Eddie from Toronto, Ontario with a double-header we landed. What a pair!
Not many would argue that Lake Simcoe is on a really short list of the world's best perch fisheries. My guests and I have taken some enormous fish in the past week. Clear as tap water, we've been hunting perch down in a variety of environments on this big lake, from shallow weeds to deep, shell-plastered basins. Ever hooked a perch that pulls drag, bulldogs and dominates the average spinning outfit? These fish are big enough to lip like a bass and they're a fascinating species to hunt. I'm lucky enough to have Lake Simcoe in my backyard. Right now is one of the best times all season to get into those 13, 14, 15 and even 16 inch slobs.
In addition to billions of gobies swarming the lake's floor, Lake Simcoe also sees biblical-level fall runs of emerald shiners. Rafts of these little guys push into a variety of structures and the entire food chain follows it in lockstep, perch included. We've also seen evidence lately of magnum fish eating on small, 3 to 5 inch herring. Of course, all this feed sets up a natural collision course. Being on good spots with flexible and thoughtful presentations, you can run into swarms of fish that will blow your doors off.
Working offshore structure in deep water and suddenly having a school of shiners filter past you the size of a football stadium is a wild experience. These comprise a staggering amount of biomass in Lake Simcoe. Good feed grows big fish. I got lucky with my camera on this one, using my polarized lens, on the lake's eastern shore.
Dan with proof positive about how good food grows big perch. He booked a largemouth trip with me back in July, on Georgian Bay and we planned out a fall perch trip for him. We picked a date and made it happen!
The gobie connection is a big one. Large perch gorge feed on them. The smaller ones they prefer are generally tan, smoky or olive green in colour. Being a bottom-dweller, gobies are sitting ducks over sandy basins or gaps in weeds. Check this bait out from my friends at Custom Jigs 'n Spins and B-Fish-N Tackle. It's called the RPM (Rotating Power Minnow). It has some major technical improvements over other lures in this style, but to me, the paint finishes are the clincher. Think this thing looks like a gobie? I sure do! Last winter, I jigged up two of my biggest Lake Simcoe lake trout on this little baby, too. Trout love gobies as much as the perch do.
They don't get much bigger than this in Canada. I caught the biggest perch of my life on October 24, 2016 on a Rotating Power Minnow in 33 feet of water. On bright days--even in that super clear water--I've always done well on hot colours for perch. Perch that can make a guy's knees shake? There's nothing like it.
I use my AquaVu Micro5 SD to gauge the fish I'm over instantly. It's a valuable tool on big water. There isn't a sonar on earth that can tell the difference between a ten inch perch and a thirteen inch perch. But that's a big difference to a guiding guest, trust me. Guest Greg and I locked down a school of big perch the other day and also used the AquaVu to completely re-tool how we were fishing. Catching big perch is no different than any other fish. You gotta stay light on your feet and be able to adapt non-stop. We fish a range of vertical jigging lures, soft plastics and bait rigs all day, everyday out there. If you stop seeing fish or getting bites, you can't wait for big perch to fall out of the sky. I fish with a purpose, I stay aggressive and I work at it until something clicks.
Big Greg with a shallow water whale. That's a big fish, friends. Greg's hand is the size of my landing net. They'd stopped biting on vertically fished hard baits right at noon, two days in a row. Greg went to a real simple, soft plastic rig and dinged a pile of big perch in a hurry.
Details, details, details. Dropping down to lighter braid and a heavier weight one morning got a huge school fired up in a tough wind. So many times in fall, if you're not rubbing bottom, you're not catching fish. We made that tiny adjustment to our rigs and what a difference.
One of hundreds of big, Lake Simcoe perch we've released in the last week. There's my go-to rod/reel outfit: the Quantum Smoke 15 and a 7'0 Panfish Series spinning rod from my friends at St. Croix Rods.
This time of year means big wind most days, and boat control is rarely easy. Being able to fish slow, stay on bottom and feel strikes will make or break your perch fishing. I work my butt off out there running the boat for my guests and use a variety of tricks and devices. From spot to spot I might use the bow mount electric, stern mounted electric, drift socks or the old, reliable anchor. Part of the reason all those shiners group up and move in fall is to escape wind and rough water. Don't drive past sheltered bays, coves or other places perch can herd their food easily. These spots can be easy to fish, being out of the wind and waves. On the windy spots, don't be afraid to fish heavy weights and lures---all the way up to 3/8oz or more. Simcoe giants are used to eating big, and this stuff fishes like a dream when it's windy. Dainty lures still catch plenty of fish, but they drive me nuts.
Fall fishing always means fishing in wind. My formula never changes: dress warm, dig in your heels and work with whatever Mother Nature gives you Here's a nice double taken on live bait after I was forced to anchor near a school we spotted o the AquaVu. Take your time, feel the bottom and fish as slow as you can. The perch still bite in windy weather.
My fleet of perch rods are all the same: little, size 15 Quantum Smoke spinning reels, ten pound Maxima Braid8 and the 7' Panfish Series rods from St. Croix. From 1/16oz jigs to 5/8oz drop shot weights and any lure in the box, this combo handles it all. Fun to fish, super sensitive and plenty of power for big perch. I use four and six pound Maxima fluorocarbon leader material.
And on it goes. The water is still warm, right around 59F. The perch fishing gets even better as we cool down. That's hard to believe, but it's true. Come take your shot, I'll put you on 'em!