Panfishing photo
Kevin Hand

No fisherman purposely targets runty yellow perch that require the hands of a brain surgeon to fillet. Unfortunately those are often the perch that wind up on our lines, because it’s been difficult to target the big ones…until now. Mike Christensen, a fishing guide on Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake, has learned how to put his clients on jumbo yellow perch, usually after they’ve boated an early limit of walleyes. Here’s his method:

Rocks & Gravel Christensen catches perch 8 to 12 feet deep on Mille Lacs in early June (1) and 12 to 24 feet deep throughout the rest of summer (2). On other lakes, he has caught summertime perch to depths of 35 feet or more. He keys on rocky points and reefs in the lake’s main basin, particularly the edges of these structures where the boulders transition to gravel. Here, jumbos feed on minnows, crayfish, and any tidbits walleyes leave behind after a feeding binge.

Tactics Jumbo perch hug the boulder-strewn bottom when feeding 8 to 12 feet deep in early June, which makes them hard to see on a depthfinder. Christensen finds them by trolling jigs with an electric motor. He pulls slowly enough to keep the lines nearly vertical. After locating jumbos, he anchors and makes short casts. Long throws result in frequent snags. • As the water warms, perch move deeper, and the jumbos don’t hold as tight to the bottom as their smaller brethren. This makes them easier to see with an LCG. “They look kind of like a small Christmas tree on the screen,” he says. • Christensen anchors over the perch and drops a jig straight down to the bottom. He snaps the jig up a foot or so and lets it hang just above bottom for 10 to 15 seconds before the next snap. • His favorite perch outfit: a medium-light-action 71⁄2-foot Shakespeare Ugly Stik spinning rod matched with a limber 6-pound monofilament.

Tackle To put off small perch, Christensen opts for a walleye-size jig. He likes Lindy’s X-Change Jig because you can quickly switch its color and weight by swapping the head. The 1⁄8-ounce size is his workhorse, but he goes as heavy as 3⁄8 ounce in windy conditions. Dress the jig with a Berkley 3-inch Power Minnow and tip the hook with a 2- to 3-inch shiner or fathead.