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Autumn tops for yellow perch

By DICK MARTIN • Aug 26, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Every area angler knows that Lake Erie yellow perch bite all 12 months of the year, including under the ice, but it's in the last part of August, September and October that the perch season really begins. Already I'm hearing reports of good to excellent catches on headboats and private craft, including a friend who returned home recently just two fish short of a limit

“Some of them were dandies,” he said. Right now in the Western Basin perching has been good near the turnaround buoy in the Toledo shipping channel, near Niagara Reef, Green Island and Rattlesnake Island (particularly the west and north side), west of Catawba and south of Kelleys Island.

The fish have had long months to grow, so average size should run larger than usual, and since they're feeding up for winter, action can be fast enough in the right place to fill a limit in a very short time. Possibly more important, autumn perching is usually done in crisp, cool weather under a blue sky with fluffy white cumulus clouds, and that weather is coming shortly. A perfect time to fish.

Many of those who pilgrimage to the big lake each fall are worried this year about a lack of emerald shiners, and that was indeed the case several weeks ago. One fisherman called me to say "We had to hit five bait shops to find some minnows, and they turned out to be fatheads."

But apparently, the lack of shiners is over for the moment, thanks to an influx of golden shiners from elsewhere — and finding some should be no problem.

If there's a problem this month and next, it's finding schools of perch willing to bite. They seem to bunch up tighter in fall, so fishing here might produce goose eggs, while moving just 50 yards or so might see a full cooler. Another occasional fishing buddy was up last week with a couple of friends and said "I thought we weren't going to catch anything that day. We moved to four different places and never got a bite.

We marked fish in all four places, but either they weren't perch or they wouldn't bite. The fifth move was to about three miles off the Castle and there we hit them big time. Singles and doubles, and they were running to such good size that we were throwing back eight inchers! Every fish I brought back was nine to twelve, and they were nice, thick fish.

There are several ways to fill that 30 perch limit: go out yourself or with friends in a private boat, walk onto a head boat, or book a charter on a six pack. The first is probably least expensive, since most just share gas. The head boats will charge anywhere from $35 to $50 depending on days of the week, age, and other factors, and the charter boats usually run $350 to $500, though that might be shared by up to six fishermen.

For close to shore fishing in smaller boats, two of my favorite places are off Ruggles Beach and near Starve Island off South Bass after trailoring over a boat. I like fishing just off Marblehead too, particularly around the lighthouse. Sometimes even perch won't hit, usually due to stormy weather and fronts moving through, but if the weather is nice and a boat is catching little or nothing, there's usually a good reason. One is that too many like to motor forth, join a pack of other boats and fish there all day on the theory that the boats have gathered there for a good reason. Often enough this tactic will work, but the schools move here and there, and staying where they were rather than where they are is a poor idea. So, you move and move again until you find hungry customers. Then when they quit biting (swam elsewhere), you move some more. A simple tactic, but it'll get you fish.



• Earlier this year, Ohio residents were asked to share their experiences and opinions regarding their favorite outdoor activities on public lands. Their replies? — 82 percent of survey respondents said that recreational facilities were very important to their enjoyment of outdoor activities. The main reasons for engaging in outdoor recreational activities on public land was for fun and entertainment. Ohioans participating in wildlife activities favored wildlife viewing nature photography and bird watching. Camping responses indicated tent and pop-up campers were more popular than other types of camping vehicles.

• The use of DNA has become very popular for everything from proving paternity to genetically producing frost resistant tomatoes. But these days fishery biologists are using DNA fragments suspended in water to catalog invasive or native species. “We have sharpened the DNA tool so that if a river or a lake has threatened, endangered or invasive species, we can ascertain genetic detail of the species here,” said David Lodge, director of the Atkinson Center. Additionally, by sampling DNA fragments in water scientists can collect fish habitat data without the need to capture fish. That's far better than the old hook and net methods.

• Preschool- through 12th-grade educators who are interested in sharing nature with others are invited to attend a workshop in Mansfield on Sept. 21. The free workshop will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., will focus on Ohio's outstanding bird diversity and how educators can share it with students. Pre-registration is required and details can be found at wildohio.gov or call Jamey Emmert, ODNR Division of Wildlife at 330-245-3020.


Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at richmart@neo.rr.com. You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.

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