It didn’t take a rocket scientist to quickly realize that Doug Stroud had that special “something” when it came to catching Lake Erie yellow perch.
I hadn’t even tied the anchor rope off and settled my 27 foot Mako into a holding position and Stroud already had two jumbo perch resting on ice in the cooler and another two being lifted up and over the side waiting to be unhooked.
Perch-hungry or just plain enthusiastic, my guest for the day was obviously showing me his stuff and it was pretty impressive to say the least. The cooler lid was hardly closed down on fish numbers three and four and a fresh pair of emerald shiners were impaled on his hooks and being lowered down towards the bottom of Lake Erie.
I decided to pick up my camera instead of a fishing rod and simply sit back and get a little work out of the way before enjoying a little pleasure. By the time I had the image framed and focus adjusted, Doug’s setup of lead sinker, minnows and hooks had settled momentarily on bottom.
I use the word “momentarily” because the instant the gear had made touch down, Stroud had the reel’s bail engaged, the monofilament taut and the bottom of his rig, a ¾-ounce sinker just tickling the lake’s sand base. Ever so slowly he began a short, slow lift of the rod and immediately the sensitive, light graphite tip bent down under the protests of another Erie sowbelly.
Stroud was proving to be a fishing machine.
Less than five minutes into the game, three drops of the bait and he was connecting and beating jumbo perch number five. Enough of the picture taking, a couple of quick pics of angler and quarry and the camera was stowed away and my own rod was put into action. Same rig, same bait and same results. As soon as the sinker hit bottom, one crank of the rod handle and I could feel a pair of struggling perch fighting against the pull to the surface.
If perch aren’t Lake Erie’s favorite game fish and if Lake Erie isn’t home to the best perch fishing anywhere on the continent, I’ll give away all my rods, reels and fishing tackle.
On the Canadian side of Lake Erie there is a very liberal day limit.
The possession limit is set at a one-day possession as well. In less than three hours Doug and myself had our limit of 100 deep-bellied yellows and that also included sorting and releasing a few little guys that were allowed to swim another day.
The Lazy Man’s Rig
As I’ve already noted, Lake Erie is a perch fisherman’s paradise. If weather and water conditions are suitable it’s only a matter of practicing a few simple basics and limit catches are the rule and not the exception on any day and any season of the year.
First there’s the matter of presenting minnows properly to hungry perch. Doug and his fishing buddies refer to their bait presentation as the Lazy Man’s rig. It’s simple to tie, simple to present and it simply catches fish and lots of them.
It’s the lazy man’s way of successfully counting perch on Lake Erie.
Stroud always takes along a dozen or more pre-rigged leaders. There’s the chance of being broken off by an occasional Lake Erie 10 pound or heavier walleye while bottom bouncing for yellows. Lake Erie’s bottom is notorious for rock reefs that love to claim lead bell sinkers, hooks and swivels.
The rig itself, is comprised of a five foot length of 12- to 15-pound Maxima fluorocarbon leader material, two size number 4 or number 6 Tru Turn 853Z3 blood red bait holder hooks, a lead bell sinker that varies in weight from ½- to 1-ounce and a micro barrel swivel.
The proper placement of the hooks is crucial.
Doug ties his own snells, but the 303G style Tru Turn series comes pre-tied and can be attached by way of Bear Paw No Knot connectors. First simply tie the appropriate desired size lead weight to the bottom of the leader. The first snelled hook should be tied directly off the bell sinker. The upper snelled hook should be positioned so that this hook in the drop position is approximately 4 to 10 inches above the lower hook and snell to prevent tangling. Tied snells should measure no longer than 8 inches in length.
Some may question the idea of tying the bottom snell directly to the sinker, but trust me it’s true! My first experience with this rig had me originally a doubter, but time after time the bottom hook-up paid off more than the upper hook in most situations.
When you are getting out fished by someone like Stroud, it’s a smart move to play follow the leader.
It could be that a lot of those fish are nosing bottom in search of food or it could be that the slow lowering and raising of the rig is causing the lead sinker to fall to the lake bottom and disturb sand and gravel and in turn attract the attention of hungry yellows. Just trust me, experiment with one snelled hook tied directly off the bell sinker. Eastern Erie anglers know their quarry is most often feeding right near bottom and that’s where presentation should be.
Rod, Reel and Line
Even big perch can be considered small fish. Seldom weighing more than 2 pounds and most often tilting the scales around half a pound they match up great with ultra-light or light action rod and reel combinations. Everyone seems to have their favorite combo, but over the years I’ve lived by the theory of “why use a tow truck to pull in a bicycle?
I love light action gear and in this instance light whippy action gear means more enjoyment, more action and more fish.
All my perch rods and the rods used by my fishing partners are just that, ultra light or light action. These graphites measure from 5 to 6 feet in length. They have more than enough backbone to set a hook and sensitive tips that can identify the feeding nibbles of even the pickiest perch 60 feet below my boat.
At present, three of my favorite lightweight are standing at attention in my rod rack and waiting for action. They are the Fenwick HMG-53L, the Fenwick HMX-60L2-IM7 and a special rod built for me by Gary Loomis on one of his top line North Fork Composite blanks model number S562-HM.
The two Fenwick rods are matched with Pflueuger and Abu Garcia ultra-lite spinning reels, while my new baby, the North Fork Composite mini-wand is mated with nifty little Daiwa Steez EX.
Those in the know, might wonder just why I would spend a week’s salary on that hand tied perch combo North Fork Composite rod and the Daiwa reel. Well, the answer is simple. I just reached the grand old age of 65 last summer and when that first well deserved senior’s check arrived from my version of Uncle Sam, I couldn’t think of more deserving gift for myself. And boy is it a dandy. Not only for tasty perch, but any other panfish, trout or bass that has fins, gills and can swim.
When it comes to line and deep water Erie perch, super lines and braids are a must. The majority of the lake’s perch fishing takes place over 30 to 60 feet of water.
These new lines eliminate the stretch factor that often comes with monofilament. Less stretch means it is much easier to detect the softest of bites. Due to the fact that the Lazy Man’s rig is comprised of ultra clear fluorocarbon, the main line spooled on to a reel can test out at as much as 15 to 20 pounds in strength. Remember also super lines and braids such as Berkley Fireline , Spider Wire and Maxima Treazure are thin in diameter, as well as being tough and durable.
Lake Erie perch fishing is an all year affair, but the best bites and hottest action generally takes place from mid-September and right around the calendar until late May.
One prolonged cold snap and the yellows begin to congregate and the fishing action heats up.
A dependable boat, a quality fishfinder, a trusty anchor, a long rope, a bucket of lively minnows, the Poor Man’s Fishing rig and you are guaranteed the best perch’n imaginable.
– written by Darryl Choronzey