Throughout the Mid Atlantic, anglers are seeing a resurgence of yellow perch, with the 2011 Spring season being one of the best in decades. After years of low populations, these colorful fish appear to be making a strong comeback.
Yellow perch are caught using a variety of live and cut baits as well as artificial lures. In many areas, live minnows are preferred as bait for yellow perch. Other popular baits include nightcrawlers, bloodworms, or grass shrimp.
A relatively new bait for catching yellow perch are the many synthetic baits that have become popular. These baits do not need special care and packages typically last a season or more. These scented offerings come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Some scented bait products are meant to be fished in the same manner as traditional baits.
Other scented products are molded into soft bodies which are used with conventional jig heads, worm rigs or other setups. These baits offer the best of both worlds; they exhibit lifelike movement while producing a strong scent trail.
Mid Atlantic anglers often use conventional artificial lures for catching yellow perch. Perch eagerly bite panfish jigs, small spinnerbaits, inline spinners, small spoons, crankbaits or other offerings. During cold periods, anglers may target drop offs, using vertical jigging techniques. As the water warms and fish move into spawning areas, more fish are caught in shallow water where small lures are more effective.
Some yellow perch specialists prefer to combine techniques, tipping their jigs with a live minnow or other natural bait. Small setups such as a 1/16 oz. shad dart tipped with a small minnow can be deadly when casted along creek structure and slowly worked along the bottom.
Once fish are located, anglers must choose to release their fish, or retain a few for the table. Yellow perch are known for being very hard to scale. As with all fish, perch should be kept chilled and wet prior to cleaning. For smaller fish, the angler must be persistent with a fish scaler, slowly loosening scales by making diagonal swipes with the scaler. Once scaled, perch can be headed and gutted before cooking.
Larger yellow perch can be filleted and then skinned. A larger fillet knife is needed to cut into the skin during the filleting process. Once the fillets are removed from the fish, a smaller, more delicate knife is useful for cutting fillets from the skin.
Yellow perch often contain roe during the spring season. These yellow pouches which are found in the body cavity contain the female's eggs. The angler should be careful not to nick the roe sac during removal. After rinsing, the fillets and roe are ready for cooking.
Yellow perch fillets, whole fish or the roe are often breaded or battered and fried. Fillets can also be baked. Their mild, sweet flavor makes them suitable for most baked fish recipes.