Spend enough time around ice anglers who fish for walleyes and yellow perch in Northern Ontario and you'll soon find yourself immersed in the ever-persistent debate focused on the best presentation to offer the fish—an artificial lure or live bait?
Well, here is a surprise because many days the answer is neither.
Indeed, we've been enjoying a scorching ice bite this winter for big, beautiful, jumbo yellow perch. Most days it has been hard to catch a striped bandit under a foot in length, with most of the tasty oversized fish averaging between 13 and 14 inches.
That is stout.
And the perch bite has been so knock-on-wood consistently good that most days we've not even targeted their bigger, bolder, beautiful walleye cousins. Seems more than enough nice opal eyes have simply shown up on the ends of our lines, as bonus happen chances.
What we've been using for bait, on the other hand, is something I've relied on since I was a young kid ice fishing for perch on Lake Simcoe's famous Cook's Bay. It is the eye that I have carefully removed from one of the fish that we've already placed on ice.
Carefully pinned to end of a jig or dangling below a small spoon or jigging minnow, there is absolutely nothing quite like it. It looks, smells and tastes like what the fish are eating.
A good friend, Dr. Bruce Tufts, a fish physiologist at Queen’s University and superb angler, often talks about "super stimuli"—things that make fish flip head-over-heels and open up their mouths wide when they see it.
At the top of the list is an eye.