|For many anglers, early ice is the best ice.|
|Echotails and yellow perch just seem to belong together throughout the ice fishing season.|
|Dress in layers to stay comfortable on the ice.|
- Dress in multiple layers.
- Let somebody know where you are going and when you plan to be back.
- Consider wearing an inflatable PFD.
- Check ice ahead of you with a spud bar.
- Stay away from the cloudy looking ice.
- Keep a spare set of emergency dry clothes in your vehicle (Just in case).
Now that we've covered the required "Safety Speech" let's get back to the perch. The best way to find perch is to use the Lake within a Lake concept. In a nutshell you want to find bays and backwaters that are the first to freeze because they are smaller, but that exhibit similar traits to the main lake. A good example of this in Madison would be the Triangle on Lake Monona or the beach front on Lake Wingra. When you look at these areas on lake maps or the Navionics app you'll see that they have good defined contour breaks and normally hold fish into late fall due to deep lush weed beds. If you can identify areas like these on your home waters, waters that freeze early and have the correct structural elements, then you're sure to find schools of perch. The question of course is, where?
|Limit your catch, don't catch your limit.|
To catch the perch in these schools I like to use tight lining rod and reel setups. Tight lining uses simple 1:1 ratio reels that allow you to quickly and efficiently fish shallow water. I normally spool up with 6 pound fluorocarbon line and attach my lures with a small clip and barrel swivel. The clip lets me change lures in an instant and the barrel swivel keeps line twist to a minimum. Lure selection is largely dependent on the body of water, but one thing that I love about early ice is that the forage species are at there biggest so big lures perform wonderfully. I like to use spoons tipped with minnows or the ever popular Echotail blade bait. The Echotail is the only blade bait that incorporates a barb to hold soft plastic tails. This ability to change out the tail means I can use any soft plastic on the market. So I can add scent by using Gulp, flash by using Uncle Josh, heck I can even use live minnows on them when the bite is extremely tough. Another great benefit is that the walleye love them, so you can always count on a few bonus fish while out perching. They are probably the most versatile lure you can have in your ice fishing tackle box. You can learn more about the Echotail from Vibrations Tackle and check out the 2015 ice patterns here.
|First ice yellow perch on Lake Monona.|
Hopefully these tips will help you find some first ice perch this season. Just please remember to use your head and stay safe. The early ice is easily the most dangerous ice. If you are not sure if the ice is safe then error on the side of caution and wait a few more days before venturing out. The fish will still be there when you come back and your family will love the fact that you're still around. Now go get those auger blades sharpened and some fresh line on your ice combos, because the perch are biting.
|A couple of Lake Mendota yellow perch fillets for dinner.|
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