By Steve Carney
There is no doubt in my mind that there is a bumper crop of young perch swimming in big-water lakes here in the north country. By September and October, they’ve grown to an annoying size and are so aggressive they strike just about anything an angler presents.
These perch are nowhere near “keeper” size, so I have made some adjustments to my fall walleye presentations to deter these pesky little critters.
I have given up on smaller crankbaits now in favor of extra-large cranks in the 5- to 6-inch size range. With anything smaller, you get lots of strikes from little perch and you spend most of your time releasing these tiny fish. Larger cranks provide a larger target for walleyes, and on some of the more popular perch lakes, the small perch even strike these, but the strikes are far fewer on the bigger baits.
Small sucker minnows
If you have ever tried to drift or back-troll a fathead and jig at this time of the year, you probably know that perch are even more aggressive in pursuing the live bait.
Once again, I have given up on fatheads and have moved to small sucker minnows about 4 inches long.
Much to the chagrin of bait shops, I choose to hand-pick these smaller sucker minnows if allowed.
You tend to catch more northern pike with these small suckers, but the larger minnow species keeps the perch away, and when you get a walleye strike, it often is a nice-sized fish.
Always remember to count to five before setting the hook on a smaller sucker bait, because walleyes tend to play with the larger minnows before taking them fully into their mouths.
For most situations, a 1⁄8-ounce jig with a long-shank, light-wire hook works well. I bury the long shank into the sucker minnow, which makes the minnow somewhat weedless.
A good hookset will drive that hook well into the walleye once you wait the 5 seconds.
I am still seeing large clouds of small minnows, which seems to indicate a huge perch hatch this season. This is happening on many lakes, which has made the walleye season a tough one. As these minnows get knocked down by predator fish, things should return to normal by late fall, I hope.