Clutching at hope on perch fishing with recent jumbo success on Chicago lakefront

Recent success for jumbos since the perch season reopened lends some immediate hope, long-term look is not as exciting; plus the Stray Cast.

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Two-main limit of perch (and a couple bonus fish) at Montrose, caught by Ken Maggiore and Nick Pellikan on soft shells.

Two-main limit of perch (and a couple bonus fish) at Montrose, caught by Ken Maggiore and Nick Pellikan on soft shells.

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Chicago’s modern perch fishing is weird, like a rocky relationship.

But, when perch fishing reopened June 16 on Illinois’ Lake Michigan, jumbo perch were near shore at Montrose Harbor.

Tim “Spike’’ Davis, the Uptown cartoonist/outdoorsman/car mechanic, texted last Wednesday, “First time I had been out for perch in 30 years,’’ with a photo of jumbos.

On Saturday, Ken Maggiore messaged about a two-man limit he and Nick Pellikan caught with soft shells on a crappie rig at Montrose.

“It was crazy fast action, best and fastest I’ve seen it in a few years,” he messaged. “Limited out in less than an hour. They’re gonna be tasty. Fifteen perch equated to four pounds of tasty fillets.”

Tim ``Spike’’ Davis, the Uptown cartoonist/outdoorsman/car mechanic, had success for jumbo perch on soft shells at Montrose last Wednesday, his first time out perching in 30 years.

Tim ``Spike’’ Davis, the Uptown cartoonist/outdoorsman/car mechanic, had success for jumbo perch on soft shells at Montrose last Wednesday, his first time out perching in 30 years.

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Will the special weirdness hold?

“When anglers allow us, our creel technicians will collect the anal spines from the perch they caught, which we can then section and determine their age to see how well each year class contributes to the fishery,’’ emailed Scot Peterson, assistant research scientist, aquatic ecology. for the Illinois Natural History Survey. “Unfortunately, our technicians do not encounter harvested perch as frequently as they used to during our regular creel survey (March–September). However, we began a less intensive winter creel survey (October-February) in the Chicago area a few years ago and we tend to see a lot of perch harvested in November/December before things start to freeze up, so we are able to supplement that data.’’

The data is not special.

“We had seen strong year classes in 2015 and 2016, from our juvenile perch gill net surveys, that persisted into following year or two, indicating they were at least making it through their first winter,’’ Peterson emailed. “According to our creel survey data, those two year classes have been the strongest contributors to the recreational harvest over these past few years.

“Our juvenile perch gill net surveys over the last few years have yielded pretty low numbers when compared to 2015-2017, so I wouldn’t expect to see much of an increase in harvest for a bit. But our gill net survey in 2021 showed numbers trending back upwards, so perhaps we could get back up to those 2015/16 numbers in the next couple of years. We found young-of-year perch in our first gill net trip this year, so I’m taking that as a positive sign.’’

Vic Santucci, Lake Michigan program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, emailed, ``In a nutshell, the forecast for perch fishing this year is similar to last year. There are harvestable perch out there to be caught but lots of space in between. In contrast to last year, when our spring perch survey caught more perch north at Lake Bluff, this year catches were higher at the Foster Avenue transect out of Chicago.

“... I anticipate a continuation of the recent pattern of more perch being caught and harvested during fall and winter than during the March-September period. Although one never knows for sure as the Big Lake seems to offer up surprises every year.”

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