If you are willing to move around until you find the right schools, it is possible these days to fill a cooler with Lake Erie yellow perch that go two or three to a pound.
Those, for the uninitiated, are very fine perch, and as autumn progresses and lake waters cool, the action should do nothing but improve.
On Sunday boats working northwest of West Sister Island, about 10 miles out of Cooley Canal/Anchor Point, were finding limits of fish averaging 8 to 10 inches with some 12 and 13-inch perch in the mix, according to John Jokinen at Jann s Netcraft.
The bite was light but a lot of fish were hitting, he added. Many perch anglers calling at the shop are using No. 26 or No. 28 central draught hooks, snelled and hung off wire spreaders with fire tiger or chartreuse spinners. Jokinen said using a braided line such as Fire Line also helps detect light bites because it is more sensitive and free of stretch.
Toledo fishing guide Dan Tucker asked his party on Sunday whether they wanted numbers or size in their perch and they picked size. So he poked his Erie Sport around the rockpiles offshore from Davis-Besse, as far out as Niagara Reef, and they kept 66 fish that weighed a hefty 33 pounds.
Kelly Burgin, one of the crew, landed a Fish Ohio-size perch of 13 inches. It was the big perch of the day in a cooler than contained more than a few 10 to 12-inchers. Also on board were Kelly s dad, Ed, and Toledoan Rick Szydlowski and his South Carolina-based parents, Ron and Joan Szydlowski. Tucker said that the crew also caught and released seven fine smallmouth bass on their perch rigs.
On Monday Tucker went back out and kept 45 fish that weighed 17 pounds another nice haul for a dead-flat summer-hot day when action was slow. His crew included Jerry Meatpole Meyers Sr., of North Toledo, and Ron LaMont, of Sylvania, guides of the Water Witch and Sun Chaser, respectively, and me. Our best fish stretched out 12 inches and most ran 8 to 10 inches or more.
It was a good day to personally return to using a Szuch rig for perch. It is a simple hand-tied two-hook setup developed by the late Steve Szuch, of Cooley Canal minnow-picking fame.
Use 10-pound-test line and splice about six feet onto your main line for a leader if it is lighter than that, or if the main line is Fire Line or similar braid. The heavy line is stiffer and well suited to this purpose.
Using a double overhand or surgeon s knot, make a loop in the end. Slip on a 3/4-ounce sinker for waters 29 to 39 feet, a little less if fishing shallower and more if deeper. The loop allows for quick-change of sinkers.
Then, using the same surgeon s knot, tie two 3 to 4-inch loops in the main line, one that will fall just above the sinker and one that falls just above the lower loop without tangling or interfering with it. Pinch the end of each loop and push it through the eye of a No. 6 long-shank hook and around the shaft to secure it.
You end up with two double-snelled hooks stacked like a crappie rig, but with virtually no hardware in the way to deaden sensitivity to a bite. The old minnow man used to favor No. 32 central draught hooks, but their eyes are very small and complicate attaching them to the loops. It can be done but may not be worth the fuss. Perch are not picky about bigger hooks anyway.
The Szuch rig is most effective when lowered right to the bottom, slack reeled up. If action is slow, then lightly or occasionally bump the sinker off the bottom to create a small, perch-attracting stir in the mud. The sensitivity in the rig is amazing, as are the results.
John Trapper Hageman, the state s Stone Laboratory manager at Put-in-Bay, and I both were shown how to tie and use the rig by Szuch many years ago. I m a believer and ever since Steve showed it to me I ve never looked back, said Hageman. I haven t used a spreader since 1986.
As for finding perch, be sure to search. The Ohio Division of Wildlife cites the following areas to try: The outer markers of the Camp Perry Range A, B, and C-Cans the area north of the Toledo Water Intake, the Toledo Harbor Light, the Turning Buoy at the end of the Toledo Ship Channel, off Kelleys Island, between West Reef and Rattlesnake Island, north of the Marblehead Lighthouse and north of Cedar Point.
Tim Bader, a biologist at the state s Fairport Harbor Research Station, said most waters two to four miles offshore between Cleveland and Conneaut also are producing excellent catches of perch averaging 8 to 12 inches. Creel surveys last weekend showed 38 percent of anglers creeling limits of 30 fish each.
Closer to Toledo, the central basin also is producing fine perch catches off the condominium complex east of Vermilion, off the Vermilion breakwall in 36 feet of water, and off the Lorain lighthouse.
In related news, the Ohio Division of Wildlife is advising anglers and boaters that it is setting research gill nets in Lake Erie to assess fish populations until the first week of November.
From last Tuesday until Oct. 19 the nets primarily will be set between Huron and Cleveland in 10 to 60-foot depths. They will be marked clearly with gill net staffs (black flags) at each of a the nets, with individual orange or white buoys every 100 feet.
Boaters are advised to navigate around the outside of the nets to avoid entanglement. For other details call the division s lake Erie Fisheries Research Station at Sandusky, 419-625-8062.
In fishing tournament news, Jeff Koester, of Brookville, Ind., and teammate Scott Rhodes, of Traverse City, Mich., were crowned Cabela s Masters Walleye Circuit champions for 2007 Saturday at Dundee, Mich., after besting a field of 59 teams in a three-day Lake Erie tournament.
The anglers turned in a three-day, 15-fish total entry weighing 88.68 pounds for a 5.9-pound average. In May they won the MWC s Walleye Madness Championship, also on Lake Erie, at Port Clinton. The men pocketed $25,000 cash for their efforts, which revolved around trolling spinners in the vicinity of Pelee Island in Canadian waters.
The winners also tied for the event s big fish, a 10.39-pounder, which was matched by another fish landed by the team of Tim Waltz, of Williamsport, Pa., and George Barach, of Barryton, Mich. More than $100,000 was paid out across the entire field.
The 2008 MWC championship also is scheduled on western lake Erie and the Detroit River for Oct. 1 to 4. For other details call MWC at 877-893-7947 or e-mail to email@example.com.
A tip of the fishing cap goes to the memory of George Fuller, 67, of Oregon, a veteran western Lake Erie fishing guide who died unexpectedly on Monday.
Fuller ran the Ten Count charter service and was well known among members of the Western Lake Erie Charter Boat Association.
He was a very, very good fisherman. He fished the lake for years and was very knowledgeable, remembered Rick Ferguson, at Al Such Live Bait in Jerusalem Township. In his passing, Ferguson said of Fuller, he s joining his old fishing partners Warnie McGee and John Milliron.
A full obituary appeared in yesterday s edition of The Blade.