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Published: Friday, 7/7/2006

Reef provides bounty of big perch for the holiday

A 12 1/2-inch yellow perch - a "jumbo" just shy of Fish-Ohio honors - is enough to get almost any Lake Erie angler going.

It is especially the case when you are not in such traditional big-perch zones as off a central basin port, or even Marblehead and Kelleys Island.

Which explains why my attention level racheted up several notches on Fourth of July morning, just after "sunup" - it was gray and sprinkling and breezing offshore. I was perching with Jerry "Meatpole" Meyers Sr. and "Honest" Dan Tucker aboard Tucker's Erie Sport, and the 12 1/2-inch "hog" perch was my first of the morning. It was a better eye-opener than the black coffee I was sipping.

Jerry Meyers, Sr., left, and Dan Tucker hoist several jumbo-size yellow perch taken off a Lake Erie reef near Davis-Besse. Jerry Meyers, Sr., left, and Dan Tucker hoist several jumbo-size yellow perch taken off a Lake Erie reef near Davis-Besse.
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Point is, we were fishing along a rock ledge off one of the nearshore reefs just several miles offshore from Davis-Besse, and the action was fine, way ahead of the traditional late-August-into-fall perch season.

By the time we headed for Turtle Creek Marina four hours later, we had sorted through well over 100 perch, kept 68 of them 7 1/2 inches and longer, including close to a dozen of 11 to 13-inch dimensions. We easily could have limited out at 40 apiece - which is the Ohio/Lake Erie daily creel this year - had we spent another hour or two. And had not a certain somebody a mandatory holiday cookout to attend.

"For me structure fishing is the only way to do it," notes Honest Dan. Here is a second to that motion.

For on top of fine perch action - plenty enough to keep things interesting and the conversation light and festive - the rockpiles and reef ledges that we tiptoed along and anchored above produced other notable fish: A 19-inch, 4 1/2-pound smallmouth bass just shy of Fish-Ohio honors, several "F.O."-size drum and white bass, and a six-pound rod-bender of a channel catfish. Plus two run-of-season walleye and white perch.

In other words, lots of fish - all on simple yellow perch rigs.

Speaking of which, each of us was using a variation on a theme, the theme being to hook an emerald shiner minnow just under the dorsal fin and sink it to within a hair of the bottom.

Meyers prefers classic wire spreaders to which he attaches his snelled hooks and sinker. It presents tandem hooks, side by side.

Tucker prefers to use an in-line sinker, the bottom end to which he attaches a single snelled hook. He prefers single-hook rigging, contending that two hooks per line is not as efficient.

I tied up my own tandem crappie-style rigs, in which two snelled hooks are stacked vertically, one above another instead of side-by-side as with the spreader. Commercial wire crappie-style rigs also are good.

Bottom line: All these rigs work and it depends on personal preference and confidence in your tackle. The perch don't care, as long as they get the minnow, not the hook.

Tucker, Meyers and I never got more than eight miles from port, taking in several of the near-shore reefs, including a spot they call "Rookie Reef." You will not find this structure marked on charts and I am sworn to secrecy. But they found it the old-fashioned way - they worked for it, naming it after skipper Tony Barry, whose boat is No Rookie.

Perching veterans Tucker and Meyers offer several perching tips:

●"Keep your minnow near the bottom," notes Meyer.

●"Keep [the minnow] live," adds Tucker. Dead minnows catch perch, sometimes. Live ones are a sure thing.

●Keep moving. If you are not getting any activity, change locales. "Let out 10 feet of anchor rope. If that doesn't work, pull up 10 feet," said Tucker. Perch schools may be close by, but just out of reach. If moving on the anchor does not work, pick up and try another reef's edge.

Sums Tucker: "Rockpiles are a good place to try." Oh yeah.

Contact Tucker and Erie Sport at CaptainDan@bex.net, or 419-350-3815. Contact Meyers and Watch Witch at 419-304-7474.

Lake Erie fishing report - Walleye and yellow perch continue to keep lake anglers happy with steady action.

Bob Johns at Happy Hooker Bait and Tackle on State Rt. 2 near Davis-Besse, said that the waters off Cone and Niagara reefs are producing good perch catches, and evenings Cone is producing good catches of walleye by casting hammered gold mayfly rigs.

Dave Ray at Edgewater Bait in Point Place said walleye have been active off Luna Pier and around the S-Buoy off Toledo Beach on the Michigan side, trolling spoons or casting weight-forward spinners in gold, chartreuse, or red and white. Perch action has been phenomenal, Ray added, with fish averaging 7 1/2-10 inches around the Harbor Light and northeast of Turtle Island in just 12 feet of water.

Rick Ferguson at Al Szuch Live Bait in Jerusalem Township said that Cooley Canal-area boats have moved closer to home from the Middle Sister Island-West Sister Island area and found good walleye action. The zone of interest is a triangle formed by West Sister, the Turning Buoy at the end of the Toledo Ship Channel, and the chart area marked Gravel Pit.

The casting bait of choice remains a hammered gold blade on a mayfly rig. Note that mayfly rigs are most effective when rigged to look something like an emerging mayfly, that is, with just a third of a nightcrawler, or less. Overdoing it with the worm is counterproductive.

Boats running from the Port Clinton area and ports to the east have moved from the Middle Sister-West Sister line further east, said Rick Catley at Rickard's Bait on Catawba Island.

These boats are working a mile and a half west of Northwest Reef and on west somewhat along the U.S.-Canada line toward Middle Sister.

Yellow perch action is good off the east end of Middle Bass Island and southeast of Kelleys, Catley added.



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