Lake Winnie - Patterns For Summertime Jumbo Perch - Jeff Sundin
By now, there aren’t a lot of Perch enthusiasts who don’t already know about Big Winnie’s great winter Perch fishing. But for my money, the open water season is the number one time to cash in big on the best Perch fishing Winnie ever has to offer. It’s been proven to me over and over again, that we will consistently have faster action and catch larger Perch during the open water season, than we do in the winter. For everyone who really enjoys catching fish, here are some tips that we’ve discovered over the years, that will help you round out your next summer Walleye trip on Winnie with some fantastic bonus Perch action.
Throughout the entire open water season, feeding habits dictate fish location and the foods available to the Perch at any given time, are the key to finding schools of "jumbo" and even "magnum" size Perch. Seasonal shifts in the food supply dictate their location and determine concentrations in key areas. Presentations and bait choices are often simple, inexpensive and require little special training. By following some simple rules of thumb, you can be on these fish all summer long.
During the spring/early summer season Perch are roaming the sandy flats feeding on the large schools of minnows in shallow water. The surface temperatures are cool and there aren’t a lot of bait hatches taking place yet. The Perch roam the shallows and are often located near schools of Walleyes that are also following the minnows. Many times we find these fish while we are looking for Walleyes and there’s nothing more to catching them than simply making the decision to stay in the area once you find them. One big difference between Walleye and Perch location in the spring is that Walleyes will often hold tight along a drop off, rock pile or other structure. Perch are more likely to roam the flat areas adjacent to these structures. To concentrate your efforts on the Perch, move your boat slowly in (toward shore) and out (away from shore) on the flats. Once you’ve located a school of Perch, slow down and spend more time fishing vertically than trolling. They react well to hopping and dropping your jig and Perch don't have much fear of the boat so they will actually gather under the boat for a short period of time. Once the school begins to break up, continue to move across the flats until you encounter another school. At this time of year the Perch will often move with the baitfish and it’s a good idea that we keep moving too.
As the water warms and we begin seeing insect hatches and Walleyes moving into deeper water, I start watching for my favorite Perch pattern of the year, the first Crawfish hatches. Perch love these little critters and will show up in big numbers to feed on them. Crawfish begin to hatch first on the shallow gravel and rock stretches located near shore and as the water continues to warm up, will eventually hatch on the deeper rock bars out in the main lake. Once these rocky areas are full of these small ½ to 1-inch size Crawfish, the Perch will begin to gather. These small Crawfish will attract and hold schools of fish for days at a time and since these hatches don’t all occur all over the lake at the same time, this pattern can be good for a month or more. This is action-fishing time and fishing aggressively with a bug-eyed shorty or bottom walking type of jig, tipped with a minnow or small piece of night crawler will get you lots of bites. Hop and pop the jig to get their attention and try switching to a slower vertical approach every few minutes to catch fish that have gathered under the boat. It’s a good idea to locate several rock/gravel stretches and check them all. Many times I’ll check 8 to 10 of these structures before I locate the one that’s holding fish. Once you find them, it’s Action City! Eventually the water warms even more and the young of the year Perch become large enough to be the prey for their cannibalistic cousins. During this late summer, warm water period, these small Perch minnows are found scattered all across the lake in open water. From now until fall, Perch can be found in a wider variety of locations, but are still fairly predictable. There will still be some fish holding on the rocks and gravel. But now there will also be large schools of Perch out in the main lake on deep structures like bars and humps. Another key location is found on the secondary drop off. To locate fish along this second drop off, you must first move away from shore crossing the flats that are typically 10 to 12 feet deep and watch for the break line. Unlike the first drop off in the shallows or the deeper main lake break, this secondary break line is subtle and usually drops only a couple of feet as it flattens out again before making the final plunge into the lake’s deeper basin.
Perch can be caught along this secondary edge on a lot of days when nothing else seems to be working. You know those August "dog days" that are sunny with flat calm water and blue skies. Try trolling slowly along this secondary drop with a simple live bait rig, using a shorter than normal leader of 2 to 3 feet. Tip the hook with a larger than normal minnow like those big rainbows, small creek Chubb’s or other lively minnow. You’ll be amazed at how large the minnows can be. These larger minnows are a great way to keep the little fish off your line and will really improve the chances of catching some bonus Walleyes or even Northern Pike. If the fish you locate seem aggressive, switch from the rig with a plain hook, to a spinner and pick up the speed. This is one of the few Perch patterns where covering water can be more important than holding still. These fish are often travelling in scattered, small schools and you’ll move in and out of these schools as you move along the drop off.
Fishing the deeper breakline can be done in virtually the same fashion. Adjust your weight for the deeper water and fish along the bottom edge of the breaks. At times we’ll find these fish in water depths of 30 to 35 feet, but always check the adjacent shallower flats too. At times you’ll locate fish holding tight to a point or rocks in this deeper water. When that happens, switch to a ¼ or 3/8 oz jig and try fishing vertically again.
The open water season comes full circle as fall approaches and the water begins to cool again. Gradually at first, then suddenly the Perch show up in the shallows looking for opportunities to fatten up before winter. Once again, locating shallow rocks and gravel become key and windy days that blow lots of minnows on to these spots will create premium Perch fishing opportunities. Fish become active on the windy days and can be located in 3 to 5 feet of water, right on top of the structures. On calm days, they can be found on deeper gravel stretches, along weed edges and even back out on the deeper breaks. The colder the water gets, the more it’s like fishing for perch in the spring. Fish will begin moving across the shallow flats searching for schools of minnows and we’ll begin to notice more fish mixed with schools of Walleyes on the shallower breaks.
Presentations throughout the season are simple. Arm yourself with a handful of jigs, a few live bait rigs and some spinners. Now you’re covered for 95% of the open water season. Even though it’s popular with some folks, I tend to avoid anchoring and bobber fishing because I believe the larger fish in a school, bite quickly and if you spend too much time in one location the average size will begin to get smaller. Moving through schools of fish and circling around structures will attract new fish and you’ll notice that you will catch more of the premium fish by moving slowly.
Over the years, we have really grown to love these fish for their scrappy fight, plentiful supply and great eating. Whenever you make the trip to Winnie, take the opportunity to spend some time chasing these great fish and I think you’ll be happy you did.

