Here at aaronlesieuroutdoors.com, we constantly strive to provide our readers with useful information in which to help you catch more bass. With angler education being the goal, we decided to feature an ongoing series highlighting bass forage as every hard bait, soft plastic and swimbait on the market is designed to mimic something bass crave and hunt. This series features various bass prey, provides detailed information on the species and tips on how to match the hatch while out on the water.
YELLOW PERCH (Perca flavescens)
Yellow perch get their name from a distinctive yellowish to gold coloring and is easily identified by multiple dark triangular stripes that run the length of their body. Another distinctive characteristic are its orange lower or pelvic fins; these become noticeably darker on the males during the spawn. Yellow perch are also commonly known as American Perch, lake perch, jack perch, coontail, raccoon perch, ringed perch or striped perch. They have a long and slender body and the adults can range from 4-11 inches long; they have been known to reach lengths up to 15 inches with the world record caught in Bordentown, NJ back in 1865 weighing 4lb. 3oz.
The species is exclusive to North America, and although it can be found in all contiguous 48 states, the main concentration is located within the upper north east of the U.S and into Canada. The sparsely populated areas of the West, Midwest and South have been introduced by either stocking or the use of live bait.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY
Yellow perch live in clear lakes, ponds, river impoundments and they tend to congregate near heavy cover which can include aquatic vegetation, docks, brush piles and submerged trees. Perch are poor swimmers (comparatively speaking) and use both cover and schooling behavior to help avoid predators. When schooled up, the faster swimming perch can avoid being eaten by leaving the older and/or younger slower swimmers behind. They mainly feed during dawn and dusk, while moving out to deeper water for the remainder of the day. The hatchlings feed on zooplankton, while the juveniles feed on insects, small fish and small crustaceans, and once reaching adulthood, their diet includes crayfish, insects, fish eggs, and small fish. The mating season occurs once a year in the spring as water temperatures reach 45-55 degrees. Their preferred mating areas include shallow water with any structure that aids in the distribution of their eggs. If there is no structure available, the female is forced to lay the egg strand on the ground. The eggs are released in a gelatinous ribbon sheath that is strewn over any available brush, tree, or rock substrate. The gelatin like sheath helps protect the eggs from predators and disease and on average contains 25,000 eggs. Once the eggs are released, and after the male fertilizes the eggs, the female immediate leaves. The male remains only a short time after fertilization and does not stay to protect the hatchlings. Depending on water temperatures, the eggs hatch in about 2 weeks while maturing into adults in 3-4 years with an average life span of 7-9 years.
Locating and catching bass in yellow perch habitat is a two-step process which includes both locating cover and determining depth. Step one is to determine the different types, specific location and prevalent cover. You may have firsthand knowledge of the specific body of water you intend to fish which makes this step a slam dunk. Now if you are fishing a locale you are unfamiliar with, try talking with local tackle shops, search the internet to determine if any government or federal agency has specific details, and even review Google Earth as you may be able to see important features like docks, stumps, weed beds, etc. Step two is to locate perch feeding areas and the adjacent deep water in which they migrate during the midday. You can optimize your efficiency on the water by reviewing a paper map of the lake and/or the GPS map on your electronics prior to your outing. After you have completed your research and identified some key areas, once out on the water attempt to visually verify perch activity or listen for any surface activity that could possibly be perch feeding up on insects. Once you have located active perch habitat you can begin your search for the bass.
Most anglers have experienced the rush of having bass crush a bait on the surface so depending on the time of year (you probably won’t be throwing a buzzbait in the middle of winter) and during the low light conditions of morning and dusk, top water baits on shallow flats are a must. Possible bait applications can include poppers, buzzbaits, propbaits, frogs, and walking stick baits. Start with fast moving baits to cover water, locate active bass and ultimately determine their mood. If you are getting short strikes or noncommittal bass rolling on the bait, move to slower top water presentations and/or slow your cadence when using walking baits or poppers. If you determine that the top water bite is nonexistent, move to subsurface presentations. If vegetation is the primary cover, your presentation can include shallow diving crankbaits, lipless crankbaits, slow sinking stick baits, jerkbaits, bladed and non-bladed swim jigs and spinnerbaits. If the primary cover is docks, brush or submerged trees, try squarebilled crankbaits, Texas rigged worms or flip baits, jigs, or spinnerbaits. The squarebill crankbait should be bounced off as much cover as possible and thrown from multiple angles to entice those vicious reaction bites.
Once the sun gets high, follow the perch and bass out to deep water utilizing your electronics to verify their location and position to the available cover. Deep water presentations can include 1/2oz jigs, deep running spinnerbaits, deep diving crankbaits, Carolina rigs, and drop shots. If the primary cover is aquatic vegetation, get your crankbait or spinnerbait to run just over the top all the while ticking some of the foliage; on some casts try pausing your retrieve getting the bait stuck and ripping it out to get their attention and even drawing a few reaction strikes. If the cover is wood or brush, drop shot around the outer edges to entice patrolling bass and even the ones hiding inside. This is also the perfect scenario to deploy a deep diving crankbait as the long bill can deflect off hard cover, help reduce the likeliness of snagging and entice the weariest lunkers. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that when fishing any of the aforementioned techniques and presentations, having the appropriate line, rod, and reel is paramount to your success of not only hooking bass but also landing them.
The goal of this series is to familiarize you with the most common bass forage and some important characteristics of each that ultimately may equal more bites out on the water. Knowing the habitat, characteristics and behavior of the specific forage in your local fishery, and how and when the bass are relating to them, can provide that additional edge for a great day on the lake of fun fishing or fierce competition. Until next time, stay focused, fish hard and I’ll see you on the water
- Unknown Author. Fairfax County Public Schools. Yellow Perch. Retrieved on 8/15/16 from http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/yellow_perch.htm
- Unknown Author. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Perca Flavecens Yellow Perch. Retrieved on 8/15/16 from http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Perca_flavescens/#geographic_range
- Unknown Author. Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources. Yellow Perch. Retrieved on 8/15/16 from http://www.outdooralabama.com/yellow-perch
- Unknown Author. International Game Fish Association. Yellow Perch. Retrieved on 8/15/16 from http://wrec.igfa.org/WRecordsList.aspx?lc=AllTackle&cn=Perch,%20yellow