Fishing on Lake Ontario
Catch a mess of fat tasty yellow lake perch, offer a menu of the golden fried delicacy and watch them disappear. There is a reason why our Canadian friends to the north allow tons to be taken from Lake Erie, restaurants all across the Lake Ontario shoreline offer perch dinners, and many anglers supplement their incomes catching and selling yellow lake perch. The simple reason is they taste great in addition to providing plenty of steady fishing action.
Perch are one of the most abundant fish species in the entire Lake Ontario system, which includes the countless bays and the St. Lawrence River. High numbers of this fish species usually means good luck for anglers. Like any fish species, yellow lake perch can be elusive and a bit difficult to locate at times, but when you find them limits will come pretty easily.
Perch are a schooling fish. The trick is to locate a school and mark it either visually with shoreline structures and depths or set the waypoint on your GPS. Often during summer a school of yellow lake perch may remain in the same location for days or even a week or two before disappearing. Once you find them, target that location until it no longer produces; as an old fishing friend once said, “you never leave fish to find fish”.
Often, a school of perch may occupy a very small area, and staying on top of them can make the difference between success and failure. If you are lucky, with a dead calm day your boat will hold pretty much in one area, but with any wind or current you definitely need an anchor capable of holding your boat without drifting.
From my experience fishing the St. Lawrence River in the early spring until late June and early July, good schools of perch fishing can be in water as shallow as 10 feet or in deeper water – up to 30 feet. You must seek out this game fish, because they are not everywhere. In the Clayton area my first source of good information on where perch may be comes from the Thousand Islands Bait Store where we purchase bait, since they willingly give accurate reports about fish action on the river.
When fishing for yellow lake perch, you are either going to catch them almost immediately after dropping anchor or quickly drifting though an area, or you’re not at all. If you fail to get action, cruise the area at slow speed at various depths while keeping a keen eye on your fish finder. A blank screen can suddenly come alive with marks indicating a school of perch. When fish are noted on the screen, quickly plug in the waypoint or visually catalog the depth and a couple onshore structures. The school may occupy an area no larger than your living room.
Summer & Fall Fishing
As summer months begin to fade and water temperatures warm, the perch, like most fish species, will move to deeper cooler water. To find good schools for fall perch fishing don’t be afraid to begin your search in 35 to 50 feet of water. Late last summer we found huge perch off Round Island in 65 feet of water.
Year Round Fishing
My perch fishing in the last few years has largely been confined to the St. Lawrence River; however, over the years, I have done equally well in the Henderson Harbor area, Chaumont Bay, Sackett’s Harbor, Sandy Pond, and the Mexico Bay area of the lake.
Picking the Best Bait
For yellow lake perch fishing on Lake Ontario, I concentrate on live bait using mostly minnows, but will sometimes try a half of a crawler or even a little twister tail if I am fishing a double hook system. Competition for food is fierce within a school of perch, and more often than not, when you hook one on the minnow another one will attack the second hook no matter what your bait is.
Increasing Perch Size
Over the last few years, the size of perch caught while perch fishing on Lake Ontario has definitely increased. I have found that using the bigger bait like bass minnows does mean bigger fish in the cooler; yellow lake perch 10-13 inches long are common. According to Russ McCullough, Region 6 Fishery Biologist, the perch population in the lake and river has not necessarily increased that much in recent years, but due to good forage, the size of average perch has definitely increased, anglers are catching larger fish while perch fishing on Lake Ontario than in years past.
Invasive Species As A Food Source
The full impact of the recent invasive species “round goby” into the Lake Ontario system is still not known, but for now they are providing an important food source for perch, walleye, northern pike, and bass. My biggest perch for the 2010 season from the St. Lawrence was 13 inches, but reports of 15 and even 16-inch perch being caught floated among the angler gossip.
Inexpensive and Exciting for Anglers of All Ages
It is likely that no other type of fishing is less expensive or as action packed as yellow lake perch fishing, which makes it an ideal fishing adventure for the family, and especially the kids, who will love the action these fish provide. And when you consider how great tasting these perch are, it is an extra bonus.
Original Article By Doug Fuegel
About The Author
Doug Fuegel has written for Woods & Waters, New York Sportsmen magazine, New York Outdoor Times, and Empire Outdoor Journal. He has also contributed to the Palladium Times, Great Lakes Fisherman and other regional publications. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers’ Association of America, President of the Eastern Lake Ontario Salmon and Trout Association, and member of the Lake Ontario Sportfishing Promotion Council. You can reach him at (315) 668-9492.