“He’s there! Set the hook.”
I hadn’t felt a thing, but I trust Jason Feldner, so I snapped my wrist and felt immediate confirmation that a fish had taken my Lindy Bug. A few minute later I reached through the ice and pulled out a fat yellow perch.
A top guide on North Dakota’s Devils Lake, Feldner had coached me to watch the spring bobber once a fish got interested. Instead I’d gotten spellbound by the fish on the flasher and had failed to notice that the spring bobber had stopped moving but that my rod had not. Fortunately, Feldner doesn’t miss much.
He’d already found fish and discerned where they were and what they wanted. All that remained was execution, but sometimes that’s the toughest part.
Perch follow food, and at Devils Lake that includes freshwater shrimp, various aquatic insect larvae and fathead minnows. The shrimp are everywhere, according to Feldner, so the larvae and the minnows are the major location-driving factors.
He looks for mud bottoms and submerged brush and vegetation, all of which hold forage. The perch also tend to favor flats over defined contours, because the breaks hold perch-eating walleyes and pike.
The fish are nomadic and cruise in schools, so Feldner does not necessarily worry about marking fish as soon as he drills holes. He sets up in areas that the fish have been using or where he expects them to be and waits to see if they make a showing. He’ll often do some extra scouting from his truck once his clients are set up in an ice house and fishing what he expect to be the key area.
Prevalent food is just one thing that impacts the daily bite, so Feldner typically experiments early and watches how the fish react. He uses Lindy Toads to imitate freshwater shrimp and Lindy Ice Jigs to imitate insect larvae, tipping either with waxwoms or spikes.
He jigs these baits continually but with a slow and very slight rod tip movements. “A jig usually has to be moving for a perch to take it, but if you’ve been holding it still and then start moving it after a fish shows up, that usually spooks the fish,” Feldner said.
If it’s a minnow bite, Feldner favors a Frostee tipped with a minnow head or a Micro Slick Jig matched with a small live minnow. He hooks the minnow at the tail end, from the bottom to top, so the minnow constantly tries to swim away from the jig, and he normally adds little to no action of his own to this presentation.
Feldner spools his perch outfits with 1-4 superline, ties a swivel to the end of the main line and then adds a foot or so of 3- or 4-pound Lindy Ice Line as a leader.
No matter what jig he ties to the end of his leader, Feldner presents baits barely off the bottom for perch. “They don’t come up very far to feed, so you have to keep it close.”
He also emphasized slight movements of the rod tip and the need to watch and feel for exceptionally light strikes. He adds spring bobbers to rod tips for presenting anything other than spoons, and once a fish shows up on his flasher he turns his attention to the end of the spring and sets the hook at any unusual movement – or, as I learned through experience, for an unnatural pause when the rod tip is moving!
Want To Go?
Jason Feldner, Perch-Eyes Guide Service, Devils Lake, ND, www.percheyes.com
, (701) 351-1294