Perch rank up there with northern pike, walleye and even some trout when it comes to ice fishing popularity. That may surprise some, but perch bring a lot to the ice fishing table. However, knowing the best ice fishing lures for perch is key to catching them.
The 4 best ice fishing lures for perch are
- Jigs and raps
- Small plastic swimbaits
- Blade baits
Ice fishing for perch is a fun, often exciting and relatively easy way to fish on hard water. However, you must understand the ins and outs of the baits you use. Below, we’ll go into more detail about each of the lures above, but first let’s discuss perch in more detail.
Ice Fishing For Perch
Pound for pound, perch are the perfect fish in many anglers’ eyes. They fight like a cornered wolverine, eat just about anything they can fit in their mouths, often strike as a reaction, and they are fearless. There are stories of perch being caught, released and then immediately going after the same lure again.
Cold or warm water, ice or no ice, perch will give many other game fish a run for its money in terms of fishing enjoyment. They are also one of those cross-over fish that are as much fun to catch on hard water as on soft.
Younger perch school near the shore in the spring and early summer. They move to deeper water when the temperatures rise. Mature perch tend to live solitary lives, except when it is time to spawn. They will move to shallows to spawn and then move back into deeper, cooler water, often in the lower reaches of the thermocline.
That is an important fact as it means that perch tend to like cooler water. They are one of the few fish that actively forage for food in the winter, which makes them ideal sport fish for ice fishing.
Aggressive Is An Understatement
More than just about any other fish, except perhaps black bass in mid-summer, perch throw caution to the wind and will attack anything that captures their fancy. Because of that aggressiveness, they have a reputation for being easy to catch.
Landing large perch, though, is a relatively rare occurrence, mainly because older, larger perch tend to stay deep in the water and are a bit more selective when it comes to bait choices.
Most perch are between 5 and 8 inches long and are very aggressive feeders. They are related to walleye and sauger and have a lot of both fishes’ hunting and swimming traits. As far as fish go, yellow perch are not great swimmers.
As tends to be the case with many fish, females tend to be larger than males. Males, however, are generally more apt to strike at a bait, whether fishing beneath the ice or in open water. Perch primarily live in freshwater but are capable of living in both saline and brackish water. Perch are extremely resilient.
Food Preferences Of Perch
Year round, there are very few baits a perch will not attack given the chance. You can fish them with spoons, spinners, smaller topwater lures, jigs, spinner baits, soft plastic baits, crankbaits and just about any type of artificial fly. Perch will eat worms, minnows (dead and alive), frogs, insects, grubs and leeches.
Perch tend to be just as active – if not more so – during winter months. Schools of perch roam flats and suspend in basins looking for food.
Because perch schools tend to move a lot, you will have to run several ice fishing holes and use them to try and locate the schools. It also pays to use flashy lures to catch the attention of perch. Once you have their attention, though, their nature is to go after anything they think might be food.
Recommended Fishing Method For Perch
Ice fishing is done vertically. That is very different from the standard cast and retrieve method used in soft water conditions. The size of the ice hole limits the range and movement of any type of bait or lure used.
With that in mind, you want your baits to accomplish four things:
- Attract attention of a school of perch
- Present a bait/lure that is worth eating but not too much work for the perch
- Present a bait/lure that the fish can physically eat (making sure it is not too large)
- Provide a constant stream of action, glints and shiny flashes to attract fish and keep them interested
If you align your lure selection with those four goals, you will all but guarantee yourself a fighting chance at catching perch.
The 4 Best Ice Fishing Lures For Perch
1. Jigs And Raps
Jigs comprise a huge category of fishing lures. There are literally dozens of different types of jigs and jig presentations that are very effective with virtually all cold water fish. Perch, because they are so aggressive, will go for many different types of jigs.
But the ice fisher must be mindful of the relatively small size of a perch’s mouth and choose smaller jigs. Also, because perch tend to be smaller on average, the jig chosen should not be extremely long, wide or “bushy.”
One tactic that is very effective is to use a standard jig head and attach a plastic bait with a fluttery tail to it. Jig it as you would any other type of jig and then let it remain stationary. The natural motion of the water will keep the tail moving and attract perch (and likely some other fish too).
The Rapala Jigging Rap is one of the most famous lures used for ice fishing for perch. It is made for vertical jigging. Use the #2 and #3 size for perch. When jigging, twitch the rod a few times to get the bait moving and then drop the rod to the ice and let the lure move with the water. This movement is great for attracting the attention of perch schools.
The lure comes in several colors. Traditional perch colors, as well as brighter colors, tend to do well. One strategy is to have a few different color raps in your tackle box so you can match the color the fish seem to be responding to best.
The K&E Moon Jig is another ice fishing staple for catching perch. The jig is made for vertical movement and sits straight up and down in the water. That is perfect for using with plastic baits with a tail or live bait such as wax worms.
The Moon Jig also comes in a variety of colors, and you can readily find plastic skirts to put on them. Perch-like colors tend to work the best. Another dependable winner is the silver Moon Jig.
