How to Catch Perch: 10 Perch Fishing Tips [2022 Update]

Updated on September 20, 2022 by

Among freshwater gamefish, catching perch is the most fun and challenging. You have to sneak up on them at certain times of the day, attract them with lures, and resort to night fishing to catch a trophy perch.

It’s all worth the wait when you have the biggest perch of the season sitting in your cooler. For a beginner, the techniques of perch fishing can feel too elaborate. If you want to try angling, after all, starting with yellow perch will give you one heck of a time.

The most common species are yellow, white, and black perch. They are from the same family as walleye and sauger.

We’re here with ten perch fishing tips. Rest assured, the perch in your local pond don’t stand a chance! 

Perch fish caught and held up

When Is the Best Time to Catch Perch?  

The best time to catch perch is from late spring to early summer. Fishing for perch an hour before and after sunset is preferable during mid to late summer. 

However, the suitable times to fish for perch in autumn are the morning and late afternoon. Throughout winter, most anglers fish for perch under the subtle light of late afternoon and evening. 

Baits and Lures for Perch  
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Once you find a suitable spot, it’s time to give your perch the most attractive lure of its lifetime. Because if it had seen a better lure, it probably wouldn’t live to tell the tale. 

The best live bait for perch is worms, minnows, larvae, and crayfish.

A rule of thumb is to use lures smaller than what you normally use for walleye or bass. 

In our opinion, perch prefer bait to man-made lures. So, fishing with live bait can turn your perch hunting around.

Fishing for any freshwater gamefish takes effort, knowledge, and time. But yellow perch raise the bar with their unpredictable feeding and “ghosting” behavior.  

We’re here to take control and equip you with the best fishing tackle and equipment for perch. 

Right here is your Ultimate Perch Fishing Checklist:

Fishing Line 6 lb monofilament line 
Fishing Hook For small leeches and minnows: hook size #8 and #6 
For larger minnows for ringed perch: hook size #6 and #4 
Jigs Curly tail jigs, soft plastic jigs, 1″-2″ in length 
Fishing Rod An ultralight spinning rod of 6 to 7 feet in length 
Fishing Reel3000-sized freshwater spinning reel
Jig Heads 1/16-ounce jig heads (standard), 1/18-ounce jig heads (heavier), 1/32-ounce jig heads (lighter) 
Artificial Lures Inline spinners, crankbaits, and jigs, in yellow/white color combinations 
Perch Fishing Rigs Texas rig, drop shot rig, or spreader rigs with bullet weights 
This table shows the key equipment needed for Perch fishing

10 Simple Perch Fishing Techniques 

We’ve already discussed the best baits, jigs, and tackle for catching yellow perch. All there’s left to do is find those freshwater gamefish and claim your victory.

You can find bigger yellow perch in the upper Midwest and in the lakes and streams surrounding the Pacific Northwest. 

But with the following tips, you can fish for perch all year round. Seasoned anglers use the same tactics for catching big yellow perch off the bottom. 

Yellow Perch Habitat Map
Yellow Perch Habitat Map, Source: Wikipedia

1. Begin Fishing in the Early Morning and Evening  

Yellow perch feed during the day. They are more active in the morning during the first light and in the evening during the last light. It’s difficult to find feeding perch at night. 

If you want to reel in a big perch, make your move during the sun-up. 

Towards the evening, this schooling fish again becomes active and looks for food.

2. Deep Waters and Structures Are Great Fishing Locations  

Perch fall prey to bigger fish such as pike, bass, crappie, trout, muskie, and walleye. So, yellow perch tend to hide under the shadow of overhanging or downed trees.  

If you find it tough to catch perch without getting your line caught in the brush piles, present your bait with a slip float. 

To fish for larger perch in 20+ foot depths, use drop shot baits with vertical jigging. While casting in shallow lakes, you may find schools of yellow perch along the drop-offs. Slopes that run farther down the water column are good places to look for perch. 

3. Yellow Perch Like to Feed off the Ground

Perch hunt in groups, and one of their common feeding techniques involves ambushing small fish from below. They push their prey to the surface, skillfully blocking their escape path. If you see water bubbles in an area, don’t hesitate to fish for yellow perch in that location.

Adjust your float, so the live bait hangs from 6 to 8 inches from the bottom. The easiest way to catch a jumbo perch in the fall is to nail your presentation. Use colorful, realistic baits and keep your fishing boat ready. Still-fishing is often ineffective when perch are schooling in deep water. 