*Jeff Sundin is a full time professional fishing guide and the purveyor of fishrapper.com .

image of fisherman holding jumbo perch
For my money, the open water season is the number one time to cash in big on the best Perch fishing Winnie ever has to offer. It’s been proven to me over and over again, that we will consistently have faster action and catch larger Perch during the open water season, than we do in the winter.

image of young girl holding Perch
As the water warms and we begin seeing insect hatches and Walleyes moving into deeper water, I start watching for my favorite Perch pattern of the year, the first Crawfish hatches.

Perch Lake Winnie

Perch Skip Finch
Presentations throughout the season are simple. Arm yourself with a handful of jigs, a few live bait rigs and some spinners. Now you’re covered for 95% of the open water season.

image of Jumbo Perch caught on Cutfoot SiouxGradually at first, then suddenly the Perch show up in the shallows looking for opportunities to fatten up before winter. Once again, locating shallow rocks and gravel become key and windy days that blow lots of minnows on to these spots will create premium Perch fishing opportunities.


Jiggin' Magic - Tips For Jig Fishing Walleye During Cool Water - Tom Neustrom
image of Tom Neustrom and young man holding Walleye

Jig fishing for walleyes is like Apple Pie and Motherhood. When given a choice of what lure to use to catch walleyes, the greatest percentage of anglers and guides alike, will tell you they catch more walleyes early and late in the season fishing a jig and minnow combination.
I learned how to jig fish for walleyes at a very young age from an older crafty Swede that told me ”make the jig dance”. I realized this chunk of lead needed me to make the erratic motion to make the jig dart, pop, glide in ways that drive walleyes crazy. Whether you cast and retrieve, drift with the wind, or slowly back or forward troll, jig fishing will put walleyes in the boat consistently.
Color isn’t always a big factor, but I am partial to shades of green, chartreuse, combinations of colors like parrot, and sometimes on clear water, just plain lead color. The size and weight of your jig will most often be more important than color. Depending on the depth and speed of your jigging, presentation controls your choice of jig size. In shallow depths I prefer one eighth ounce and sometimes even a sixteenth ounce for very shallow depths. If I fish depths over 10-12 feet then I will change to a quarter ounce so I can control the speed and keep my jig in the zone. When spooling up with line for my reels my choice is premium 6-8 pound test monofilament like Sufix Elite. Fill your spools so when casting you can get maximum distance when casting.

Changing the cadence when jig fishing is essential to being successful and I always say “give em what they want”. Change up you speed until you consistently start catching fish and it can be a difference maker. Jig fishing is music to walleyes and a great way to fish and put walleyes in the boat. - Tom Neustrom, Professional Guide Minnesota Fishing Connections .

Lake Winnie - Famous For Ice Fishing Jumbo Perch - Jeff Sundin

Lake Winnibigoshish; known as "Big Winnie", located in North Central Minnesota’s Chippewa National Forest has become famous among Perch anglers throughout the Midwest. This resilient lake provides reliable action and a better than average chance at true "Jumbos". Consistent Perch angling can be found easily by following a few simple principles that should help you take advantage of the main seasonal patterns and basic habits of the fish.

