The yellow perch (Perca flavescens) is a very popular species of panfish in North America as well as around many parts of the world. They are abundant in large numbers within the Great Lakes region and many other places such as streams and ponds. Yellow perch are also one of the most desired fish species and they are highly sought after because of their flaky white meat and abundance. Related closely to walleye, they don’t have teeth and they are highly regarded as one of the best tasting freshwater fish. They fight well for their size and they are fun to catch.

By utilizing some basic methods, you can learn how to catch yellow perch more often. Always remember that you can be successful regardless of your techniques as long as you do it right. Catching them is one of those activities that can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Although you do not need an expensive ultralight setup, having one will serve you well. We will be going over some of the tips and techniques you can use to land some more of these great fish. You can get them to bite consistently as long as you know what you are doing.

Gear That Makes Catching Easy – Rod, Reel, And Line

Almost everything about catching them fishing is easy, including the gear you need to get started. An average specimen weighs in at a little over one or two pounds. In other words, these fish are pretty tiny compared to most fish targeted by recreational fishermen. This is helpful because you can choose pretty much any tackle in your arsenal. You don’t need a hugely expensive rod, a fancy looking reel, or line that is made specifically for this fish. As far as most panfish goes, you can go out and catch them with pretty much any tackle you have on hand. Expensive is optional. You do not need the expensive stuff. You can use a stick or a cane pole.

Hands down, the best all-around line for specifically targeting them is a light monofilament. Six-pound mono is really all you need. No need to overdo it. Six-pound test is light enough so it is very sensitive but not as susceptible to breaking as lighter lines like four pound and two-pound test. As far as the color of the line goes, clear seems to be the most effective, however, it is also the most used. I have had equal success with just about every color of line out there. These fish are like crappie. They have a lot of similar habits to crappie. Similarly, they are not line shy.

They don’t care if the food is connected to a string. It doesn’t stop them from having a go at your bait. Considering this, some may choose to use braid because you can see it extremely well and it is extremely sensitive. Monofilament may stretch too much for some. Fluorocarbon is sensitive like braid but is very hard to see. Being able to see your line being pulled on or tugged is extremely valuable to have especially when you are after fish this size. They can be light biters.

The optimal fishing setup is a stiff ultralight crappie rod that is at least eight feet long with a fast action and a spinning reel spooled up with six pound monofilament fishing line. If you have been wondering what setup is needed to catch all the big and small fish you want in the most efficient manner, there it is. You can fish all the live bait rigs and lures you want with a single rod and reel setup. It can cast light lures as well as live bait rigs which is what you need.

Find the Fish to Find Success – Finding Good Fish Spots

One of the trickiest parts is finding the fish. Like crappie, they will readily hit an abundance of fishing lures to different types of bait if fished the right way. Also like crappie, finding them is hard work but rewarding. They generally like more open water but the baitfish they will be chasing is often mixed in with trees, rocks, fallen branches, and reed beds. Normally, you will find them chasing the baitfish around. They go wherever there is food to eat. You can find some in ponds, rivers, and especially lakes. Always make sure you are looking for their main food.

They are the most abundant in areas with large populations of baitfish. The Great Lakes region is one of the best places in the world to fill up some stringers with these great catches. Shore fisherman will usually catch much smaller fish on average and this is just indicative of fishing from shore. Those who are on a boat will be fishing very deep as they like to congregate near the bottom to pick up things like rusty crayfish and round goby. They also like big shiners.

The trick is to find the structures and other habitation variants that can house the natural food. It will take time and patience but the payout is worth it. Once you find one, you will often find more because they are a schooling species. You almost never see them roaming alone. Try searching brush piles, sunken trees, rocks, timber, grass, and weed lines. They love that stuff.

Use Live bait For Live Results – Why Live Bait Is Popular

The most common and popular method of catching a ton of fish is using live bait on a hook. It is a method that is easy and foolproof. There is hardly ever a time when these or any other fish will refuse real food. They enjoy minnows, silver and gold shiners, worms, leeches, insects, and various crustaceans among many other things. Find out what the primary forage of the population is in your body of water and use it. What they naturally eat is always the best option.

Most of the time, the primary forage is at least one species of small fish. You can keep fishing minnows alive and use them to rake in some success. Some of the time, you cannot use live bait to catch fish. You don’t have that option because of laws or regulations that prohibit live bait or certain types of live bait from being used. If you can’t use minnows, but are allowed shiners, use those. If you cant use shiners but can use minnows, it is recommended to give those a try first. They are not picky eaters at all, but they prefer small fish if they are available and they often are.

They can also be lured in with worms, insects, and even crayfish. Always catch your bait from the same body of water you will be fishing in to avoid introducing invasive species, diseases, and parasites. Live minnows can also be added to the hook of a jig for more enticing bite appeal. There really isn’t anything to live bait fishing. Just simply hook a minnow or shiner in the back of the tail with an Aberdeen hook, attach a float to the right depth and you are golden. If however, you want a good rig that will work for live bait as well as cut bait that also allows you to catch two or more fish at a time, see below. The rig described below allows you to catch a ton of fish.

Cut Bait for Yellow Perch – When You Can’t Use Minnows

A great alternative to using live minnows is to use cut bait. They will still bite cut bait as long as it looks somewhat like a live minnow, for obvious reasons. The trick to hooking them with cut bait is to cut them in long thin strips. Try to get long and thin pieces of meat similar to how a minnow looks. As for what fish to cut, it can be pretty much anything. Usually, a healthy, oily, fish is all it takes to get some takers, no matter the species. Usually fish like carp, shad, shiners, herring, and suckers all work well. Some cut baits will work better than others. Fish is best.

