Winnipesaukee’s Great White Perch
By Tim Moore
It’s ice fishing season. There are a multitude of species that anglers fish for during the winter months in New Hampshire, but on Lake Winnipesaukee, one of the most sought-after fish is the white perch. In many states, white perch are considered invasive, because they will often predate on the eggs of other fish. In Winnipesaukee however, they are highly prized for their above-average size, hard fight, and delicious meat. They can grow up to (and over) three-pounds and there are a lot of them. I have clients who travel from as far away as Switzerland and even Australia just to experience white perch fishing on Lake Winnipesaukee.
The main forage in Lake Winnipesaukee is rainbow smelt. The high lipid content of smelt, plenty of space, and water quality allows the white perch to grow unusually large. When you add that to the fact that the perch travel in large schools that only get larger in number as the ice fishing season progresses, the result is often non-stop action. I have had days where there were so many perch, and they were so fired up, that we didn’t even need to bait our hooks anymore. They ate anything that moved.
Cloudy days are always going to be your best bet. On cloudy, rainy, or snowy days the fish will usually bite all day. On sunny bluebird days, focus on the hours around dawn and dusk. Be prepared to do a lot of moving around during the mid-day period because the fish will be less active. Lures such as the Clam Blade Spoon and Epoxy Drop tipped with a small piece of worm will get the job done. Focus on basins and steep breaks in 27’ to 40’ of water.
There are days when the fish are either on the move, and you’ll need to run-and-gun to stay on them, or they are stationary, and you need to move a lot to find a school. Packing light and only bringing the necessities will make you more mobile and efficient when the need arises to make several moves to stay on a roaming school of fish. The trick to locating schools of perch is mobility. The more water you cover, the better your chances of finding a school.
If you like non-stop action with fish that are stronger than most other fish of their size, then I highly recommend fishing for Winni’s Great White Perch. To me there is nothing more fun than catching three pound white perch as fast as I can reel them in. For most anglers it’s an experience not to be missed. For me, it’s what drives me to make the three hour round-trip drive five to seven days per week to catch them. Now that Winni is getting more ice, I suggest trying your hand at some white perch ice fishing, but due to inconsistent ice formation you should use caution.
Tim Moore is a full-time professional fishing guide in New Hampshire. He owns and operates Tim Moore Outdoors, LLC. He is a member of the New England Outdoors Writers Association and the producer of Tim Moore Outdoors TV. Visit www.TimMooreOutdoors.com for more information.