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After the Ice Is Gone - Perch Fishing in New Jersey

By Jon Kline
Senior Wildlife Worker, Pequest Trout Hatchery
March, 2003; revised March, 2007

Although thick ice often remains on lakes throughout the Garden State as spring approaches, open water always returns. Perch fisher in springWhen it does, a number of anglers head outside for some . Canoes, forgotten since last fishing season, are dragged out and hoisted onto vehicles. Boat trailer tires are inflated and trolling motor batteries charged. Mud-soaked personal floatation devices are rinsed off. Light-action reels are spun with fresh line. It is time to go get the yellow perch!

Knowing the feeding habits and habitat preferences of the fish species pursued can really pay off in entertainment and/or fish fillets. Yellow perch feed year round, but before spawning seem to be especially hungry. Like other members of the Percidae family, which includes walleye, perch spawn early in the year. In March, feeding activity picks up as the afternoon sun warms the water. Aquatic insects, small fish, and even their own eggs are on the perch's menu. Yellow perch will congregate near where streams flow into lakes and move into shallow areas in unbelievable numbers.

All trout stocked waters remain open until March 19, 2007. Many good perch fishing spots remain open to fishing during pre-season trout stocking (12:01 a.m. March 19th through April 7th at 8 a.m. - see the 2007 Freshwater Fishing Issue of the Fish and Wildlife Digest, pages 14-21, for more information). A freshwater fishing license is required, and is available for purchase online or at license agents. Persons under the age of sixteen do not need to be licensed, and NJ residents attaining the age of 70 are exempt as well.

The yellow perch bag limit is 25 on all waters except for Ryker Lake, where the limit is 10). It can be tempting to go for the limit when they are biting, however, two or three perch can be the basis of a healthy meal for one person. Releasing fish unharmed, taking only what you need, properly disposing of trash, respecting other people's property rights and obeying fishing regulations are qualities of the ethical angler. Bring a cooler with ice so the fish stay fresh until you get home.

Angling Methods

A warm afternoon in late March or early April is a good time to head out there for Yellow Perch. Fish for perch in four to ten feet of water during early spring. Disturbances on the surface of the water can indicate perch activity. Once a school of perch is located, trolling or drifting over the same area will often produce more strikes. Productive baits/rigs include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • 1/4 ounce or smaller jigs tipped with fathead minnows or worm pieces
  • 1/4 ounce or smaller jigs fastened with small plastic bodies (try different colors and scented plastic)
  • Small hook rigged with a fathead minnow; small sinker 12 inches up the line to keep the bait near the bottom
  • Small plugs that imitate minnows and other small fish
  • Fly angling outfit with wet flies

Work the baits slowly while keeping them off the bottom. Clean the weeds off the bait now and then (perch like the weedy areas).

Yellow Perch Recipes

All freshwater fish must be thoroughly cooked before eating. Visit for fish cooking guidelines.


perch fillets (as many as you have)
1 or 2 eggs, beaten
½ cup white flour, seasoned with salt black pepper and paprika per ½ pound of fillets
1 cup bread crumbs (Italian style) per ½ pound of fillets
vegetable oil
seasoned salt

Dip the fillets in the flour mixture, then the eggs, then the breadcrumbs, coating the fillets evenly. Fry in oil until breading is crispy. Place fried perch on paper towels and sprinkle with Yellow Perchseasoned salt.

Space Age Perch

fillets of two perch
pat of butter
seasoned salt
microwave oven
coffee mug
plastic wrap

Place perch fillets in coffee mug. Season fillets cautiously with seasoned salt. Place thin pat of butter on top of fillets. Cover mug with microwavable plastic wrap. Microwave on high for one minute, let stand one minute, then microwave on high one more minute. Enjoy!

Oven Baked Perch

fillets of 4 perch
3 cloves garlic
pinch of salt and black pepper
aluminum foil

Place aluminum foil on baking sheet and perch fillets on aluminum foil. Slice the garlic and cover the perch with the slices. Add a few butter slices. Dust lightly with salt and black pepper. Bake in 375 degree oven for twenty minutes. Sizzling sound coming from aluminum foil indicates it's time to eat!

Oven Baked Parmesan Perch

1 pound yellow perch fillets
parmesan cheese
¼ cup heavy cream or half-and-half
¼ pound onion rings
½ cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Crush onion rings and combine with parsley and bread crumbs. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Dip fillets in cream, roll in bread crumbs, and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle any remaining crumb mixture over breaded fillets. Melt butter with lemon juice, then drizzle over breaded fillets. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over fillets. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until done. Feeds three or four people. Especially good served with fresh steamed asparagus.

Whether for the table or for the fun of it, fishing for perch can mean quality time on the water - and a chance to be outdoors enjoying the arrival of milder weather. While the bass are still slumbering you can have lots of exciting action targeting perch - you might be surprised how much you like it!

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Last Updated: March 15, 2007