Simplicity is one reason that Perch fishing has become so popular. Most of the baits are equally well suited for shallow or deep water and will catch fish in a number of situations. It is unlikely that you’ll find a situation where only one bait produces. In fact most often, a group of anglers that are all fishing with different baits will all be catching some fish. There are times though when one will out produce another and it is a good idea to try different approaches.

Presentations vary, although jigging blade/spoon type baits like The Swedish Pimple or one of the countless imitations, account for catching a lot of these fish. This type of jigging bait is best when fish are aggressive. The most common approach is to tip the hook with the head or other small portion of a minnow. Lift and drop the bait every few seconds with plenty of pauses to allow the fish time to strike. Swimming jigs and many of the "Perch Eye" imitations are a great way to present live-whole minnows hooked in the tail. One of my favorites is a small 1/16-oz jig that is about the actual size and shape of a Perch eye. This works better when the fish are less aggressive or when more "pause time" is required. Perch will sometimes react better to these baits when they are gently moved or even laid completely still instead of the traditional jigging approach. Many of my friends use the same ball type jig head that you would normally use for Walleye fishing in the summer. A whole minnow hooked through either the mouth or tail can be jigged or fished slowly or even laid on the bottom. This is a simple, proven and consistent approach that should never be overlooked. Color choices vary, but I think it pays to use any combination of colors that resemble either of their two main food sources Crawfish or Small Perch Minnows. Combinations that include "glow in the dark paint" are particularly effective.

First ice and early season is a bonanza for those who get out on the large, shallow flats and shoreline breaks. Large schools of mixed size fish roam the flats searching for minnows and can be really aggressive. One of the great advantages of this early season shallow pattern is that fish can be easily released and you can pick out some of the better fish without doing damage to the rest of the school. Locating schools of fish feeding on minnows is a matter of moving along the breakline and checking for active fish. Be sure to check the flat areas on both the deep and shallow sides of the break. Most often the best fish will be active very soon after you start fishing a hole. After you’ve fished a spot for a while, fishing will either taper off, or the size of fish you’re catching will decline.

This is the time to move on, you can always come back and check some of these areas later in the day, after the fish re-group. But to locate premium areas you need to keep moving.Mid season Perch are easier to locate out near the main lake bars and humps. A handheld GPS, A simple GPS Lakemap and a Flasher will really pay off out here. Fishing these structures, it’s best to check for fish on top of the bar and then check again out on the deeper flats. Many times these fish are relating to the structure, but hold out on the flat in water 30 to 35 feet deep. Watch your flasher over the deeper areas closely for schools of minnows. If your flasher dial doesn’t light up with bait occasionally, plan to move on at the first sign of slowing action. Another key main lake pattern is the soft bottom areas on the edges of these bars and humps. Larvae in the "mud" will attract groups of fish and baitfish. You’ll find Perch feeding on these larvae with mud sticking to the roofs of their mouths. The larvae won’t leave the area like minnows will, so the presence of this food source will hold fish over longer periods of time. Late season action heats up on the shallower flats as the fish begin to move into spring feeding and spawning areas. Water depths are typically 10 to 20 feet and weed beds, sand grass or clam beds begin holding groups of fish. Like the mid season pattern, the presence of larvae on the soft bottom flats continues to be an important food source and will hold large schools of Perch in an area for days at a time. Moving to locate the fish is still important, but spring fish tend to stay in an area longer and you can usually find a spot to call home for the day.

It’s easy enough to get out there too. With help from the area bait shops and resorts, you can find plowed roads leading to good fishing areas, plenty of bait, tackle and advice, even fish house rentals. Most anyone can find enough fish to make a great weekend getaway and find a cure for "cabin Fever".

*Jeff Sundin is a full time professional fishing guide and the purveyor of fishrapper.com .

image of ice fisherman holding jumbo perch on ice
First ice and early season is a bonanza for those who get out on the large, shallow flats and shoreline breaks. Large schools of mixed size fish roam the flats searching for minnows and can be really aggressive.

image of jumbo perch laying on the ice
Presentations vary, although jigging blade spoon type baits like Lindy's reliable Frostee accounts for catching a lot of these fish. This type of jigging bait is best when fish are aggressive and can be tipped with a minnow, grubs or even artificial tails.

image of Tom Neustrom holding jumbo perch
Watch your sonar over the deeper areas closely for schools of minnows. If your flasher dial doesn’t light up with bait occasionally, plan to move on at the first sign of slowing action.