Fall Perch PatternBy Dave Duwe - October 1, 2014
Perch will travel in schools throughout the day. Once you locate the schools they can be caught extremely fast. They feed by sight so the daylight hours are the best time to catch them. Unlike most fish, perch are not affected by the weather as much, so don't let a cold front get you down.
In fall, I will look for the perch in a depth range of 8-12 feet of water. The key for me is finding a location in a lake that has hard bottom (sand/rock) with scattered weeds in close proximity to an area of soft bottom (muck). Finding pods of forage fish also very essential they are also in huge schools in October-December. Lake Geneva in Walworth County has been my go to lake for years. Its clear water and tremendous population of perch make it a must fish lake.
Once I locate the fish I always anchor. This will allow you to stay on the actively feeding school. Because perch are a schooling fish don't spend too much time anchored without catching any fish. As a side note, perch are typically oriented close to bottom, so anchoring will allow you to present the bait much more effectively.
The equipment that I use is a 6'6" -7' medium light Fenwick spinning rod with a Mitchell Advocet reel spooled with a 4-6 lb test. Perch can be subtle biters so a light rod is essential. I choose a slip- bobber rig. I will use a Thill bobber with a plain hook or an ice jig. Because perch are light biters try using the smallest bobber you can, it will help you detect a lot more bites. The preferred bait is in October for me has always been small fat head minnows (crappie minnows). By using minnows you will tend to catch bigger fish and prevent the small perch from nibbling your bait off. Don't' be afraid of getting some bigger minnows I have had great success on medium golden shiners and caught some real "jumbos".
When setting the slip-bobber I will start positioning the bait 6 inches to 1 foot off bottom. The distance off bottom is dictated a lot of the time on how thick the submerged weeds are. When in an active school of fish you need to get your bait into the water quickly, so you can catch another fish. Action can be one after another until the school moves. If fat head minnows aren't working, a good alternative would be leaf worms.
With the perch located in some of the shallowest water they will live in all year, shore anglers will also have an opportunity for success. Lake Geneva provides an ample supply of public piers. In some cases the fishing can even be better than in a boat. The same approach can be used as if you were in a boat. The use of slip-bobbers will aid in longer casts getting you away from the thicker weed pockets.
Fall is my favorite time of year to fish: actively feeding fish, fall colors, and low boat traffic. The most important thing however, is that perch are some of the best table fare you can get.
Enjoy ever time on the water, winter is coming soon.