Other options include bluegill, catfish, bass, and believe it or not, other yellow perch can also be extremely effective. You will want to run cut bait on a live bait rig the same way you would if it were alive. A good method is to cast out the live bait rig dressed with cut bait and slowly reeling it back in. For a good cut bait rig that catches these fish very effectively, consider a three way swivel tied onto the line with Palomar knots. Why a Palomar? It is easy to tie more than one of and it is one of the strongest fishing knots out there. We really like the tag end that you can use.

It always has a tag end that you can utilize and alter the length of. You will always want a very secure line to swivel connection. Losing two swivels, two or more hooks, a sinker, a lot of line and two very good fish will cause a ton of stress on you as an angler. The first swivel is attached to your main line. Coming off the side of the swivel is a length of line also attached via a Palomar knot, a length of line at least four inches and a live bait hook attached with another Palomar knot. Dressed onto this hook is your cut bait. Try to cut minnow shaped pieces of fish meat.

On the lower end of the swivel, the line is tied directly to it and after a certain distance, another one of the same rigs is tied. On the lower end of the line that comes down off of the swivel, tie a loop knot connecting a pyramid sinker that is heavy enough to keep the weight on the bottom. This will allow the sinker to bump into rocks and other debris as the rig is retrieved through the water. This creates an enticing action to your baits that gets the attention of hungry mouths in the area. If you want to catch smaller fish, use smaller baits. If you are exclusively after Great Lake jumbos, the minnow should be no smaller than a jig used for walleye. Size of bait does matter.

Learning how to catch Yellow Perch is much easier if you can use the right rig. The cut bait rig can be used for cut bait as well as live baits and soft plastic minnow lures to produce much the same results.

Artificial Attraction Using Lures – Popular Perch Lures

Although live or cut baits are the most popular methods of targeting bigger fish, it certainly isn’t the only way that it can be done. They will also hit artificial lures as well. A benefit of using lures instead of living bait is that you can still have consistent success without keeping bait alive or having to keep bait at all. It is also a much cleaner alternative. Using artificial baits for any fish is always a little more complicated, but once you master how to choose a lure for the species you intend to catch, your odds of filling up livewell and stringers go way up. Its actually easy.

The lures you should use to entice them are dependent on the season of the year and the temperature of the water. For the summer months which is arguably the best time to be out fishing, the ideal choice is a faster-moving bait such as a spinner or a smaller crankbait with a realistic paint job. You want the lure to imitate a small fish trying to flee. Good spinning style lures include the original Roostertail, Mepps Aglia Spinner, and Johnson Beetle Spin.

Some good and proven crankbaits include the Rapala Shad Rap, Rapala Ultra Light Minnow, and Rat L Trap.  In colder months, a very natural-looking lure like a slow-moving soft plastic minnow or a curly-tailed grub often produces strikes from actively feeding fish. Effective soft plastic minnow lures for most fish include the Berkley Powerbait Power Minnow, Bobby Garland Baby Shad, and Berkley Gulp Alive Minnow. Plastic minnows can be jigged and retrieved. You can even fish them on the above-listed bait rig instead of using cut bait or minnows. That will also work very well and do wonders for your fishing success. Just make sure to keep the rig moving.

A bucket full of different sized yellow perch sitting on a wooden dock.

Methods On How to Fish and Use These Lures Correctly


A straight retrieve is often enough to get Perch on lures that have a blade and spin. Just reeling it right back in can be very productive. If that doesn’t seem to be producing, try a stop and go technique. Reel in that lure very quickly and then stop it. Try to experiment with how fast the fish want it. Reel it in slow or fast. The fish will often let you know by hitting it rather aggressively.

Miniature Crankbaits

Crankbaits are reaction lures. The action is caused by reeling. Naturally, a straight retrieve can put more Yellow Perch in the boat for you. Using a straight retrieve on a crankbait will often produce feeding Perch as well as aggressive reaction strikes. Another effective method is to twitch and pop your rod while you are reeling. It imparts a very unique action that the Perch cannot seem to resist, especially when your crankbait has a very real looking paint job.

Crappie Jigs

Using jigs and jigging spoons are one of the best ways to target Yellow Perch especially for ice fishermen and are the best perch lures. Jigs can be used through the ice or in open water with equal catch rates. Jigs with a curly tail work very well when you want a lure to retrieve. Straight tails and split tails work well when you are vertical jigging from the boat. For more aggressive fish, you can attach a spinner to these already effective lures to create flash and more water displacement. They are very versatile lures.

Soft Plastic Minnows

Soft plastic minnows are the golden standard that all lures are compared to for Yellow Perch fishermen. They are quite simply the best. To fish a soft plastic minnow, fish them slower to start with. Choose a minnow that closely resembles the natural forage of the Perch in your water body. Mount it on a similar colored jig head or an unpainted one for the best results. Even without tails, you can straight retrieve a minnow lure through the water and Perch rarely will ignore it if they are close by. Minnow lures will catch Yellow Perch every season of the year cold or hot with very little change in how you fish them.

Catching Yellow Perch Is Easy Once You Know How

No matter where you choose to target Yellow Perch, one thing will always hold true. You can catch them consistently if you know how to. Whether you are after a livewell full of miniatures that you want to fry up, or if you are after Great Lake jumbos, all can be caught if you follow the basic needs of Yellow Perch fishing. Learning how to catch Yellow Perch will help enormously for your Perch fishing success. You don’t need fancy equipment or tactics. All you need is a basic understanding of what catches them consistently and how to utilize those techniques.

What methods do you use to catch Yellow Perch? Have any tips or tricks you want to share with the rest of us? Click reply and leave a comment below to let us know what works for you!

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