Finger Lakes Confessions: Perch Medicine

I’m by no means a die-hard perch fisherman, but these little guys have saved me from mental meltdown during many a late winters day. Those days that aren’t quite yet spring but the ice-fishing is long gone. The yellow perch is well know in the Fingerlakes region, and is one of the most sought after species in the area. If you happen to be around one of the Fingerlakes on a miserably cold March day and see a boat bobbing up and down in the wind-blown snow it’s most likely a perch fisherman.

While the yellow perch can be caught anytime of the year, most of my perch fishing is done during this transition time of the year from ice-out through early spring. During this time the perch are quite active being one of the earlier spring spawners. As little aquatic scuds and bugs start to become active the perch go on the feed and it can be in pretty shallow water giving the shore angler great opportunities and a great way to shed off some cabin fever.

FLC perch 1A Fingerlakes Yellow Perch is good medicine 

For tackle, I prefer a rod with some backbone like a med-action walleye rod with 8 or 10 lb Fireline braid main line with a fluorocarbon leader. The braid really lets you feel the bites and enables you to feel the lighter bites that you would miss fishing with regular monofilament line, especially when wind is a factor.

Perch are a bottom orientated fish. A simple two hook drop-shot perch rig is an effective rig to fish all season long. This rig allows constant contact with the bottom and the weight banging the bottom adds additional attraction.

For this rig use about 20 inches of 4 or 6 lb test fluorocarbon for the leader material and  Aberdeen hooks in a size 8 or 10.

Tie one hook with a Palomar knot about 6″ up from where the sinker will be, then tie another hook 6″ up from the first with a Palomar knot also. Then tie on sinker with Uni knot or Clinch knot. For Sinker sizes anything from 1/8 oz-3/4 oz will work depending on conditions. Then tie leader to swivel with a Uni knot then tie swivel to braid with a Uni knot.

Fathead minnows are the norm for bait, but small worms or half of a night crawler can work just as well. Soft plastics can also be used and often produce the larger fish.

drop shot perch rig - Edited

On real calm days with gin-clear water perch can be quite picky. Losing the swivel and dropping down to straight 4 lb fluorocarbon instead of the braid might be what it takes to get a bite.

The Yellow Perch is excellent table fare

The best part of the perch medicine comes after the fishing. The yellow perch is famous for its flaky tasty meat and I was planning on taking pictures of perch sandwiches topped with homemade tartar, but after a cold hard day of perch fishing the camera was neglected and the perch quickly disappeared. But take my word, it doesn’t get much better than a fresh Fingerlakes perch sandwich.

Photography by Saxton and Taylor

All photography in this article is property of

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