more bitter red oak acorns.