How Two Women Perch Fish The South Shore Of Lake Michigan and Cook Up Their Catch
Yellow Perch Season Is Here
Fishing for Perch, from June through November, is where you will find two women from Indiana. They call us the Fishin Chcks, at our neighborhood bait store.This is my favorite fishing season on the south shore of Lake Michigan because the Yellow Perch are in and about our area. These fish have laid their eggs and most have probably already hatched. Now it is safe to go fishing without catching a "big-momma" fish full of eggs.
Those are the biggest and funnest to catch but I hate it when I get one of those big girls on the butcher block, only to discover a belly full of eggs that should be in the weed beds. I have caught my share of big girls and served them at our fish fries but, in my old age, I have grown a soft spot for the lady fish, who put their life's effort into, making sure future generations of Perch exist. I am talking fun fishing here and I am talking good eating too. My best fishing buddy and I, try to fish as often as possible when the Yellow Perch come in.
Yellow Perch Spawn
Spawning is the proper name for fish laying eggs or hatching live babies. The Yellow Perch spawn, usually occurs from the end of April through the first part of May. I will and, do fish for Yellow Perch during the spawn but I really do not like to catch the fish when they are full of eggs. This is a personal preference because I would rather see the fish lay those eggs in hopes that next year there will be plenty of fish to catch. These fish will lay from 5,000 to 100,000 eggs on the weed-beds and submerged tree branches wherever they are spawning. The eggs will hatch within 11 to 27 days.The survival rate is minimal, due to the amount of natural predators in the water.
Follow The Conservation Rules
It is always best to follow conservation laws when fishing because the laws are established to protect our natural resources.Some lakes and states each have varying rules about how, when and where you can fish. Aside from the drastic amount of trouble you can encounter from breaking the conservation rules, it is for the good of everyone that we all follow the rules accordingly. Contact your state DNR for more information on this subject. Make sure to buy a fishing license, catch only the limit of fish allowed and do not waste the fish you catch. Clean and eat the fish or give them away, to someone who will use them. Practice good conservation and enjoy your fishing experience. Make sure you leave the area you are fishing in as you found it. Do not leave trash and debris behind for the next women fishing, men too.
East Chicago Harbor
Competing With Each Other
It seems we just can't help poking fun at each other while we are hard at it. No matter how hard I fish, Cheryl always manages to out do my performance by adding the biggest fish to the live-well. I can be up on her catch by half a dozen fish and ready to call it a day and, she will somehow, snag a fish that makes all my catch look like runts. I really do not mind but it is common practice to rib each other over the catch.
Sometimes we get all our poles and squeeze into the spot where the other is fishing and catching. This is stealing holes and it is fun to do. Not that you should ever do that to other fisherman because they sure do not appreciate the squeeze, this is just our way of messing with each other and having some fun.
Preparing For A Day On The Lake
A good bit of work goes in to preparing for a day on Lake Michigan. This is a large body of water. In fact, Lake Michigan is the sixth largest lake in the world. It is the largest body of water that is completely within the boundaries of the United States and is bordered by four states. Surrounded by Indiana at the south, Illinois and Wisconsin on the east and north and Michigan on the west, Lake Michigan has 1660 miles of shoreline. The size alone can create situations that call for extra concern in preparing to stay on the water all day.
First thing we always do is check the weather forecast. We want them to tell us that there is a prevailing SW wind at 5 to 10 miles per hour because this makes for ideal Perch fishing. That is not what we usually hear, so we pack for whatever they forecast and then wish for the rest. The main thing is proper clothing.
The Weather Can Change Within Minutes
This lake is notorious for being gentle one minute and then raising cane the next. The water conditions have often been compared to a washing machine, the way it agitates and, large waves and swells can make, even the most seaworthy soul, wonder why the heck they are out there in the first place. This is why you want to make sure you have plenty of clothes. I often find myself wearing winter garments in the early mornings and after dark but opting for a bathing suit during the heat of the day. Hooded sweatshirts and jackets are a must if the wind picks up more than 10 miles an hour and the temperature is in the 60's. Then there is the threat of rain to worry about and, it can turn ugly if you get wet and cold and the trip back to the harbor is slow and choppy going. The thought of being uncomfortable in your clothing is enough to provoke preparedness.
There are specific boat requirements that are a must for state regulations.You might think they are being a slight bit picky but I know from experience that you should always have all of the state required items aboard your vessel and then some. Below I have listed items we have aboard when we leave the harbor. You never know what can take place while you are away from shore.
