Before I let David share his many years of wisdom, I wanted to say a few words. Perch was, as I'm sure a lot of new anglers, my first introduction to fishing and has a very special place in my heart. These little guys seem to be everywhere and are a great way to get kids interested in fishing. The Orillia Perch Festival was also my first time being social with this hobby - I've met a bunch of amazing people because of it.
This year (2022) the yearly Orillia Perch Festival was cancelled due to COVID causing many business to have a lack of availability for prizes to donate. Every year I see David donate his time, money and effort to help make this festival amazing for everyone who attends. Every year he shares his knowledge and has great giveaways for the kids - as I'm sure you've seen from some of my YouTube videos.
If you've taken any time to go through his social media (David Chong (@fish_hard) • Instagram photos and videos), you'll see he's a fantastic angler who has the ability to catch a ton of different species. Perch and David always seem to link in my mind though. I'm so very happy he was able to take some time and share some of his expertise with us so we too can get out and catch some above average size Perch! - Jason DeValadares
Lake Simcoe is famous for its numerous world class fisheries, probably none more famous than the “JUMBO” Yellow Perch fishery. This fishery is especially prolific during the spring, autumn & winter seasons but spring is by far the best time to target Lake Simcoe’s delicious Yellow Perch. Spring is spawning time for the Yellow Perch and they gather in massive numbers to spawn and keep this amazing fishery going strong! At this time of the year, you’ll have the best opportunity to catch a trophy or personal best perch!
In the spring, you’ll find these large numbers of perch around any areas that provide the proper spawning habitat. Usually, some type of hard bottom with some vegetation to hold the eggs as they are dropped by the females! The smaller males swarm the ripe females bulging with spawn, urging them to drop their eggs so they can fertilize them with their milt.
The great thing about Perch fishing is that you can keep it as simple as you’d like or make it as complex as you’d like. A simple slip float setup rigged with a split shot, a #4 Owner Mosquito hook and some type of live bait works great for shallower fish. If you’re targeting deeper fish, then a drop shot or a pickerel rig armed with live bait is very effective. The lowly nightcrawler or a lively Emerald Shiner works extremely well with either one of these set-ups. An ultralight to medium spinning combo spooled up with 4-8 lbs. test line monofilament can easily handle either one of these presentations.
Personally, I like to target these “JUMBO” Perch with artificial baits. My favourite perch rod & reel combo consist of a 7’ light power fast action rod combined with a 1000/1500 sized spinning reel. The reel is spooled up with hi-vis 6 lbs. test Sunline Siglon PEx4 braid, the orange hi-vis line helps detect those subtle bites. A 12-15 foot long 5-6 lbs. test Sunline FC Leader is key especially as the water clarity at this time of the year is usually gin-clear! The 7’ rod allows for longer casts in order to get my baits further away from the boat for those spooky fish.
For spring “JUMBO” fishing, my go-to bait is a jig. Now there are many different types of jigs that you can throw for these “JUMBO’s”! If I find them shallow (less than 12 FOW), I like a 1/16 or 1/8 oz. Guru Panfish jighead rigged with either a Grumpy Baits Mini Minn-Fin or a Z-Man 2” GrubZ. Colours can range from natural ones like Emerald Shiner or Pumpkin to white, pink or chartreuse depending on the water clarity! You can even match the Guru Panfish jighead colour to your bait as well! I like to work these jigs pretty fast, covering lots of water! A swimming action with short hops is probably the best way to describe the way that I work these jigs!
If you wish to cover various depths of the water column then a jig with a safety pin spinner will allow you to cover a ton of water. The original Beetle Spin works great or you can just add a small Colorado blade to your favourite jig. By controlling the speed of your retrieve, you can fish this bait at various depths. The faster that you reel, your lure will come in higher up in the water column. Just chucking and winding will allow you cover lots of water and search out those “JUMBO’s”!
In deeper water, I switch to a 3/16 -1/4 oz. Ultra Tungsten ball heads and a Grumpy Mini Goby bait or a small 2” tube jig. I stick with natural colours like pumpkin and goby colours when targeting them deeper. Vary your retrieve and let the fish tell you what they want. Some days it will be a slow drag along the bottom and other days you can work your lure much faster, swimming and hopping it. When you get bit, a smooth sweep set will get the hook into them. The longer 7’ rod also allows you to pick up line quicker for a more solid hookset.
My next choice would be a drop shot rig made up of a #4 Owner Mosquito hook, a 3/16-1/4 oz. Ultra Tungsten cylinder drop shot weight and a Z-Man 3.5” Trick ShotZ or a Mini Minn-Fin! You can cast out this rig and slowly drag it back to the boat or you fish it vertically while over the fish. Subtle shakes will create an appetizing action that will trigger more bites. Natural minnow colours like Shiner or Emerald Shiner work great with this presentation.
When you do find them deep, a number of the same presentations that you catch them on through the ice will also work. You can fish vertically with a McGathy’s Slab Grabber, Jigging Rap, Puppet Minnow, small lipless rattle baits or a Rattlin' Rotating Power Minnow from Custom Jigs. Same as when fishing through the ice be careful not to overwork/over jig these lures when you’re working them. Lift, drop & hold or lift & hold will usually coax them in biting.
Perch are really fun because they are generally very cooperative and extremely delicious! If the bite gets tough, slow down and trying applying a quality scent like Liquid Mayhem to your bait! Liquid Mayhem is a gel scent so its adhesion properties are tremendous and it can definitely be the difference between getting bit and not getting bit! Shad & Garlic Minnow are my 2 favourite scents, at least until the Goby scent is released!
There are so many different presentations that will catch these “JUMBO” Yellow Perch at this time of the year. Try some of these or come up with your own way to fish for them but get out there and enjoy the “BEST” Perch fishing of the year!
David is one of the most recognizable fishing personalities in Canada as well as being a noted tournament angler. He is a multi-species angler who has won numerous bass, pike, perch & crappie tournaments and can boast of multiple, angler & team of the year titles. On the hard water, David enjoys targeting all species, including Lake Trout, Whitefish, Walleye, Herring, Yellow Perch, Crappie and all other panfish. He is most at home pursuing the famed Jumbo Yellow Perch on his home body of water, Lake Simcoe.