Outdoors: Erie perch fishing heats up in fall

This has always been my favorite time of year for Lake Erie fishing. Don’t get me wrong, I love walleye fishing. But since most charter captains have switched over to trolling almost all the time, I would rather go perch fishing.

To some, perch fishing is boring. You pretty much sit in one spot and if you don’t start getting bites within a few minutes, you move. Then you sit and fish some more.

I get it why some folks would rather fish for walleyes or smallmouth. It is a bigger thrill when you catch one. And the fish are larger — to some, size matters.

But I still like perch fishing. I think it reminds me of fishing in the Atlantic Ocean when I was a boy. Maybe that’s it.

So, thinking about Lake Erie, I contacted my friend Travis Hartman. As program administrator for Lake Erie for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, he knows just about all there is to know about fishing on the big lake. Here are some interesting facts he sent me about fishing for Erie perch:

“In the western basin the best yellow perch fishing tends to be on expansive mud flats. Perch school up late in the summer and into fall they roam the flats, eating emerald shiners, gobies and invertebrates (insect larvae in the sediment).

“One of the easiest ways of finding perch is to look for packs of boats. If you want to look on your own, watch your sonar as you run and look for lots of “clutter” on the bottom, 5 to 7 feet up. If you don’t see them on your screen, they aren’t there.

In the fall there are a lot of traditional spots that will usually give you your limit of yellow perch, Hartman said. Here are some of his favorites:

• The corridor between Rattlesnake and Green Islands, immediately west of the Bass Islands. On good days you’ll find boats scattered from southwest of Green all the way north past Rattlesnake. The bite can change throughout the day. The biggest schools can produce limits within a few hours.

• Ballast Island is a small island directly east of Middle Bass, just northeast of South Bass. The best bite is either directly south of the island or in the deep water immediately north of the island.

• Kelleys Island: Perch can be caught all around the island. Mud flats northwest and west can hold big schools, but the deeper water east of the island can also be exceptional. Try just off the east side of Kelleys Island Shoal and farther south off of Airport Reef.

• Marblehead lighthouse: The area just off the lighthouse might be best known of all the traditional perch spots.

• Clinton Reef: The shortest trip can produce the best fishing. Sometimes schools move inshore and feed in the relatively shallow water west of the green buoy that is just off of Catawba State Park.

“While these five areas are some of the most popular, there are plenty of others,” Hartman said. “If you’re looking for a longer run to get away from the massive packs of boats, try North Bass Island (including Taco Bell, the red bell buoy just northwest of the island), Northwest Reef, Lucy’s point of Middle Bass Island, just off the red buoy at Gull Island Shoal or the northeast corner of the Camp Perry firing range, around “B” and “C” cans, and Niagara Reef.”

About the Author