Yellow perch is one of the tastiest and most beautiful fish found in North America. Despite their small size, these colorful fish are very popular in the angling community. So what is the best Yellow Perch Bait?
There are several varieties of bait used to catch these fish, so you’ll have quite a selection to choose from. Fortunately, we’ve compiled everything you need to know.
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Table of Contents
Best Baits for Yellow Perch
The best bait for yellow perch is live minnows, crayfish, mealworms, or nightcrawlers. Yellow perch also love the eyes and jaw meat of other fish, even their own kind. Live bait or fresh cut-bait is best, but artificial lures such as small jigs and in-line spinners can be very effective.
Throughout this article, you’ll learn the following information about the best baits for yellow perch:
- A list of the best and most popular baits to catch yellow perch.
- Why you should choose one of these baits to improve your success.
- How to use each bait mentioned.
If you’re fishing at a place with loads of minnows, you’re in luck. Yellow perch love minnows and spend the early stages of their life cycle feeding on zooplankton and fry of common minnow species. For this reason, they are a highly desired food source almost anywhere. Grab a few dozen from the local bait and tackle store, or try catching your own with a minnow trap.
How to Fish with Live Minnows
Yellow Perch have small mouths, so use a small hook or jig. My favorite is a #6 Aberdeen style hook with just enough split shot weight to get the minnow down to the bottom. Try making a Double minnow rig once you locate the school.
You can also try a colorful jig, such as a 1/8th ounce Chartreuse jig head and tipped with minnows. Always hook the minnow from the bottom jaw, upward, and out through the top of the nose. This will not kill the minnow and allow it to look as natural as possible.
Fathead Minnows, Mosquitofish, Bullhead Minnows and many others are an abundant and common food source for Yellow perch, so they are much more likely to bite live minnows than anything else, though you’ll learn about an exception near the end of the page…keep reading!
Mealworms are readily available, affordable, and easy to use. They’re some of the best baits for various fish, which is why yellow perch love them.
Mealworms are quite small compared to minnows, crayfish, and many other baits. For this reason, they’re better for small hooks and ultralight tackle.
The primary reason mealworms are top-notch bait is that they resemble both worms and insects. Yellow Perch are insectivores so they feed on a wide variety of insect larvae and grubs. This makes them very popular with ice fisherman, when other live bait may be unavailable.
How to Fish with Meal Worms
Mealworms are usually pretty small, so you’ll need a small hook. Try using a number 8 Aberdeen hook. Hook on 1 or 2 mealworms at the end, no need to hook them twice. Fish on the bottom near rocky or gravel structure; that is the location worms and grubs are likely to live and where hungry Yellow Perch are going to look.
You can find mealworms at almost any fishing store and even at pet stores. They’re also available online.
Or, try catching your own! They typically live around fallen trees, rotten logs, and stumps surrounded by mud. Excess moisture, wood, and soil are the three essential components for them to thrive.
Crayfish live in shallow rivers, swamps, and lakes and are often found underneath rocks, logs, and other dark places. They stay out of sight, but a little digging goes a long way. When you find crayfish, it’s best to keep them alive until you hook them on the line.
Yellow perch love crayfish since they’re native to their environment through North America.
You can also purchase crayfish at a bait and tackle shop, but it’s best to catch them live. They’re difficult to keep alive if they’re out of water for too long, so make sure you have a bucket with you when you find them. Also, wear gloves so they don’t pinch your hands.
How to Fish with Crayfish
Live Crayfish are a fantastic bait choice, and they are highly favored by Yellow Perch. In fact, schools of Yellow Perch are known to ‘gang up’ on Crayfish, picking it apart from all angles piece by piece until finally consuming the brave crustacean.
To catch Yellow perch on Crayfish, you don’t need to fish with the entire thing. In fact, I recommend breaking the crayfish into two pieces. The tail and legs and the head and pinchers.
This will give you twice the amount of bait, and still produce plenty of bites. Simply hook onto a #4-#8 sized live bait hook and dropdown. If there are no Perch schools around, simply pitch it on the bottom and wait.
Another tip about crayfish is always to get the smaller ones. Adult crayfish are usually too big for yellow perch, though some yellow perch varieties can eat big crayfish.
Another incredibly popular bait for many fish is nightcrawlers. These protein-packed worms provide almost everything yellow perch need to survive, so they’ll swarm them the second they enter the water.
Much like crayfish and minnows, you should attach live nightcrawlers to keep them moving when they enter the water.
How to Fish with NightCrawlers
Nightcrawlers are a great live bait choice for Yellow Perch because they are readily available for purchase or easy to catch on your own. I like to use a small piece, about 1 inch in length (not the whole worm).
Hook through once on a #5 Aberdeen hook and fish it suspended just off the bottom. You want the Nightcrawler to move naturally in the water. Let the worm lure them in, but don’t move the hook or rod too much.
Nightcrawlers are some of the most readily available baits in the industry. You can catch them near muddy areas right after a rainy day, purchase them online, or buy them at a local fishing store.
Here is one you may not have heard of: Fish eyes as Yellow Perch bait! Believe it or not, some fishermen love using eyeballs of various fish they’ve caught as bait. What’s better than catching and eating a fish, then using the leftovers and scraps to catch more dinner?
Unfortunately, fish eyes aren’t available for purchase. So your best bet is to save the eyes from any fish you’ve already kept and plan on eating. Usually, scraps like extra meat and fish heads go into the trash. Next time, save them in a plastic bag and try them when fishing for Perch, you may be surprised!
Berkley Honey Worms
Berkley Honey Worms are an artificial bait that provides everything you’d need to catch yellow perch. They’re designed to hold fish up to 18 times longer than traditional bait, which means you don’t have to worry about them falling off the hook like traditional live baits.
There are several sizes and colors to choose from, too but I prefer the Honeyworm.
Perhaps the primary reason yellow perch love Berkley Honey Worms is their strong scent. They might smell horrible to humans, but fish love these baits. This budget-friendly bait comes with up to 55 worms. You’ll have more than enough for several trips without the hassle of catching the bait.
Berkley Gulp Minnows
Last but not least, Berkley Gulp Minnows are a worthwhile choice. They look, feel, and weigh the same as real minnows, but you can use them repeatedly. This process saves time and money, instead of fishing or buying dozens of minnows every time you want to catch yellow perch.
A great alternative to live bait when the water is iced-over or when the bait shop is closed. The power is in the scent/brine- trust me this bait sells itself once you see the results.
Yellow Perch is truly a North American treasure. They can be caught year-round, and are known to be aggressive despite their small size. They are fun to catch, excellent to eat and they make for a really cool photo!
The next time you’re out fishing for Yellow Perch, try using minnows, crayfish, mealworms, night-crawlers or even fish eyes, and let me know how you do!
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