March has finally arrived, and with it, my favourite ice fishing time of year. Opportunities abound for co-operative fish across Northern Ontario, from the humble perch to the best species for fish tacos, whitefish, March is the time to get out on the ice.
It is never too late to start your ice fishing journey or to get a child hooked on a sport that will provide them with a lifetime of memories.
Perch are great fish for everyone to enjoy and the perfect fish to target for children or those just starting. They are generally very co-operative, and for the most part, there is no set bite time. Perch are one of the most abundant game fish and are in nearly every lake in Northern Ontario.
Perch spawn in the spring when the water temperature is approximately 7° to 10° Celsius. They gather en masse in shallow water on weed beds during this time, giving the angler ample opportunity to catch a good feed of these tasty abundant fish.
Manitoulin has many lakes with good numbers of healthy, fat fish. Mindemoya, Kagawong, Manitou and Wolsey lakes are the top spots and finding the fish is never too hard. It is easy to look for all the ice huts and plop yourself in the area.
I would consider myself a pretty good perch fisherman. I will let you in on a little secret: you don’t have to be too fancy to catch these fish. A light rod, four-pound test and a micro jig is all you need for a day of fun on the ice.
I do have two tried and proven methods that I use. My favourite is a small 1/16-ounce jighead with a small soft plastic bait. My go-to is the Eurotackle Y-fry tail in either gold or white, but any small soft plastic tends to work. Drop the jig to the bottom and reel up about 12-18”. I find the key to this presentation is to twitch the rod tip ever so slightly to make the jig dance. Typically, I will give two or three twitches and rest for one to two seconds. Rinse and repeat.
On my second rod, I use simple pieces of cooked shrimp or wax worms. This is my deadstick that will simply sit there, no jigging required. I will use an old-style walleye/perch rig, sinker on the bottom and two hooks coming off the line above it at approximately six-inch intervals. Try to keep the bait small, and I find a smaller presentation tends to work wonders. The above video shows the simple perch rig I use for deadsticking during all four seasons.
Grab your lawn chair, sunscreen and a group of family and friends. Get outside and enjoy some fantastic March weather. Hoards of perch will be patrolling large flats looking for an easy meal, so be patient, they will come.