- Fresh drinking water
- A knife that is sharp
- A flash light or two
- A cooler
- Warm shoes and socks
- A Toolbox with commonly used tools
- Extra oil and fluids for your specific model of boat
- A Funnel
- An empty bucket or two
- A cell phone fully charged
- An off shore marine radio
- Plenty of gasoline
Light Rigs And Minnows Are My Favorite Choice
There are several kinds of poles that can be used for fishing but my favorite isan ultra light rod, 5' to 6' long, with an open faced reel. I like to use 4lb. test line because that is all that is truly necessary. It works best and the fish do not notice that they are being baited, or at least that is my way of thinking. I suspend my minnow about 14" below a split shot sinker. The smaller the split shot the better. All you have to do is get your line down to the bottom. If the current is strong you might have to add weight to get straight down, but the least amount of weight it takes to get to the bottom the better.
Making The Fish Bite
No you can not make them bite but you can give it your very best presentation. A live minnow will almost always, entice a hungry Yellow Perch. There are different kinds of minnows that can be purchased at the local bait store in our neighborhood. I think the Perch like Baby Roaches the best. The other choice of minnows would be small Fat Heads but, I also know that you will have to choose from what is available. I do know that the people in your local bait-store are going to sell what works in their vicinity. They usually have knowledge as to what is biting and where to fish.
There are other baits that can also be productive such as soft shelled crab claws, spinners, worms and, small jigs. These will all catch Yellow Perch but I have the most consistent luck with smaller sized minnows. The crab claws seem to work well when you are fishing right off the rocks and reeling away from the shore line.
Casting or Jigging?
My preference is to cast across the top of a weed bed trying to keep my minnow moving very slowly just at the top edge of the weeds. I usually start with this method until I find fish. This method of casting and very slow retrieving helps in locating schools of fish.
This could be in water anywhere from 3' to 35' deep. Once I find fish that are biting I try to get right on top of them and fish the jigging method. The deeper the water, the more likely I will be to turn to the jigging method. First you let the line straight down until you feel your sinker hit bottom an your line stops going out. Then you gently crank your line up until your minnow is suspended about 1' to 2' from the bottom of the lake. Lake Michigan has a foreign fish in it that is called a GOBIE.
These fish are a major pain in the butt for Perch fishing. They will steal your bait and are a big nuisance. Not only that, the Gobies are destroying habitat and eating natural food that would otherwise be utilized by our native fish. Gobies are a bad thing and it is suggested that, any you catch be destroyed on the spot. This is information provided by the DNR of Indiana. Gobies are disgusting and gross as they foam and bubble from their mouth when you catch them.
How To Fillet Your Catch
How To Cook Up That Fresh Catch
I will not claim that fishing holds all the delight of this sport because my main reason for enjoying Yellow Perch fishing is eating the catch. There are a few foods that I consider, almost heavenly to eat and Yellow Perch is in the top ten. Restaurants around this area take great pride in the offering of Lake Perch Dinners and All You Can Eat Lake Perch Specials. None can compare to the fresh caught fish like the ones I shared with my Mother just a few days ago.
I like Crappie and Sunfish also. They each have a distinct flavor and it would be hard to pick which is actually the best. I think I will have to keep eating them and decide much later in my life. Until then I would like to share one of my favorite ways to cook a mess of Yellow Perch.
Fillet Of Perch With Lemon Wedges
- 6 Yellow Perch Fillets
- 1/4lb of lightly salted butter
- 1/2 cup of pancake flour mix
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 1 fresh lemon cut in wedges
Place the fillets in a bowl and pour the milk over the top. In a medium sized cast iron skillet melt 1 stick of butter until sizzling but do not burn or scorch. Place 1/4 cup of the pancake flour in a quart sized, zip lock bag and add salt and pepper to taste. Place a couple pieces of the fish into the bag and shake until completely floured. Continue adding the fillets a few pieces at a time until all fish is coated with flour. This can also be done in a shallow dish or pan.
Remove all the fish from the bag and stir the egg into the remaining bowl of milk. Beat the egg up real good then put all the fish into the egg mixture. Be sure to coat it completely. Now add the remaining 1/4 cup of pancake flour to the existing flour you started with. Repeat the process of adding the twice dipped fillets to the flour. Coat them thoroughly. Now drop the fillets into the hot melted but NOT SCORCHED butter. Cook until lightly browned and turn each fillet to brown the opposite side. It will only take a few minutes. DO NOT OVERCOOK.Drain on a sheet of paper towel and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over fish as you like. Goes great with some ice cold melon and warm bread of choice. Eat 'til you pop! ENJOY!