Mike Frisch: A one-two punch for perch
I recently spent some time on the ice with Big Stone Lake fishing guide Tanner Arndt. Our goal was to find fish for Tanner's upcoming guide trips. We were also hoping to film an episode for Fishing the Midwest TV.
The day's weather had Tanner a bit apprehensive about the bite as we headed out that morning. Bright, sunny days are often best as Big Stone's perch seem to move the most and bite the best when the sun shines. Unfortunately, on this day, and contrary to the forecast, we were greeted by overcast and wind.
Big Stone is a 26-mile long water, dominated by a mostly featureless basin with water depths from 12-15 feet. The perch schools often roam the basin, with the key to success being staying mobile to find them.
Tanner and I didn't have a great day in terms of fish numbers. We did, however, find a school with several fish in the 9-12-inch size range, the ones Arndt seeks for clients.
Like most aggressive winter anglers, Arndt relies on a durable, lightweight (yet warm) one-man fishing shelter, good electronics, and a lightweight and dependable ice auger. On this day, he was fishing from an Otter XT Pro Cottage. Tanner drilled holes with the super lightweight K-Drill which runs off a cordless electric drill. Arndt also used an FLX-28 sonar, which works great for winter panfish because it has great target separation and a top zoom feature.
These equipment choices are not much different from that of many winter anglers. Arndt did, however, employ a somewhat unique approach for locating and catching Big Stone's perch.
When we found a potential hotspot, he drilled two holes and fished two lines, again like most anglers. His bait selection, however, is where things became a bit unique.
"A Northland Rippin' Shad is a really important lure for me on Big Stone," Arndt explained as he dropped the lure to bottom and aggressively ripped it up before allowing it to fall back down. The Rippin' Shad is a vertical jigging bait with a tight-wiggling action.
"I fish it aggressively, ripping it up and down to alert any perch in the area to its presence," Arndt continued. "On days when the fish are aggressive, some come in and hit it. Even if they won't eat it, at least I know that fish are around, or if not, I know that it's time to move on."
Arndt prefers the smallest 1.5-inch size Rippin' Shad and likes the gold black color on Big Stone most days. When it's cloudy or early/late in the day, some of the glow patterns work great too.
Next to this aggressive presentation, Arndt fished a smaller, more finesse style lure. "After the aggressive fish are caught, I downsize to tungsten and catch more," he explained.
Arndt's choice in tungsten was a Banana Bug tipped with waxworms. The day we fished the bite was off and, ultimately, the Banana Bug ended up being the best producer.
Regardless whether the fish are aggressive or not, the one-two punch Arndt employed on this day is standard operating fare for a guide who is on the water every day in winter.
"Some days they're aggressive and hit the Shad," he said, "but even then, tungsten usually catches additional fish. Other days tungsten catches all the fish, but the Shad still helps me call 'em in."
If winter perch are on your agenda, this one-two punch can probably help find and catch winter perch where you fish.
Mike Frisch is co-host of Fishing of the Midwest TV and a multi-species Minnesota fishing guide, view the website: wwwfishingthemidwest.com for more information.