Lake Erie Perch

Lake Erie Perch
Lake Erie Perch

Perch fishing on Lake Erie is a fun way for friends and family to fish and take home a tasty meal. With generous daily limits of 30 perch per person in the Western Basin, the potential to take home a limit of perch is excellent. Perch fishing tends to pick up in the Spring and late summer time frames.  In the spring, perch move into shallow areas to spawn and attract fishermen looking for a trophy catch. In the late summer, the western basin of Lake Erie attracts perch looking for easy meals as they migrate across the lake.



Perch Population on Lake Erie



Lake Erie is known for a good perch population in the western and eastern basins. In recent years the central basin perch population has been lagging. The Western basin of Lake Erie has had a good population of perch for decades.  The Eastern basin population has been steady the last few years, with New York leading the pack.



Perch Fishing Techniques



Perch are simple fish to catch.  The fish are bottom dwellers for the most part, so fishing your bait on the bottom is key most of the time.  Some Eastern and Canadian areas have seen perch roaming in the middle of the water column for the past few years.  Using electronics to pin point fish is key in these areas. 

The technique mostly used is a double or triple hook spreader or crappie rig fished on the bottom.  Cast or drop the rig straight down, and test to see what is producing bites.  Sometimes the perch want the bait laying on the bottom, other times it can be suspended above the weight.  Use a weight heavy enough for the conditions you are fishing.  Using up to 1-ounce weights is not uncommon.



Lake Erie Perch Rigs



Spreaders are typically used on Lake Erie to catch perch.  Spreaders are specialized rigs designed to maximize your chances of landing multiple perch with a single cast by utilizing three hooks. Anglers can expect to catch multiple perch on each drop if fishing around a large school of perch.  In recent years, crappie rigs and drop shot rigs have become popular.  These rigs have a smaller profile and a more natural appearance to the perch.



Live Bait for Perch



Summer is in full swing on Lake Erie, and anglers are eager to capitalize on the yellow perch fishing season. Other species of Lake Erie fish like different baits at different times.  This is not the case with yellow perch, they will bite the same type of bait day after day.  The go-to bait for these prized fish is the emerald shiner, locally known as “lake shiners.”  Medium-sized emerald shiners work best on Lake Erie.  However, there are times when emerald shiners are scarce due to various factors like challenging fishing conditions or limited availability. In such cases, anglers must explore alternative bait options such as the golden shiner to ensure a successful day on the water.


Golden Shiners (“Goldies”) as an Option: One common solution when emerald shiners are unavailable is to use golden shiners. These shiners are brought in from southern bait farms and are generally more accessible than emerald shiners during scarcity. However, some anglers believe that yellow perch are less inclined to bite on goldies, and they often come at a higher cost due to shipping expenses.



Catching Lake Erie Emerald Shiners



The Challenge of Emerald Shiners: Emerald shiners are the preferred bait for yellow perch due to their natural appeal. They are typically caught at night when their attraction to light makes them easy to net. However, certain conditions, such as clear moonlit nights, heavy algae blooms, or rough waters, can make it difficult to catch emerald shiners. Anglers need to be prepared for the possibility of not finding them at bait stores.



Preserving Emerald Shiners



To mitigate the impact of bait scarcity, some anglers take proactive measures like freezing batches of shiners or preserving them in salt brine. These preserved baits can serve as excellent alternatives to buying goldies or resorting to artificial bait. Most fishermen that preserve emerald shiners use a brine.  Some even use vodka as a preservation substance.



Artificial Baits for Lake Erie Perch



Artificial Baits: Although artificial baits are less popular among yellow perch anglers, they can save the day when live shiners are scarce. Anglers can experiment with minnow-imitating soft plastics like Berkley Gulp Alive. Instead of using them on a bare hook, consider two alternative methods: the drop-shot rig and the jigging spoon. These techniques can mimic the natural movement of live shiners and entice perch.



Finding Yellow Perch on Lake Erie



Perch fishing typically gets good in the Western basin of Lake Erie around mid-summer.  If you don’t like chasing walleye heading East, perch fishing is a great alternative around the islands. 


Finding yellow perch on Lake Erie can be challenging sometimes.  In the spring, look in Sandusky Bay, that is where they spawn.  They will hang around that area until the water warms.  When summer is in full swing, that is when perch shines.  Look for perch to roam around the islands and in open water.  Around the islands focus on current points between South Bass Island and Kelley’s Island.  In open water to the East, electronics play a major role.  The most efficient way to look for perch is at cruising speed while reading the graph.  Perch will look like blobs on the lake bottom, sometimes looking like they are stacked.