Perch fishing Lake Erie’s Western Basin

With this season’s perch fishing is firing up into full swing now, and I’d like to share a few tips with those who may be going out to try it for the first time. Hopefully, it will help you put more fish in your cooler.

Minnows: The emerald shiner, which is native to Lake Erie, and can be found in most of the bait shops in the area, is the best minnow for catching perch. While the golden shiner, can work in a pinch, if you present the emerald shiner and a golden shiner at the same time, the emerald shiner will out produce the golden every time.

When you go into a bait shop and see the line for people buying minnows, you’ll notice that most have an aerated bucket of some sort to keep them in. You don’t need to spend the money on one. Here’s why; I just bring in two one gallon sized Zip-Loc baggies to put my minnows in. I get funny looks until I explain why I use them instead of a bucket full of water. And, I do this is for several reasons:

1. The minnows can be thrown on ice in the same cooler that the perch will end up in, keeping one less bulky item out of the boat, and the money for an aerated bucket in my wallet.

2. The minnows stay fresher longer, stay firm, and do not lose their scales like they would if they perished in the bucket full of water. Once the minnow dies in the bucket, they float, lose their scales, and get mushy. Yuck!

3. The minnow is going to die as soon as you put it on the hook anyway, so why does it need to be alive when you first put it on the hook? Having a shiny and firm minnow is all that is needed. It doesn’t need to be alive.

Locating perch is the next step. The easiest way to find out where they are is to ask your local bait shop where they are biting when you pick up your minnows. Since you are buying something from them, they are more inclined to help put you on some fish, so you’ll come back to buy more minnows. It’s in their best interest to help you.  Also, be friendly and ask the other patrons in line where they are headed, and most folks will be happy to share some info with you (if they know themselves).  If they don’t want to tell you where they are going, don’t take it personal. Some people just are not willing to help others out. They don’t need to tell you their GPS coordinates, but if you can get a general area where they have been locating them, you can find them yourselves with the help of your sonar.

Look for areas where there is some hard bottom next to some soft bottom. We don’t have a lot of structure in Lake Erie, but there are subtle changes throughout the bottom structure, like around the reef areas or mid lake-hump areas.  If you drop your weight down and all you feel is muck, then pick up and try moving a little bit until you find the harder bottom. The harder bottom areas always seem to out produce the soft bottom areas.

Popular spots to check out, that are not that far off shore if you’re in a smaller boat, are the area between Kelly’s Island and the mainland. That entire area seems to hold perch all summer long. The deeper waters off of Kelleys east side, from Cedar Point to the green can on the NE corner of Kelleys Island Shoal, is typically good all season long too.

Gull Island Shoal has deep water surrounding it, and usually holds a good number of perch, as does the area up near Middle Island. If you’re fishing over to the west, check the area surrounding West Sister Island and the shipping channel coming out of the Maumee River.  B Can, C Can, D Can, and Niagara Reef are typically good areas to fish for perch too.

Once you find a school of perch, or perch like marks on your sonar, face the bow of your boat into the wind and set anchor with enough rode out to allow your boat to rise with the waves. If the line is too tight, it could cause you to slip off the productive spot you’ve just found.

A smaller rod is best for perching, in my opinion. I like to use a rod between 4’6” and 5’ with a little stiffer action for a quick hook set. My reels are loaded up with 8/20 fire line, which allows me to feel the bite better in deeper waters.  The two most popular presentations are the “spreaders” and the “crappie rig”. The spreader is a long curved wire with two mono leads coming off of it with a hook on each end of the line. A 1-2oz weight is balanced directly in the middle of the wire, which helps you keep it on the bottom where the fish are.  The crappie rig is an inline set up that is made up of heavy mono line with a 1-2oz weight on the bottom and two to three short lines that are attached every 6 inches and rigged with a single hook on each one. 

To hook the minnow, I put the hook through the body of the minnow once, and then turn it to put the hook through a second time. This keeps the minnow on a little longer than only hooking it through the minnow once when the “Houdini like” mischievous perch start trying to steal your bait.

I hope this help you catch more perch this season.

Good luck and be safe!

Captain Juls can be contacted by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or by phone at 419-835-7347. Her website is  Check out her blog for her latest fishing reports!

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