The summer has been a hot one but the fishing continues to be hot as well especially up at the big pond to the north which we call Lake Erie.
The walleye have moved to deeper water and travel time to get to the hot action is tremendously farther than what it was this spring but for those willing to burn some boat gas, the rewards are worth it. Walleye fishermen continue to do well trolling with spoons and deep water crankbaits and casters are picking up some nice eaters by dragging nightcrawlers near the bottom.
The perch action has started to heat up the last few days as well. The good news is that you don’t have to travel as far to find the perch. The reef complex area in the western basin seems to be cranking out the perch right now. The bad news is that it can still be a challenge to find the best bait to catch them with.
Emerald shiners continue to be in low supply and what supply is available usually goes quick when the bait stores first open up each morning. Most of the stores that do find a supply of emeralds typically run out in a matter of minutes. Supplies are so tight, that many perch diehards have gone to buying the emeralds up when they do find them and then salting and freezing them for later use.
Because of the boom in walleye, the emerald shiner population has taken a hit which is the reason they are so hard to find. And because of the decline in the emerald shiner population, many believe the perch has changed their diet a bit as well. Catching yellow perch in Lake Erie used to mean dangling emerald shiners a few inches to a foot or so off the bottom. With the waning emerald shiner population, perch have backed off eating fish and aren’t hanging around on the bottom anymore. And instead of congregating in larger schools, anglers and scientists believe perch are spreading out in the water column, making it more difficult to locate, hook, and land them.
Meanwhile, the lake is seeing an increased abundance of invertebrates. The invasive water fleas and also the invasive midges and the mayflies are so abundant now. Just ask anyone that visited the lake over the Memorial Day weekend and they will tell you how bad the midge hatch was. A few weeks later, the mayflies started showing up and this year there was a double hatch. Add into the mix the increase in these water fleas, the perch are doing what animals do, they’re taking the greatest return for the least effort. They’re just gorging on the abundant invertebrate resources and anglers can struggle trying to mimic that.
Fortunately, right now the perch are being caught with minnows and traditionally the perch bite is supposed to get better as we get closer to Fall. However, we saw this splurge of perch success last summer around late July as well but that was pretty much it for the perch season. The fishing did not improve as we got into the cooler season.
Fingers are crossed that this year isn’t a repeat of last year, but anglers may have to be prepared to change their tactics a bit just in case. As successful trout fishermen used to say, you have to match the hatch to catch trout. The same may be true for perch fishermen who just may need to find a bait and method that matches the invertebrates that the perch are feeding on and not rely on traditional perch fishing methods.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!
Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.