Mike Frisch is a fishing guide, among other things, in central Minnesota. He takes people fishing. Much of the time his guests want to catch walleyes or bass. And much of the time, they want to catch big walleyes or bass. But in the fall, every now and then, he gets a request to take his guests fishing for smaller fish, specifically perch or crappies. Typically, perch and crappies aren’t as large as walleyes or bass. A 14-inch perch or crappie is a prize, while a 14-inch walleye or bass won’t draw much attention. But, when it comes to on-the-table excellence, it’s hard to beat them! Perch and crappies gather in the fall, and when you catch one, you can bet there are others nearby that are willing to get caught.
Some lakes have a reputation for turning out perch, others are better known for crappie production. Figure out if you want to catch, and then do some homework. Visit area bait shops and see if you can learn if the crappies are biting better than the perch, or the other way around. There are times when one species can be easier to catch than the other. Most anglers will go after the ones that are more willing to be caught.
An effective way to start looking for perch at this time of year on many lakes is to find a large sand flat that tapers gradually into deeper water. It’s best if there is scattered vegetation on the flat. If you can find a flat that is 7-to-10-feet deep with access to deeper water, you are likely close to some perch.
A little wind, just enough for a nice drift, is helpful. The wind disrupts the surface of the water, and that prevents the perch from spooking. Move upwind of the flat, position your boat horizontal to the wind, and begin your drift. A 1/16- or 1/8-ounce jig tipped with a small minnow is a good starting bait.
Crappies can be found a little way out from the deep weedline, under deep docks, suspended over submerged timber, in the lake’s basin, and in a lot of other places depending on where you’re fishing. Again, some questions at the bait shop will help determine a starting point. Keep looking until you find the type of area that the crappies are preferring, then focus on areas like that. A minnow on a 1/16-ounce jig under a slip-bobber is again a good starting bait.
I’ve referred to a jig and minnow as being a good starting bait, and they are. However, once the fish are found, it will almost always be better to replace the minnow with a plastic bait. Our fishing guide Frisch goes to Mr. Crappie Shadpoles and Slab Slangers to catch crappies and perch. On a perch trip a year or two ago, I did the same thing and out-fished the live bait anglers by a considerable margin, and the perch that I caught were noticeably larger than the live-bait-caught perch. Additionally, plastic baits enable an angler to experiment with color, action, and profile. Plastic baits last on the hook much longer than live as well.
Frisch recommends a light action rod in the 6-to-7-foot length and 6-pound test line. He often uses the same rod for perch and crappies that he holds when he’s using a light jig for walleyes. Rod-maker Lew’s has a rod that will fit anyone’s wants and needs.
If you go fishing in the next few weeks, consider getting after crappies or perch. You’ll have a fun time, and whoever you invite to join you for a fresh fish supper will be especially glad that you caught some big little fish.