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Minnesota Fishing Reports
Articles : Late Ice Perch by Mark Hicks
Posted by LSF on Feb 11, 2011 (1564 reads) News by the same author

Veteran Lake Mlle Lacs fishing guide Mike Christensen works hard during the open-water seasons to put his clients in touch with walleyes, muskies and smallmouth bass. In winter, he does a little fun fishing for himself.

That fun is often fishing for Mille Lac's abundant yellow perch through the ice. Although he will take a few clients ice fishing, his main winter duties are renting ice fishing houses and managing Hunter Windfield's Resort, which he owns.

The latter weeks of the ice-fishing season find Christensen drilling holes with renewed enthusiasm. This is typically from late February through March. Cold weather can extend Christensen's ice fishing ventures into early April.

On the Feed
“The perch get fired up and feed more in late winter,” Christensen says. “They're fattening up for the spawn, and there's more light penetration because the snow is melting.”

The increased light penetration stirs the larvae of mayflies, midges and other insects to emerge from mud bottoms. The perch readily take advantage of this smorgasbord.

Christen finds late-season perch in the same general areas where they were caught in midwinter. These are mud breaks and potholes 27 to 36 feet deep where insect larvae burrow into the soft bottom.

A GPS map/plotter can also help you find perch hot spots. Christensen suggests that you drill holes where tight contour lines show a drop-off adjacent to a flat.

On the Move
“The perch tend to be shallower at sunup and sundown, just like walleyes,” Christensen says. “And, they might move 100 yards on any given day.”

Since late-season perch are roamers, Christensen stays on the move, “hole hopping” with his ice auger. Warmer weather makes braving the elements less demanding. On some late-winter days, Christensen works up a sweat drilling holes in air as warm as 50 degrees.

Tandem Rig
The heart of Christensen's perch rig is a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce Lindy Rattl'N Flyer Spoon. Techni-Glo Firetiger and Techni-Glo Gold Shiner are proven colors. Techni-Glo Rainbow gets hot after the snow melts off the ice.

Christensen removes the treble hook from the Rattl'N Flyer and uses the spoon as an attractor. He exchanges the hook for a Genz Bug knotted to a 3-pound leader of Lindy Ice Line 6-inches in length.

A short spinning outfit with 4- or 6-pound Lindy Ice Line matches well with Christensen's tandem rig. He places a tiny swivel 18 inches or so above the spoon to reduce line twist.

“Mille Lacs is clear, but you don't want to go too light with your line,” Christensen says. “Some of the perch we catch push 2 pounds.”

A Techni-Glo Blue Genz Bug is Christensen's workhorse. He tips the Bug with three or four green, blue, white or tan spikes (maggots). The color spikes the perch prefer on any given day depends on which larvae they are eating, claims Christensen.

“I've had unbelievably good success with the Genz Bug,” Christensen says. “I think it looks like a Mayfly to the perch.”

Kick Up the Mud
Before he begins fishing through a hole in the ice, Christensen sets up his LCG so he can see what's happening below. Then he opens the bail on his spinning reel and lets the tandem rig sink to the bottom.

“You want to jig the Flyer spoon so it pounds the bottom and kicks up mud,” Christensen says. “That mimics a minnow feeding on bugs.”

The spoon and the mud plume attract the perch. When a sizable mark shows up on Christensen's graph, he stops pounding, lifts the spoon 6 inches above the bottom and gently quivers the rod tip. The perch responds by nabbing the Genz Bug.

The strike is especially hard to feel because the Genz Bug hangs on a slack leader. You might feel a slight weight. Or, you may have to lift the rod tip slightly to “feel” the perch.

The fastest way to learn how to discern bites is with an underwater camera, points out Christensen. A camera lets you watch the Flyer spoon pounding the bottom, and to see the mud plume, the perch and the bite.

Although a camera would help anytime, Christensen generally doesn't use it during the late ice season because it slows down his hole-hopping agenda.

Up Off the Bottom
If bottom-pounding fails to generate a bite, Christensen jigs his tandem rig 5 feet above the bottom. This makes the spoon visible to the perch from greater distances and triggers reaction bites.

“On some days, the perch won't come up off the bottom at all,” Christensen says. “On other days, you have to jig up off the bottom to catch them.”

When the perch show a preference for a high-jigging presentation, Christensen often fares better by fishing the Rattl'N Flyer spoon with a treble hook and forgoing the drop line and Genz Bug.

Make Haste
Efficiency is crucial when perch fishing through late ice. Christensen jigs the spoon quickly and doesn't waste time fishing an unproductive hole. He typically pounds the bottom with a tandem rig for 5 minutes. Then he jigs above the bottom for another 5 minutes.

If that fails to produce a perch, he moves on. When the perch show a preference for bottom-pounding or high-jigging, Christensen will use the productive presentation for only 5 minutes before making tracks to another hole.

Whether the Rattl'N Flyer Spoon is fished alone or in tandem with a Genz Bug, it sinks much faster than an ice fishing jig alone. This is a huge advantage.

“When a school of perch comes through, you have to keep their attention to hold them there,” Christensen says.

After catching a perch on a Flyer spoon, it quickly sinks back down to the school before it the fish move. The spoon's action and the frenzied movements of the perch that you hook also rouses them into action.

“With a slow-falling jig, you might catch one or two perch from a school,” Christensen says. “With a heavier spoon, you can snatch up 10 or more before they leave.”

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