Yellow perch are one of the most sought after species on the Upper Mississippi River. They are also among the most elusive. Perch fishing is often a case of ‘here this morning-gone this afternoon’
But if you keep just a couple “rules of fin” in mind when prospecting for dark-barred gold from late September through October the prospecting curve will likely be much shorter.
The two most important things to perch this time of year and survival and food. This predator of benthic macroinvertebrates and minnows is also the prey of essentially any fish that’s bigger.
A fertile weed called elodea, a.k.a. coontail. meets both these perch needs in spades. Elodea provides optimum habitat for little green worms, freshwater shrimp, minnows and a host of other little perch treats.
Those little green worms were a primary driver in creating my Perchanator jig/fly, available at www.bimboskunk.com/ted .The Perchanator is primarily orange–a color which perch and other panfish find attractive under many water conditions. This lure weighs 1/32 oz. which considerable research shows is ideal for dropping into pockets of elodea where perch are waiting in ambush.
The Perchanator is a passive trigger lure. Fish don’t chase it down, they wait for it to drop close then slurp it in. At least 85 % of all bites happen when the lure is dropping through the water column. An effective presentation is using a rod long enough to drop the bait verticially in the water column. A 10-12′ pole is ideal.
One reason a long pole is ideal is that perch and other panfish relating to elodea are usually found in 5 1/2′ of water in River backwaters–give or take a foot or so.
A 10′ pole with 9′ of superbraid line allows an angler to quickly ‘doodlesock’ every weed opening in just a few minutes. Drop and move over a foot to the next opening, Drop and move, Drop and move. If a perch doesn’t inhale the bait within 10 seconds after it reaches the bottom in 5 1/2′ of water, keep moving until you find ’em.
Sometimes this means moving 20′–sometimes 200 yards. During the summer months there is an incredible amount of water and infinite number of elodea beds in many Mississippi River backwaters.
The good news is, weeds begin to die off in later August. By the first week in October, likely perch haunts in the weeds have decreased by almost 50%–with the number of green weedy patches decreasing probably another 8% per week throughout the month, until the situation is such that they can swim, but they can’t hide. These easy times usually last 2-3 weeks until winter is knocking at the door.
Of course ‘easy’ is always a relative term–especially with perch and walleyes. Every aspect of your presentation and habitat considerations can be perfect–but the fish get a vote too. sometimes they just vote ‘present’