In Lake Simcoe, one of the world’s top ice-fishing destinations, perch is prolific. You can easily catch perch by going online and hiring a hut operator. If they are any good, they will put you on fish and you will have a decent day. You could end up with a stale hut and spend the day way out on the lake. With no fish to occupy your time, it’s a gamble.
If you’re like me, you don’t like gambling on something that you have little control over. I want to control my destiny, if I fail I can only blame my self. A lot of the fun is putting a plan together and executing it. When it works it is rewarding. If the plan fails, hopefully, you can learn from it. So, on big water like Lake Simcoe, how do you make sure you have a successful plan? It doesn’t come together easily. But with some effort and a little shared knowledge, maybe you can get a head start.
Finding Perch on Lake Simcoe
Finding perch is the first piece of the puzzle. On popular bodies of water like Lake Simcoe, it can be as easy as looking for the crowds. There are lots of people talking online about popular fishing spots like Sibbalds Point or Gilford, and when you get there the crowds will show you where fish are. But I prefer to use this as a reference. Learn why the perch are there, how deep they are, and take that information to move and find less pressured fish in similar areas. I use the Navionics App to find those areas.
There are usually perch in deep water. Early and late in the year, you can also find jumbos in shallow water. Late in the season perch begin to stage on the drop-offs and flats close to spawning grounds. They are looking for weed growth with food around it. This is when they put on the feed bag. My favourite lures imitate gobies, minnows, shrimp, and or scuds. There are a plethora of perch baits that imitate these, but a few stand out to me. Here are my top three Lake Simcoe perch lures, and how I am using them.
The Donkey Rig an Ice Fishing Solution
The Donkey Rig is a Slabgrabber and a high hook, drop-shot style, with a plastic offering. This has been my go-to set up when ice fishing for Lake Simcoe perch since David Chong showed it to me years ago. You can use any spoon on the bottom of the Donkey Rig, but Slabgrabbers are so versatile and effective it’s the only one I use. I use the HT Ice Scentz Freshwater Shrimp on the top hook if I am fishing near weeds, or a small goby imitation if I’m fishing near a rocky bottom. Working the Donkey Rig is simple, I drop the rig straight down, if I don’t get a fish rushing up at the bait I’ll let it the Slabgrabber hit the bottom and sit for a moment.
I rip the Slabgrabber off the bottom, creating a dust plume, and hold it a foot or so above the bottom for a moment. Then I reel the rig a little higher and start working it slowly. By slowly I mean I do almost nothing but wait for fish to show up. Every so often I give it a small twitch, no big movements, nothing crazy. The trick is not to overwork the Donkey Rig. If on the drop a fish starts rushing up at the bait I close the bail and slowly raise my rod until the fish closes in and then hold the rod still…usually not for long cuz that fish isn’t shy! It is rushing up to eat! If fish don’t show up I bounce it off the bottom a few more times, try to create a bit of commotion, grab someone’s attention. It almost always catches fish, if the Slabgrabber doesn’t get them to eat then the plastic should! If this one-two punch doesn’t draw them in and get a strike, I switch to a crankbait
Rapala UL Rippin’ Rap, The Dinner Bell When Ice Fishing for Perch
If I am in a spot that I believe should have fish, but none are showing up I drop down a small UL Rippin’ Rap. Like ripping my Slabgrabber off the bottom is ringing the dinner bell, ripping a Rippin’ Rap on the bottom and higher in the water column is ringing the dinner bell for the whole neighbourhood. I alternate between some aggressive rips and small taps. Generally, I try to keep the Rippin’ Rap moving with my rod tip, occasionally letting it rest. If fish come in while I am moving the lure, I continue to move it until I hook up or the fish leave. If the fish leave I change my movements the next time they do show up or convince myself that it was just small baitfish that showed up. If I have a lot of suspended fish that are being picky I go to the sneak attack, the Vibrato.
The Sebile Vibrato for Perch
For some reason, everyone thinks the Vibrato is a whitefish lure, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. To date, I have caught whitefish, lake trout, perch, pike, crappie, brook trout, smallmouth bass, jack crevalle and mackerel on the Sebile Vibrato. It got popular on Lake Simcoe for catching whitefish, but the Vibrato is my “sneak attack” lure when ice fishing for Lake Simcoe perch, especially when they are suspended and tight-lipped. Much like the Slabgrabber, I start by dropping this to the bottom, rip it to create a dust plume, then start working it through the water column. I use small rod movements to impart action into the Vibrato, only occasionally let it rest. The beauty of the Vibrato is how little movement you need to impart with your rod to make it come alive in the water. The slightest twitch of the rod will make the lure shimmer and thump. When I do let the lure rest, it hangs horizontally like a baitfish naturally would. It really is designed to be an all-around fish killer!
Come ice fishing season, most lakes around Southern Ontario get a lot of angling pressure. Lake Simcoe is one of the heaviest pressured. Finding cooperative Lake Simcoe perch might sound like the hard part. With a little research, it isn’t all that hard. They are predictable. And there is a lot of information online to help get you on the ice and over some perch. Once you find perch, dropdown any one of these baits, slow down. I am sure you will get into more jumbo perch than you your average angler.