Last fall I was fishing for smallmouth bass on the Snake River. It was late in the season, and the action was slowing. My partner and I boated a handful, but it was tough sledding.
Finally, my friend hooked a fish on a live night crawler. He reeled it in to find a pleasant surprise — a fat, 10-inch perch.
I suggested he throw another worm in the same spot. He did, and boom! Another nice perch. Needless to say, I quickly changed over to a worm. And for the next two hours, we hollered as perch after perch came over the side of the boat. We must have caught 50, including a beautiful stringer of 12-inch keepers and an unbelievable 14-incher — easily the biggest perch I’ve ever caught.
Fishing days like that are like birdies on a golf course — they keep us coming back. And those magical trips can happen more frequently if you target perch.
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Perch are a relatively common panfish in Idaho waters. They are good-looking critters with yellowish-green bodies, dark vertical stripes and bright orange fins.
Perch typically average 6-10 inches. A footlong specimen is a keeper, and anything bigger than 14 is a real toad.
Three factors make perch a fishermen’s best friend:
Ferocious feeders: What perch lack in size, they make up for in aggression. Night crawlers are the bait of choice, but perch will also take small jigs, crankbaits and mealworms. I’ve even caught them on big soft plastics intended for bass. And if you start running out of bait, simply keep a smaller perch and use it as cut bait. Perch are notorious cannibals.
Pack mentality: Perch tend to hang out in big schools, so if you catch one, you’re likely to hook a bunch. In my experience, they often gather by size.
Fine fillets: Perch are great table fare, and when you catch them by the dozen, it’s easy to take a stringer home for dinner. I recommend flash-frying them in a light batter. The meat is white, flaky, firm and delicious.
Popular spots to catch perch in Idaho include C.J. Strike Reservoir, Brownlee Reservoir and Lake Cascade, which has a national reputation for producing jumbo perch. Ice fishermen catch some of the biggest fish of the year, so you can chase perch year-round. Many anglers prefer to target bigger species, but if you stumble on to a school of yellows by mistake, anchor up. You’ll be glad you did.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.