A long-time tournament organizer shares some winning advice
As facilitator and events coordinator with the Orillia District Chamber of Commerce, Doug Bunker has been organizing the Ontario community’s Perch Festival for 36 years now. That makes the affable 70-year-old, known simply as “Bunker,” more than qualified to provide early-season perch-fishing tips, and explain why perch are the perfect species to target when fishing with kids.
Not only are perch tasty table fare, they also make for great sport, says Bunker, especially when you use light gear. “They’re pretty aggressive little guys and put on a good little fight.” And since perch are a schooling fish, he adds, you can almost be guaranteed more will follow once you catch one.
As soon as the ice goes out and the water temperature rises in the spring, Bunker says to look for perch in the shallows near the mouths of creeks and streams before pike and other fish get more active. The perch will be close to the shoreline, he notes, because they’ll be chasing minnows. “That’s their main food in the spring. They’re hungry because the warmer water kicks their metabolism into high gear.”
When it comes to baits, smaller perch will pretty much go after anything, Bunker says, while the bigger fish will be a little more choosy. With that in mind, he sticks with a simple, but effective, splitshot rig with a minnow. To make the rig, he attaches a minnow to a small Octopus hook, then pinches on a couple of splitshot a foot or two above the hook. “If you put the weight too close to the bottom, it can get buried in debris or weeds,” he says. “You want it to look like the minnow is feeding, bouncing along just above the bottom.” The key is to make sure the minnow is well hooked, as perch are notorious for stealing bait. “You don’t need to cast it out 50 feet. Just drop it down, let it hit the bottom and bring it up. Perch are very curious, and will follow it up to bite”
The action can be steady when you’re perch fishing, making it a great way to spend quality time with children—as long as you properly plan for it, Bunker says. That starts with getting the kids familiar with the gear well before they step into the boat. He says he first got his children to practise casting in the backyard, for example, which prevented frustration once they were actually out on the water.