Another great jigging lure is the Rapala Slab Rap. This lure has a subtle motion that resembles the jigging rap. It moves naturally in the water, even with aggressive jigging. It works with and without bait attached to it. The Slab Rap comes in multiple colors. The quarter-ounce and eighth-ounce lures work the best with perch. Both sizes also work well with walleye.
Spoons are another staple when ice fishing. This is particularly true when fishing for perch. The movement of a fluttering spoon attracts a lot of attention, and they work with a subtle jigging motion if additional bait is put on them.
The key with spoons is to give it a jigging motion but let it fall on its own. You raise the jig and let it go, raise it and let it go. You may get a strike on the upwards movement, but it is more likely you will get a strike when it flutters downward. It can also be productive to let the jig drop all the way to the bottom as it resembles dying baitfish.
Johnson Weedless Spoons are good ice fishing lures for perch. You must tailor the size to the size of perch in a school, but they work well because they attract a lot of attention with an elongated flutter. You can also jig these with very small jigs to create a constant glint, which can also be effective.
The Johnson Weedless Spoon comes in a few different colors, but by far the most effective are gold and silver. For perch, a smaller spoon works best. Keeper perch will go after larger Johnson Weedless Spoons, but the fish that are most prolific like the smaller sizes.
Another great spoon for jigging under the ice is the Slender Spoon by Custom Jigs. This spoon produces major, unpredictable flutter action. To get it going, raise the jig and then let it drop. It is like a magnet for yellow perch because it has so much action.
You have a choice of colors with this lure, but again, the basic colors, like gold, are usually the most effective. You can fish the lure with small live bait. It also is hypersensitive to water movement, so you do not even need to jig the spoon to have it be effective.
3. Plastic Swimbaits
These work when jigged under the ice, but you need to make your selection of bait based on the type of fish you are targeting and their likely size. For example, with perch, a smaller, brighter swimbait will get the attention of a school of perch over a larger, darker version.
There are also multiple types of swimbaits, so a little experimentation might be needed. The best type are baits that provide a lively profile but are not so active that they appear to be too much work for a fish to take on. In terms of size, 1” to 2.5” lures work best. The colors you should focus on are silver, white, yellow and multi-colored.
One swimbait that is very effective because it has a lot of flutter action and its color sticks out in virtually any type of water is the Crème Lures Shad. This bait affixes to a jig head easily and provides subtle but almost constant action.
The best way to fish these types of baits is to raise it one or two feet, shake it a little bit at the higher height and then let it drop. You also can let it set in the water as its tail moves with even the slightest water movement, making it look like a hovering, suspended fish.
Another swimbait that tends to work well with all fish is the Strike King KVD Swim-N-Shiner. This is a longer lure and not as stout at the Crème Shad, so it tends to sit in the water with more stability. That means you must be fairly attentive with your jigging.
There are multiple colors of Swim-N-Shiners, although sticking to the basics seems to work best. Size-wise, the smallest length of 4”, which might scare off smaller perch, is a good size for anything over six inches long. It does possess some ability to move with water movement, so you can suspend it and still have success.
Curly Tailed Grubs are also great ice fishing swimbait-like lures. They are not exactly swimbaits, but they perform in much the same manner. Their flutter and action in the water is also livelier, which can attract several different types of fish.
You get a wide choice of colors with Curly Tailed Grubs, ranging from pink or orange to brown, black, pumpkin and just about every color in between. There are also multiple colored jigs that can add a flash of fluorescence to the tail. Additionally, some grubs have longer tails that create a very broad and active fluttering pattern.
4. Blade Baits
Blade baits come in a variety of forms. The most common is a mixture of a spoon and a swimbait and they are often made of metal, like spoons. Blade baits most often attach at the center of the top of the back of the lure. When jigged, they produce flash, flutter and vibration, as well as gliding away from your ice hole.
There are many different ways to fish a blade bait. These include:
- Using a hard jig upwards and letting the bait flutter down to the end of the line
- Using a hard jig upwards and letting the bait flutter down to the bottom of the body of water
- Twitching the bait to create a shimmering effect
- Bringing the bait up to the ice hole and letting it freefall to the desire depth
- Raising the bait about half a foot and twitching it, then lowering it a foot and twitching it
- Letting it set in the water and letting the movement of the water present the bait
You have your choice of colors with blade baits. Silver, multi-colored and perch colors are very effective. You also can get them in different sizes, including as small as a half inch and as large as several inches. Adapting sizes until perch start attacking is one tactic to help you dial in on the size of the bait you want.
Recommended Blade Baits
There are dozens of examples of blade baits. These include the Strike King 2 Blade Scorcher, traditional spinner baits, the SteelShad Blade Bait or any of the Cotton Cordell blade baits. Additionally, in a pinch, spinners like Worden’s Rooster Tail can be jigged very effectively by raising the bait and letting it flutter to the bottom.
The list above contains some of the best options an ice fisher has at their disposal when fishing for perch. Live bait works well with perch, as do many other types of jigs, spoons, swimbaits or blades. The key if you are going after perch is to dial in where they are and what they want, and then using the best lure to grab their attention.