Posted by jlnorris on February 5, 2019 at 11:00 PM
People on several forums have asked about baits to use for yellow perch. The answer is that there are numerous baits that will work and all of them depend upon where you are fishing, the abundance and activity level of the fish and the skill of the fisherman. This is just about types of baits. For rigging and other tips see "My thoughts on winter fishing for yellow perch" below. Pictures of rigs are in Knots and Rigs in the photo gallery. I will also post some pictures of the types of lures described below when I get a chance.
LIVE BAIT: A little smell almost always adds to the appeal of an artifical lure:
Minnows will catch fish even on slow days, and for beginners, may be the best bait choice because they are as basic as it gets.. They can be used on a bare hook under a float, or soaked on the bottom. They can be used to tip a dart, jig or bucktail either under a float or retrieved across the bottom. For perch, I prefer minnows less than three inches long and under two inches is even better. Perch will take much larger minnows, but it also takes an average size perch much longer to get a larger minnow ingested to a point where hooking success is good. To me, it is even more of a problem when the perch ingests the minnow so deeply that it is difficult to remove the hook or worse yet, kills the perch. I have never had much success using circle hooks for perch either. Bull minnows or "minnies" are a good choice for baits but perch also feed heavily on small bluegills whenever they have access to them so 1 ½ to 2 inch bluegills are excellent baits.
Worms, either red worms or night crawlers, will also catch fish as will small pieces of shrimp and cut fish. I mostly use worms, shrimp or cut fish to tip my darts or some type of artifical lure. Grass shrimp are good natural baits as well if you can find them. If you are lucky enough to catch some keeper perch, the eyes and small strips cut from the perch bellies are good for tipping artificals.
ARTIFICAL LURES: Fast and furious when the bite is on:
I generally prefer artifical lures because I can spend a lot more time actively fishing rather that baiting hooks and unhooking deeply hooked fish. There are an almost endless variety of articial lures available and almost all will work at some time or other provided they are within a reasonable size. Having said that, I have seen perch caught on lures that were as large as the perch so there are always exceptions. But, matching the hatch will always be more productive than those fluke bites.
In general, on smaller, shallower waters, I use smaller baits such as Trout Magnets, Trout Magnet Crawfish, Johnson Beetle Critters, Berkley one inch Gulp minnows, Panfish Assassins, small Gulp baits such as Ice Fry, Power Bait Power Nymphs, tubes of all colors and similar small plastics that are 1 ½ inches or less. I also use a lot of shad darts in 1/64, 1/32 and 1/16 oz. sizes. My preferred dart colors are chartreuse green, pink, flourescent red or orange and gold. Dressing colors are generally greens, yellows, pinks, whites and gold. The majority of anglers use the small plastics and darts under floats with a twitching retrieve. An added advantage of the float rig is that the angler can pick up crappie and blue gill that are sometimes intemixed with the perch. Generally, I use the darts, and sometimes plastics, under a float also, but I often use the small plastics fished directly on the bottom with a slow twiching retrieve and have very good success. This method of fishing is so effective for me that I pour up special 1/8 oz. jig heads on a #4 hook so I can cast the small plastics and keep them dead on the bottom. It is fun to feel the "tic" in the line when a yellow perch sucks in the bait.
On deeper waters I usually use lures that range from 1 ½ inches up to as much as 4 inches because the forage in deeper waters tends to be larger. Here again, I most often trend toward the smaller sizes. I always carry an assortment of Johnson Beetle Grubs and similar knock offs in a variety of colors. I am particularly fond of Crappie Magnets and while various colors will work, I am partial to Blakes Glow and several other of the glow in the dark colors. Crappie Magnets in green chartreuse with silver flecks and the orange and yellow chartreuse are also very productive. Moving up in size, I use the 3 inch Gulp Minnows, Power Bait Ripple Shads, Gary Yammamoto Tiny Ikas in emerald glitter, yellow chatreuse and glow, Gary Yammamoto 3" curly tail grubs in glow and chartreuse and generic paddle or curly tail minnows in black and silver, gold and green, white and chartreuse.
The advantage of plastics is that they and the lead heads are relatively cheap so if you lose a bunch, they don't break the bank. I buy many of my plastics online from Barlow's Tackle
( https://www.barlowstackle.com/ )and I order the Crappie and Trout Magnets in bulk packages of 50 from Leland Lures ( https://troutmagnet.com/ ). I usually by the tiny Ikas and curly tail grubs locally. Often, I find some really good buys when Walmart reduces its prices to clear older inventory.
The best yellow perch trip I ever had was jigging a ¾ oz. blade bait on the Susquehanna in March 2009. It was drop the blade down to the bottom, jig once or twice and reel up a nice size yellow perch. I also jigged up three walleye on the blade that day as well. Once I had caught literally dozens of fish and had a nice limit in the box, I switched to a Gulp minnow that I had dead sticked while I was jigging the blade bait. I am not even sure if I got a bite on the dead stick rig but once I started to give it some action, they were all over it. This reinforced an important lesson that day-action draws strikes! Because blades have a tendency to hook almost everything, one has to be careful as to where they are used; otherwise, it can get expensive very quickly.
More to come later.