By Joe Picotte
The sun slowly creeps over the tops of the trees turning the sky a shade of orange, while the steam rises off the glass-calm surface of the water. Small ripples fan out in a V shape behind the boat as you quietly motor down the bay, creeping closer to the spot you found the day before. As you approach the weed patch, you cut the engine and drift in until you’re within casting distance, lower the anchor to the bottom and tie the rope off to the front cleat. Scooping a minnow from the bucket, you hook it under the dorsal, check your bobber and cast out into the water. It barely settles in the water, when suddenly it dips once, twice and then sinks completely. You set the hook and reel in a 12-inch jumbo perch. Does that sound like the perfect morning? If so, you need to try spring perch fishing in the Eastern Upper Peninsula (EUP).
Fishermen across the EUP impatiently wait and relish the spring days following the retreat of ice, eager to get their boats into the water after a long winter break. The first few weeks are incredible for perch fishing, and it’s an activity that anyone can participate in. Anglers from ages 3 to 93 can all enjoy the simplicity of bobber fishing from a boat or from docks and piers around the area. Well-known spots like the Upper St. Mary’s River, Drummond Island and Munuscong Bay attract large packs of boats, while other areas are lesser known except amongst local groups of anglers. However, the simple fact is, great perch fishing can be done almost anywhere – you just need to find the groups of fish. Sometimes the first couple of hours of daylight are the best, but often they can be caught all day long.
Typically, but not always, spawning perch can be found in shallow and weedy spots near shorelines where they make their spawning areas. I’ve had spring days spent in 3 feet of water and others spent in 30 feet. The best part of spring fishing is once you find perch, there’s a good chance many more are in the same area.
Landing on a large school of perch is a feeling you won’t forget. Casting out, watching the bobber sink almost immediately, reeling in a perch and repeating this several times per minute makes for a fish story you will always remember.
Spring perch fishing is great way for families to spend a day together on the water. Kids enjoy the steady action of using their own fishing pole, watching the minnows swim in the bucket and seeing perch flop in a bucket or live well. The gear needed is basic – a simple #4 hook tipped with a minnow below a sinker and bobber works great. Younger kids using the signature Mickey Mouse or Barbie pole can easily join in on the fun. My 3-year-old daughter Clare has out fished my wife Mary and I on several occasions using a Minnie Mouse setup.
After a day on the water, I can’t think of a single better meal than fresh perch. A quick fillet and rinse, a toss in Shore Lunch or your favorite fish breading and a hot oil bath makes for fine eating.
Beyond the fillets, the memories made with family and friends on the water can’t be beat. I highly encourage everyone to give this fun springtime activity a try and enjoy some quality time in the scenic outdoors of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, God’s Country.
Raised in Cedarville, Joe Picotte served eight and a half years in the United States Coast Guard and now resides in the Les Cheneaux Islands area. A lifelong outdoorsman, he credits his dad and grandpas with starting his love of hunting, ftshing and trapping, which he now spends his time teaching his 3-year-old daughter, Clare, to enjoy.