Early perch ice fishing on Stillwater Lake

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Last week I ice fished on Lower Stillwater Lake after hearing reports of several inches of “pretty good” ice.

I had forgotten to put my hand auger in the truck. Luckily my fishing buddy brought his battery-powered StrikeMaster.

The lake was covered with nearly 10 inches of ice. No way could my “experienced” shoulders have drilled one hole, much less a dozen.

We caught perch in several spots. Not huge, but they had sides big enough for fresh fish tacos.

First ice is generally good for catching perch. Here’s three tips for novice ice perchers:

• Put less bait on your hooks. More often than not, a half-inch piece of mealworm or waxworm will out-fish a whole worm.

If you don’t believe me, try both ways on the same lures, alternating holes and depths, so there’s at least some science in your testing.

• Don’t always put your bait within a foot of the bottom. Sometimes perch do hang out in open water.

Veteran perchers have caught fish halfway down in 30 feet of water.

• Perch may bite any time of day, but first light and last hour of daylight seem to be the most consistent.

If the perch aren’t biting late one afternoon, try the same spot the next morning. And vice versa.

Some days the noon bite can be the best of the day!

Always check the condition of the ice.

Good luck, stay safe, and Merry Christmas!

Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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