The yellow and brass body and the orange hue fins of the yellow perch beautifully shimmered under the bright late August sun.
I gazed with delight as the nearby angler hoisted this pretty 10-inch fish in the air off the Luther Burbank Park pier on Mercer Island.
It was a typical sized yellow perch by Lake Washington standards, and not quite what is referred to as a “jumbo-sized” fish of 12 inches or longer. Nor was it anywhere near the official state record of 2.75 pounds caught by Larry Benthien at Snelson’s Slough in Skagit County on June 22, 1969.
But, with ample feed and lots of room to grow in Seattle’s biggest urban watershed, state fisheries biologists claim its only a matter of time before a record-breaking perch will be brought to the scales.
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Perch don’t peel off line like a salmon or leap out of the water like a trout trying to spit a hook, but a nonstop bite from these tasty game-fish will get any angler hooked on this fun late summer and fall fishery.
“I fished for perch in Lake Washington recently, and it is about as good as I’ve ever seen it,” said Danny Garrett, the state Fish and Wildlife warm-water species biologist.
“We’ve had a couple of warm summers in a row, and there is just a tremendous abundance of yellow perch,” Garrett said. “It is not uncommon to see 13- to 14-inch perch in Lake Washington show up in the creel of anglers, and there’s a lot of 6- to 9-inch fish.”
It is also an exciting way to lure kids into the sport, although these fish can be a hard nut to crack.
The skill involved is knowing “when, where and how” to fish for them in this huge lake that covers more than 22,000 acres and is 20 miles long.
The best time to fish for yellow perch begins around July when the water heats up, and peaks in August through October. As the winter chill sets in by November, the bite all but ceases as the perch move out into very deep water.
“The good news about yellow perch is you don’t need to get up early in the morning to catch them,” Garrett said. “Yellow perch are daytime feeders and will actively feed on snails, clams and crayfish even in the middle of the afternoon when the wake boarders, water skiers and boaters are around.”
Locating them will lead to a successful outing, and perch tend to school in shallow water, 15 to 35 feet, close to shore. They can be found in shaded spots under docks, piers, overhanging trees and brush, and cover such as lily pads, milfoil or aquatic weeds.
Some of the most popular places to fish for them are at the Kenmore log boom and pier, Magnuson Park shoreline, the banks of Seward Park and Andrews Bay, Juanita Bay, Webster Point in Union Bay, Yarrow Bay in Kirkland, Gene Coulon Park in Renton, Foster Island, Mercer Island and the docks off Madison Park, Leschi Park and Mount Baker Park.
The gear to catch them is nothing too sophisticated, just a light-to-medium-action rod with a spinning reel attached to 4- to 6-pound test line. Adding a skirted crappie jig or an egg-shaped lead weight to a small hook and bait works well.
Yellow perch will hit just about anything, including a small chunk of their own species or even a perch eyeball. You can also add a chunk of nightcrawler worm or maggots.
Lake Washington isn’t the only yellow perch show in the area, with action happening in lakes like Sammamish; Whatcom near Bellingham, Sawyer northwest of Black Diamond; Goodwin northwest of Marysville; Stevens east of Everett; American near Fort Lewis; Kapowsin southeast of Puyallup; Angle in Sea-Tac; Desire in Renton; Meridian in Kent; and Harts southeast of Yelm.
Perch reproduce well and are so plentiful that state Fish and Wildlife doesn’t have a daily catch or size limit on them in most statewide lakes.
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