Perch and Walleye
Perch and walleye go together like bread and butter.
Usually if you find one the other one is somewhere
close by. A lot of studies have been done and it's
been found that the main diet of the walleye is perch.
I've also read many times that walleyes are the
laziest fish that swim, meaning they nearly never
move too far from their food source. I'll attest
to this also, having caught many of each specie
while fishing for the other. Now there is a huge
fallacy out there that says that walleyes and perch
are deep water fish. I'm here to tell you, "I ain't
so!" Yes, you can catch walleyes in 30 to 60 feet of
water at times, but having lived on a river that doesn't
have a depth greater than 12 feet and fishing in the
local lakes where the water never gets deeper than 25
feet and having caught a lot of both perch and walleyes
in both situations it kind of debunks that whole line of
thinking. About the only thing I will say is that both
species do live and feed near the bottom of the water
so you do need to get down to them, regardless if it's
4 feet deep or 20 feet deep.
To me, a stringer full of perch is one of the tastiest
suppers you can put on a table. Especially when they're
rolled in a good Cajun seasoned batch of cracker meal
and deep fried! Catching them is the tricky part because
they they're either feeding or not. Which means you'll
either catch a lot or none.
No, I can't tell the magic
formula for when they are or aren't. I watch the seagulls
here at the lake. When I see them flock to a spot it
usually means they're feeding on bait fish, which is
what perch feed on also. They are also very fond of
"wigglers," which is angler talk for maggots of the
golden fly. Don't ask, because I can't tell you. It's
like how many earthworms do you see swimming in the water?
Another important factor to remember is that perch swim
in huge schools, numbering from hundreds to thousands.
I've seen 40+ boats in an area and it looks like a "wave"
at a football game. As the school of perch comes under the
boats on the outside the rods start jerking, as it gets
farther into the circle boats, more rods start jerking.
Pretty soon the guys on the outside slow down and then
stop as the last of the school passes under them. About
15 to 20 minutes later the whole thing repeats. The perch
seem to circle swarms of bait fish and feed on them; it's
like a slow motion whirl wind.
So, what type of line and flies do you use to catch
these delicacies? Obviously, you need a fairly fast
sinking line. Along with that, small, light colored,
weighted nymphs or small, # 8 to #12 Clouser minnows
or streamers in the color of the local bait fish. I've
had very good luck using gold, bead headed nymph, a
fly called a "Near Enough" tied using additional weight
and some of the lighter colored caddis flies, tan shrimp
and Cream Nymphs. The bite of the perch is also very
tricky. It's one of the lightest of any fish I've found.
There's really a fine line between a natural looking
free fall of the fly and keeping enough tension to feel
the bite. Keep at it and you'll find that point.
As I said earlier, walleyes and perch usually go hand
in hand. Usually hanging around the outsides of the
schools you'll find the walleyes, picking up perch
that stray to far from the school. But catching walleye
is a completely different game! For one thing, walleye
have teeth. Very sharp teeth and their gill covers are
also sharp enough to cut your fingers, not to mention
your line. Many times I've been perch fishing only to
get a tremendous hit on the fly followed by the line
going limp. When I pulled the line in it was cut off
as clean as if I'd used a knife on it! Another thing
to keep in mind is that when your fishing for perch
you need very light tackle, like a 2wt. to 4wt. rod
with very light line and a fairly long tippet. On the
other hand, for walleyes you really need something a
lot heavier, say a 6wt. to 9 wt. rod, heavy leader and
tippets made from a braided or Kevlar line or steel.
Personally, I prefer the Kevlar, but that's just my
preference. Others will argue other lines or combinations.
When it comes to flies, walleyes seem to like them
bright, colorful and large. Yes, they also like them
to look like their favorite food, perch, but I've
caught many on what would normally be considered
salt water flies. Deceivers, dressed to look like
blue gills, very large (I'm talking 0/1 down to #2)
Clouser "minnows" dressed in the normal bass colors
but also in white with yellows, orange or chartreuse.
They also like large marabou and bunny leeches. You
can increase your catch chances by adding a "stinger"
hook onto the main hook, using a steel leader.
When casting, be sure to allow enough time for the fly
to sink to or near the bottom. Then slowly mend or reel
the line in. When a walleye hits it usually feels like
light tapping feeling on the line. When you feel the tap,
lower the rod tip, wait a second or two until you either
feel the tap again or the line tighten, then set the hook,
hard! You're going to want to get this fish on the reel
as quickly as possible, trying to fight a walleye by hand
with your line will usually wind up with the fish getting
away and you getting burned by your line. Play the fish
using your reel drag or by palming the reel, keep the
rod tip up and the pressure constant. If the walleye
wants to run, let it run then reel back in. If you allow
too much slack it will usually shake the fly and you'll
lose the fish. I've had many of them run me into the
backing before I could get them turned around. Once
you get into a walleye you're hooked on big game fish
like northern pike and muskies. On a fly rod it's like
you've just hooked onto a freight train. Just hold on
and enjoy the ride! email@example.com.
~ Fritz Fratz