Rushing for a share of golden perch
Greg Karch and his buddy Tim Euting both grew up fishing the vast and mysterious waters of Lake Winnebago. Neither can remember perch fishing being as good as it is this year. These two guides and fishing educators both predict the best is yet to come.
“Most folks come to Winnebago looking for walleyes,” Euting said. “These fish are our bread-and-butter throughout most of the fishing year. But walleye fishing gets tough in late summer and early fall because there is so much walleye food in the water. Most years this gives a guide two options: chase panfish or try elsewhere”.
Karch has a passion—and gift—for teaching kids how to fish. This year he taught at 22 youth fishing events, reaching several thousand youth.
“Since beginning as a fishing educator in 2004, I have taught over 100,000 kids about the joy of fishing,” Karch said. “I’m always looking for the opportunity to spread the word.”
Karch is hard-wired to teach. He couldn’t help but offer pointers to this old dog last week when we shared his boat with Euting in pursuit of yellow gold.
Perch follow their forage base. For the next few weeks they will gorge on small invertebrates hiding in soft-bottom areas near lakes’ many humps and bumps, which are primarily rock.
“We call these areas transition zones,” Karch chirped while Euting set the hook on his fourth perch in five minutes.
“I look for a change in the bottom echo on my electronics which indicates a soft bottom over 10-13 feet of water and then drop the anchor. Sometimes you need to move the boat a few feet to land on the mother lode, but fine-tuning boat location can mean the difference between catching a few perch and a bunch of perch.”
Euting swung two more fat 11-inchers over the gunnel as Karch offered this insight. I was sitting between these two local pros, changing rigs in an attempt to find something that might work even better than the basic set-up they were using.
This quest was abandoned once they had me down about 20 perch to zip. Reluctantly, I abandoned small jigging spoons and jigs for a variation of the basic hook-and-sinker.
Small details can make a world of difference in pursuit of pensive perch. The killer rig for Winnebago’s heavy jumbos begins with an ultralight spinning rod spooled with 4-pound test monofilament.
A 3/8-ounce egg sinker comes next, followed by a barrel swivel. The real key to success is a 4-inch leader and No. 6 Tru-Turn hook tied to the other end of the swivel, with just a pinch of nightcrawler added to the hook.
Catching perch is a simple matter of letting the sinker hit the bottom, reeling the line up just four inches and resting the rod on the boat’s gunnel until a bite tickles the rod tip.
The only tip Karch did not readily reveal was placement of a single orange bead just above the hook. I came face-to-face with this epiphany when Euting had bites on all three of his rods at once and needed some help.
Trout perch are the major forage base of Winnebago’s wandering walleye population. Emerald shiners are next, followed by yellow perch. Several banner year classes of yellow perch in Winnebago have resulted in a solid population of 9- to 12-inch fish which many consider the finest fish to eat from fresh water.
Rigging for perch might be part of Karch’s next instructional video. He has already produced two videos available on his website, Learn2FishWithUs.com.
Karch’s instruction can help you catch more fish. But when it comes to catching fish, one fact trumps all other details: You can’t catch fish if your line’s not in the water.
The gold rush is on!
Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at email@example.com.