Fishing

Idaho perch earn national reputation — and it’s about time to land the record-setters

Local angler Andy Fiolka shows off a monster perch he caught at Lake Cascade. Fish like this one are giving the lake a national reputation as a trophy perch fishery.
Local angler Andy Fiolka shows off a monster perch he caught at Lake Cascade. Fish like this one are giving the lake a national reputation as a trophy perch fishery. Provided by Andy Fiolka

I’ve said it many times, but that doesn’t make it less true — we Idaho anglers are a lucky bunch.

No matter what kind of freshwater fishing you’re into, chances are the Gem State has you covered. Blue-ribbon trout streams. Healthy bass lakes. Opportunities to stalk line-peeling salmon, steelhead and sturgeon. Take your pick.

In recent years, Lake Cascade north of Boise has added another item to the list: world-class fishing for jumbo yellow perch.

Now, before you send me an angry email about spilling the beans, let me assure you — the secret is already out. The latest issue of In-Fisherman magazine features two pages of Cascade coverage in an article about trophy perch, the second time in as many winters I’ve seen Cascade featured in a national publication.

However, as In-Fisherman points out, knowing there are 16-inch perch lurking in Cascade doesn’t make them easy to catch. At a whopping 30,000 acres, Cascade is Idaho’s fourth-largest body of water. That’s a lot of lake for anglers to cover, and it provides limitless pockets where even the biggest perch can hide.

Access also can be tough, especially during the ice fishing season, which has produced three state-record fish in the past five years. As anglers certainly can attest to this season, the ice is usually covered with layers of snow, slush and even standing water, making it difficult to use snowmobiles and uncomfortable to stand in for the hours it often takes to lure a monster from the deep.

These Cascade nuances might feel like inconveniences, but they are a big reason why it remains a trophy fishery, even if the national attention attracts anglers from all over the country.

Here’s another reason: Cascade is just plain good at growing big fish. Similar to the conditions that turned Henry’s Lake into a monster trout factory, Cascade’s combination of habitat, forage and remote locale created a trophy perch lake. The numbers in Fish and Game’s most recent annual netting survey are staggering — 59 percent of the perch surveyed measured between 12 and 16 inches.

So, two questions remain. First, how do we keep Cascade great? And second, how do we catch these monsters?

The first answer is simple, though not always easy: through responsible management and harvest. This means releasing smaller perch, keeping reasonable limits and harvesting northern pikeminnow, which are a major predator of juvenile perch.

Over the past half-decade, we’ve come tantalizingly close to seeing a rare 3-pound perch in Idaho; Skye Coulter’s 2.96-pound catch from 2016 currently holds the state record. I recently saw a great suggestion on social media — if you catch a monster perch but it falls short of the record, why not release it to see if it can put on a few more ounces?

As far as the second question, I wouldn’t want to be accused of spilling all the beans. But I do know that if a record perch gets caught in 2018, it’s likely to happen in the next few weeks. So, grab your favorite jigs, put on your waterproof boots and make the drive north. Maybe I’ll see you on the ice.

Tight lines!

Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors@idahostatesman.com.

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