October is a good month for hunting several kinds of wildlife, but it’s an equally good time to do some fishing, and the best game in town these days is seeking Lake Erie perch.  Erie perch traditionally turn on in October with action along shorelines and on piers a little slow at first, but gradually building as waters cool and fish move close.  There are a fair number of piers in the Western Basin that can produce good catches of perch, but one of the best has always been the Huron pier.

This long pier has been a fall hotspot since I was a pup, and it should continue this month, if not right now, then soon.  Many an angler just walks out a short distance and drops a line, but the rule of thumb is that the further out you walk on this smooth topped concrete structure, the better fishing generally is.  The very best action is clear out at the end around the lighthouse, and that’s a long hike for anglers laden with rods, minnow buckets, maybe a cooler, and food.  But it’s usually worth it.  Try at least to reach territory around the blockhouse.  That’s often a pretty good spot.

Gear for the Huron Pier or any other is a spreader for most, but spreaders don’t work well here unless you’re fishing straight down.  Cast them out and the minnows are buried or half buried in Huron River mud, hard for perch to find.  A better rig is the standard two snelled No. 6 hooks above a one ounce sinker.  Fished fairly close to the pier they’ll be above the bottom and easily seen.  If possible, always take a long handled net on Huron Pier trips, and I mean LONG because it’s a fair distance down to the water.  Steelhead come upstream here each fall and winter, and last October I hooked two in one day on shiner minnows, but without a net had no chance to land them.

There are other piers that often produce perch, and one is the Catawba State Park pier on the northwest corner of Catawba Island.  It’s a short pier, but has the advantage of plenty of parking, restrooms, and a play area for kids.  You might also give thought to Mazurik and Dempsey Access, both of which lie near Marblehead and have lots of parking, restrooms, and are handicap accessible.

Pier fishing is always an on again-off again proposition, but boat fishing is close to sure fire if you follow the rules.  Right now, perch are hitting around the northern cans of the Camp Perry firing range, between Green and Rattlesnake islands, between Gull and Kelleys Island shoals, and off Cedar Point with some taken near the Marblehead lighthouse.  All you’ll need is a boat large enough to handle big water, and some good friend is likely to have one.

There are two ways to go when you’re fishing with friends on a boat, and one is to simply motor out and head for a pack of anchored craft.  They’ll be perch fishing and if they’re catching fish, probably you will, too.  A better way is to cruise a likely area with or without anchored boats, and use a fish locator to find a school below.  Anchor and work it until the fish move on, then up anchor and search out another school.  Sitting in one spot all day taking only an occasional perch is not a smart move..  I was up to the lake a few weeks ago, fishing just south of Kelleys Island.  We found a nice school, and filled our 150 fish limit in just over an hour, catching many doubles and even triples.  It can happen if you hunt them.

Yet another way to catch Erie perch is on a headboat, and many headboats are turning to perch since walleye fishing is so slow.  There are head boats scattered all over western Lake Erie, though they’re heavily concentrated near Port Clinton, and these boats offer plenty of elbow room most days and comfortable fishing usually under an overhead awning.  They might or might not provide bait for your $25 – 35 ticket, but they’ll usually provide fish since their captains are out daily and know where the schools are holding.  For a list of headboats, call the Ottawa County Visitors Bureau at 1-800-441-1271.  Then head north to search out some good eating.

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