Yellow Perch

4. Target Reeds and Weed Beds  

Want to catch yellow perch this summer? Then looking under the reeds is your best bet. You want to use a float rig with natural bait when fishing around the reeds.  

Alternatively, you may use a drop shot rig with live bait because of its fast-sinking quality in warm water. 

Weeds and reeds give lake perch a safe place to hide and escape vicious walleyes. It’s common to find your fishing line in a knot after casting it directly into a weed bed. 

Always use a shallow-diving bait that can easily retrieve over a weed bed.  

It’s a common practice among perch anglers to remove one eye of a perch they caught and attach it to small hooks. A larger yellow perch seems to enjoy these tidbits more than smaller fish. 

5. Use Crankbaits, Swim Baits, and Spinner in Summer  

Anglers often find large fish in shallow water. But hooking them with a plain hook is tough. In that case, you have to upgrade your tackle box with a swimbait, a small jig head, and a spinner. 

Summertime is when perch are the most active. They chase after fast retrievable baits such as crankbaits or inline spinners. In mid-summer, when lake water temperature peaks, perch will stop feeding.  Many anglers wait until the water cools down in great lakes. 

As soon as the temperature settles between 65°F to 70°F, perch will take a varied diet that includes crawfish, shrimp, tiny invertebrates, insects, and other perch. Fall is a good time to give perch fish bits and minnows rather than an artificial lure. 

6. Go Ice Fishing for Perch with a Fish Finder  

To the untrained eye, locating schools of perch under a frozen lake is difficult. It doesn’t make ice fishing for perch any less popular. Cool water and the frozen surface add an element of surprise to yellow perch fishing. 

You can lure a lethargic perch with small spoons and red worms. But first, drill a 10-inch hole with an auger. It’s wide enough for perch and too narrow for people. 

Follow up with an ice skimmer to eliminate the remaining ice in the hole. Jig with maggots, minnows, and a simple spring bobber.

7. Use Slow Retrievable Baits in Cold Water  

According to most anglers, you should always go for curly tails and soft baits. Using soft crankbaits with weights will attract the bottom-feeding perch if you fish on the bottom.

To effortlessly reel in a yellow perch, use jig heads that can sink baits toward the bottom. 

During colder months, perch are lethargic and will scour the riverbed for dead bait. Using retrievable baits that slowly sink to the bottom can fool a big perch. As they start biting at your lure, more will follow. 

Man holding a perch caught out of the water

8. When in Doubt, Make a Texas Rig for Yellow Perch

With a drop shot rig, you can catch perch from deep water. It sinks fast and is easier to use than a Carolina rig. We suggest trying different rigs until you find one you’re comfortable using. 

The lead weight of Texas rigs gets your lure to the bottom of the lake, giving it a life-like appearance of live baits. 

For cold water yellow perch, we’ve found the following setups to be the most successful!  

  • Carolina rig  
  • Drop-shot rig  
  • Texas rig 

So, what’s the specialty of these rigs? For one, they help you fish baits fairly slowly. They have good casting accuracy and work no matter the size of your soft plastic lures. 

Speaking of lures, jigging spoons top our list of favorite lures for perch. A teardrop spoon paired with a natural bait attracts dimple-mouthed perch like nothing else.

Texas rig schematic

9. Fish with Small Live Baits or Worms 

If there’s anything we know about yellow perch fishing, they like garden worms and minnows. An earthworm is a no-brainer live bait for catching a big perch. We don’t recommend baiting your hook with whole nightcrawlers. They tend to be too big for perch mouth. 

Yellow perch seems to go to town on maggots and larvae.

10. If You Catch One Perch, You’ll Find More in the Same Location  

Perch is a popular gamefish because they make a great table fare and swim together in large schools. They overpopulate small lakes in the upper Midwest, spawning their hatch from mid-April to early May.

Since perch are schooling fish, you can find more panfish in a small radius.  

Re-bait your hook and cast your line around the area you caught your first perch. If you don’t have a fish finder, cast your bait under shadowy, overhanging trees, wooden debris, and near underwater structures.

Rounding Up  

Perch are clever gamefish found in small lakes, ponds, rivers, and reservoirs. Although they have a widespread habitat in the Northwest, catching perch can make you jump through hoops.

They’re hard to catch and are more inclined to play hide and seek with ice fishermen. Now that you know our perch fishing tips, you can catch and find perch anywhere in the world.

Photo of author

Captain Russ Egan

Captain Russ is an avid fisherman. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Curado Baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.