An unusual tactic led to the best perch catch of the season on Tuesday.
Aboard Dan Messina's quiet 21-foot EdgeWater we landed 16 nice ones, with more than half being 13-inch-or-better jumbos.
Now 16 perch, albeit large, are not brag-worthy, but perching has been slow this summer. And this morning, following a dastardly north blow, was shaping up to be another tough one until we started trolling.
Two days earlier, while targeting steelhead on my brother's Three Buoys, a 150-foot long copper line starting dragging a bit after we swung into 35 feet of water. Wheeling it in, the suspected debris turned into a 13.5-inch perch that engulfed a 3.5-inch Super Slim spoon.
Surprising, but most trollers have seen or heard of such incidents before. Then it happened again to the same orange and chartreuse Riverside-pattern, followed shortly by a toad of a perch on a downrigged, 4.5-inch magnum spoon.
Hmmm, three extra-large perch on spoons is not a fluke. What if we fed them something similar but smaller, more appropriate to the size of a perch's mouth?
By the way, we never touched a steelie in a couple hours of trolling, although we did land three big sheepshead which are sporty, if not palatable.
Messina, perhaps the area's most veteran perch enthusiast, was in for trying spoons.
We'd get minnows, but if the perch weren't hitting 'em, we'd break out the salmon tackle and pull some small lures
The Sunday-Monday blow riled the water dirty at Michigan City, but looked cleanest to the east. Starting at the blue water tower we scanned and/or drifted several spots, eventually working our way to a pack of boats south of New Buffalo.
Two hours in, we had not had a bite. Nor did we see another angler lift a rod. A bright, cloudless sky and slick calm lake provided scant hope things would get better.
With reluctant enthusiasm, we snapped on an array of two-inch Stinger and Silver Streak spoons and started trolling.
Ten minutes later, Messina had one that required netting. The 14-incher bit a copper, orange-splashed "walleye" spoon traveling near bottom 25-feet behind a Torpedo weight.
Then it was my turn as a fat keeper swallowed a pearl Wonderbread pattern behind another eight-ounce Torpedo. And every once in a while, a l50 copper or slide diver would get out of line and we would reel in a big perch.
The catching wasn't fast, but sort of like trolling for small coho, we'd get a bite or two every 15 or 20 minutes and after a few hours, a decent bunch of fish are compiled.
I've always figured a fish was a fish, as in what catches bass, catches steelhead, catches walleye and so on. Just need the right conditions, perhaps a few tweaks of a technique to make similar tactics work for different species.
Essentially, we were doing the same thing productive walleye trollers do on Lake Erie — pulling small spoons down where the fish hover at a fairly fast, ground-covering clip (we were at 2.2 to 2.5 mph).
I haven't been to Erie in 30 years, but a friend who fishes it several times a season always comes back lamenting all the small stuff they go around pulling off weighted and diver lines when targeting walleye. The "nuisance" fish include yellow perch as well as white perch, small white bass and undersized walleye.
We'd gladly embrace those yellow perch.
Bottom line is, occasionally, trying something different works. Perhaps trolling produced best because the perch were widely scattered after the blow on this day. Next time those same fish might be schooled tightly and caught quicker with minnows.
However, we may troll for perch first, just to locate the biggest bunches.
• Big fish: Captain Rich Pegau (Rainmaker charters) out of Portage landed a pair of walleyes weighing six and nearly 11 pounds while trolling for steelhead on Sunday.
"I know they're out here, but it is the first time we ever caught one and we get two of them as a doubleheader," the 40-year chartering veteran said.
Skamania were staging well at Burns Ditch last Thursday through Saturday, and Pegau's customers landed nine to 12 per trip those days, but by Sunday, north winds warmed the waters and the steelies evacuated the near-shore waters.
Top fish in the lakewide July 15-23 Salmon-A-Rama contest as of Thursday was a whopping 33.46 chinook caught at Sheboygan, Wisc. Noteworthy is all the top 10 chinook are over 26 pounds (see www.salmon-a-rama.com for full results).
There was also a 32.30 chinook weighed in at a Ludington, Mich., contest early this week.
• Powder Puff: The annual Hoosier Coho Club Powder Puff Derby, where only the girls may fish and win prizes, is set for July 22 in Michigan City. One hundred percent of the $20 per-person entry fee will be paid back to the individuals catching one of the 10 biggest salmon or trout. Food and plenty of additional prizes provided. For more details, contact Laurie Wiesemann at slip 7004 in Washington Park, at email@example.com or (219) 879-7852.