Fall is one of the best times of the year to catch awesome bags of perch. These fish are willing biters in October and November right before ice. The Great Lakes bodies of water seem to hold some of the best jumbo perch around. Let’s look at some awesome opportunities.
Saginaw Bay is an absolutely lights-out fall perch fishing destination. Big schools of nice size perch move into the inner bay as they prepare to haul up for winter. These fish tend to come in close to the weed edges in shallow water, where they can find good amounts of crayfish, small minnows, and bugs.
Catching these fish is quite simple. A good old-fashioned perch rig and minnows seem to be the bait and tactic of choice. Locating the fish with your electronics is a critical part of the game.
Perch are notorious for wintering in marinas and canals. Saginaw Bay offers these fish an awesome opportunity as there is an abundance of these types of habitats all around the bay. It seems like the colder the water gets, the shallower the fish will come. Many good guides take people on fall perch fishing excursions; just Google Saginaw Bay perch fishing guides, and a laundry list of names will come up.
Two guys who really know what they’re doing are Mark at Reel Fishing and Andrew Hendrickson at Northstar Fishing, both avid walleye guides but turn their attention to perch in October.
An awesome spot to launch is Linwood Beach Marina and Campground. It has ample parking, and your equipment is secure. A ship store will also take care of your bait needs and have snacks and food available for your time on the water.
The Monroe area of Lake Erie is another awesome perch fishing destination. Thousands of fishermen will visit Sterling State Park, or Bolles Harbor and perch fish from now through November. The same general situation occurs here in Monroe as in Saginaw Bay. Big schools of hungry perch come in from the deeper waters of Lake Erie and move toward the shallower waters in search of bait. These fish are very aggressive feeders at this time of the year as they are trying to fatten up for the winter months. Like Saginaw Bay, Lake Erie fish are most easily caught using perch rigs tipped with minnows.
Electronics again will play a big part in where you fish. These schools of fish will show up well when they’re suspended off the bottom on your electronics; remember, though, to drive around slowly, paying close attention to the bottom. Many times, perch can be sneaky and hold very close to the bottom, making it hard for you to immediately pick them out. Sometimes, a few stragglers will suspend up and give away the presence of a school that is tight to the bottom.
Sometimes, I will stop and fish for a few minutes when I suspect fish are there, but I’m having trouble marking them off the bottom. One thing to remember with perch, often if you get a few boats fishing in a general area, keeping baits in the water, you can get a school to become active and turn on. Other times, you just have to set up in a spot where fish are moving around and be patient and wait for them to swim under your boat. When this happens, it’s very important to keep baited lines in the water. Keeping minnows close to the bottom will keep the school around your boat. If you’re very conscious about getting the fish unhooked, getting fresh bait on, and getting back down, you’ll probably catch a lot more fish.
You can find good bait and fish cleaning at Jeff’s in Monroe right off the exit ramp toward the launch. Dan Woodward and Nick Dood are awesome guides in the Monroe area.
Traverse City Area
The Traverse City area around Suttons Bay can be another great spot. This spot holds a lot of nice fish, but they can be very tough to find, as the schools of fish are not nearly as large as they are and Saginaw Bay and Lake Erie. The quality of the fish can be outstanding, and catching eight or 10 per guy is probably all you’ll need to have a nice meal, as 12-inch fish are common late in the fall.
Like the other locations, having very good electronics and going slow while you look is very important. You’ll be fishing in deeper water in the Traverse City area than in other spots. Finding fish from 25 to 50 feet deep is not uncommon on Grand Traverse Bay.
The same presentations apply: perch, rigs with minnows fished tight to the bottom is the ticket. Sometimes, different color options on your perch rigs can pay big dividends. Having a good assortment of greens, oranges, chartreuse and glow attractors on your perch rigs can be super important. Also, make sure that you always keep fresh bait down. If your bait dies, don’t be afraid to change it out for fresh, lively minnows.
Captain Bob Hinds and Fish with Jim are two excellent guide options in the Traverse City area.
If you’re looking for a great inland lake option for fall perch fishing, check out the Alpena region on Grand Lake and Long Lake. These two lakes offer very solid fall perch fishing and also excellent early ice fishing for tasty perch. All the same pieces of advice apply to these two lakes as well. Use your electronics, have a splash of different colored perch, rigs and a lot of fresh bait. Be willing to look and move around before you fish.
These two lakes have given me outstanding days in the past and are absolutely worth a try if you’re looking for new waters to experiment on.