Big Perch in Open Waters
Larger perch are typically found in clean, open waters. Many large waters in Michigan, including the Great Lakes, Higgins Lake, Lake Gogebic, Lake St. Claire and other like-size bodies of water, are good places to find these big fish. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, less condensed perch populations, such as those in the open waters of the Great Lakes, will produce larger perch that are more difficult to locate.
More Fish in Shallow Waters
Although bigger perch are found in large, open lakes, the majority of the species are found in water less than 30 feet deep. Michigan is dotted with many of these shallow-water lakes throughout the Lower and Upper Peninsulas. Searching the shoreline will often result in the location of a school of perch hovering in a weed bed, or feeding on insects. Rivers that connect to lakes are also good places to look for small, shallow-water perch. If possible, begin at the river's mouth and work your way upstream.
Minnows, wigglers, earthworms, leeches, wax worms and small crayfish are all productive perch fishing baits. But any bait that imitates the species' typical meal of insects, large invertebrates, eggs and young fish will also produce. Use one of these baits on two hooks, tied one foot apart on a leader and weighted down with a sinker on the end of the line.
Jigs and Spinners
Though jigs and spinners are not the most popular method for catching perch, the species are sometimes taken with small lures that are intended for other fish. You can use these rigs when other baits are not resulting in bites. Murky water, or low light, is a good time to try a shinny spinner that is more visible to the perch.
Spring Spawn Run
Each spring, perch swim upstream to their spawning ground. Large schools will return from the Great Lakes and inland lakes, entering river mouths in large numbers. You are likely to catch your limit from piers, break walls, canals and riverbanks. Use the same tackle rig you normally use and choose a place that has a reputation at local bait shops for having a healthy perch spawn.
Winter fishing often produces large numbers of perch throughout Michigan. During the winter the fish can be found at all depths, but typically move toward shore at the end of the season. Teardrop tackle rigs with insect larva and minnows on standard hooks are popular baits among Michigan ice fishermen.