HOW TO CATCH YELLOW PERCH
Since yellow perch are typically aggressive winter feeders, tactics for catching them are simple. Many anglers fish tip-ups or tip-downs rigged with standard minnow rigs and, using enough split shot to place and hold the bait near bottom, hook small minnows on size 4 or 6 hooks. Colored beads, spinners or flecks of aluminum foil may also be added to create extra attraction as the bait moves.
Ice anglers also experience a great deal of success suspending small minnows from a small bobber fished on light line and light-action ice rods.
Since yellow perch are highly adaptive and feed on so many different types of forage, it's important to locate large perch schools with sonar, especially if the fish are suspended or schooled over deep mud flats. Next, it's important to determine what forage perch in your waters are targeting, then try to use a presentation that best emulates the preferred forage.
If the perch are feeding on insect larvae or plankton, small ice jigs tipped with grubs or maggots are the best imitators. Since perch are most likely to be feeding on or near bottom, a small-hooked, but heavy-bodied jig such as the Genz Worm or Marmooska should be used to facilitate faster, easier drops without the need for sinkers, and help hold your bait near bottom.
Given such conditions, using a small, light-hooked jig with a tiny barb or flattened barb is best, because the hook can then be cleanly inserted into the blunt end of a maggot without tearing the skin, which releases the fish attracting juices onto your fingers. Using a sharp, thin barbless or flattened-barb hook instead, these juices slowly leak out within the water, helping attract perch. Fresh bait should also be used, especially if the perch are biting light.
If yellow perch are found to be feeding on minnows, small jigs tipped with minnows can be used, but many anglers choose to use small versions of popular walleye jigs and spoons.
Where legal, many ice anglers have found the use of perch eyes or thin strips of perch belly meat horizontally rigged on a vertical or horizontal style ice jig, highly effective for triggering fussy perch. Check your local regulations before trying this technique, as some states do not allow this practice.
Productive Jigging Methods. If perch are suspended and feeding on plankton, using a basic, small-hooked but heavy bodied grub- or maggot-tipped horizontal ice jig is a good bet. Use the standard quivering sunfish-style technique, just gently wiggling the bait with a slight, gradual upward jiggling motion, followed by a slow, quivering fall. Most of the time, unlike sunfish, perch strike as the bait rises.
When perch are feeding on insect larvae or worms on deep mud flats you can use a similar tactic, but first drop your bait to the bottom, and tap it gently several times to kick up bottom sediments. This commotion attracts perch, who seemingly believing other perch have found food, attempt to move in on the action.
If the perch are found to be feeding on minnows, variations of basic walleye-style jig, spoon and jigging minnow strategies come into play. Try aggressive, pounding actions with standard jigs first. If the fish appear to be aggressive, jigging minnow-style baits like Jigging Rapalas or Flyers tipped with small minnows or a minnow head are more efficient, dropping down faster and allowing a more overall aggressive jigging approach.
Should the perch be found to not be striking readily, use of small flash spoons and walleye-style snap jigging strategies can be effective for triggering strikes. Lower your spoon to the desired depth, snap your rod upward with a sharp, sudden twist of the wrist, repeat once or twice, then pause. Strikes usually occur on the pause.
Catching Deep-Water Perch
If a school of deep-water perch isn't responding to standard winter perch strategies, try using a dropper rig to increase your chance of instigating a strike.
To make a dropper rig, remove the hook from a small perch spoon, add a short dropper leader of 4-pound monofilament and tip a plain hook or ice jig with a small minnow, waxworm or Eurolarvae. Combine a periodic, snap-jigging motion intermingled with short, finesse-style quivering. If you feel a strike, set the hook right away.