"Old School" Perch

In today's age of new-wave ice fishing tactics, sometimes going old school is the best way to fill a bucket. This is true on the Great Lakes fisheries of southeastern Michigan—St. Clair and Saginaw Bay—where a popular technique has been used for more then 50 years, without changing. It remains one of the finest ways to catch yellow perch.

This type of spoon jigging is called "fishing hard beads," because the bent spoon is tipped with a small plastic bead for the fish to focus on when they attack—no bait. The spoon has a tremendous amount of action when it's jigged aggressively, which is the first step—call fish in.

These shallow-water perch factories produce huge numbers of small fish, and half a dozen dinks often need to be iced to cull one keeper. That's possible because the heavy spoon drives perch into frenzied feeding, which often results in a fish being iced every few seconds. Anglers quickly catch a fish and drop down to catch another and another. Old-timers hand-over-handed fish onto the ice, a method commonly referred to as "windmilling perch."

That's still the idea. As the school ignites and gains in size and aggression, anglers fish higher and higher in the water column, drawing the fish right up under the ice. This makes it easier to catch the fish, reduces down time, and excites the school even more, as they believe shiners are heading topside, as they do in the wild, to be pinned beneath the frozen surface. At times, however, the jumbos hold near the bottom, looking for scraps.

The origination of the technique seems to date to the 1940s in the Saginaw Bay area, where locals created jigging rods out of red-willow branches and crafted their own lures out of soldered spinner blades. Today's top lures include the popular Ken's Spoon, Gusters, and others. Top colors are chrome with a red bead or a glow bead.

Techno-modern enters the scene, though, as it's a big advantage to be able to see fish in relation to your lure when fishing water deeper than about 3 feet. It's all about playing keep-away with the larger school as you pluck the high-riders.

Jigging technique varies from day to day, but usually it's a steady jigging motion—snap-fall, snap-fall—that makes the spoon dart and wobble back. As the season progresses toward last ice, jigging strokes can be even more frantic.

Does the technique have application elsewhere? Indeed, the spoons have long enjoyed pockets of popularity across the Ice Belt—not just for perch but for whitefish and bass and pike. Aggressive jigging with a flashy, high-vibration spoon is always potentially in high fashion for aggressive predatory fish.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You


10 Best Bass Fishing States In America

Matt Straw - November 01, 2017

Which of the ten is the best? You decide.


Dock Shooting Crappies

Matt Straw - July 03, 2018

Catch those weary crappie with this technique!


Deep Cranking Confessions from the Pro's

John Neporadny Jr - December 18, 2017

Here's some important crankbait lessons from the big leagues.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Mustad's Saltwater Jig Lineup

Russ Whisler shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the innovative features and great color schemes in Mustad's voluminous lineup of saltwater jigs introduced at ICAST 2019.

Spider Rig Crappies

Doug Stange employs one of the most effective crappie systems ever.

13 Fishing Inception SZ

Florida angling pro Jessie Mizell knows that the saltwater found in Sunshine State coastal fisheries can wreak havoc on even the best fishing gear. But with 13 Fishing's new feature laden Inception SZ saltwater baitcasting reel, tackling inshore and light tackle saltwater game fish just got a whole lot easier!

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


Largemouth Bass Length To Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 22, 2017

Check out this Largemouth Bass Length To Weight Conversion Chart, a simple and accurate...

Other Fish

Best Carp Baits Today

Dan Johnson - June 29, 2018

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural...


Walleye Length To Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 03, 2017

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as...

See More Stories

More Ice Fishing

Ice Fishing

Ice Fishing River Walleyes

Dan Johnson - January 01, 2016

Dan Johnson and Capt. Charlie Nelson, of Duluth, on the river for a glimpse at how current...

Ice Fishing

Ice Fishing Methods for Trophy Walleyes

Tom Gruenwald with Dennis Foster and Jeff Matity - February 05, 2015

"Big fish survive because they learn to feed when the odds are in their favor".

Ice Fishing

Ice Fishing Bluegills Near Weeds

In-Fisherman - July 09, 2015

10 Tips for finding winter bulls.

See More Ice Fishing

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.