Ice Fishing Lake Simcoe: Perch Paradise

Sky-high limits at winter perch paradise

To the best of my knowledge, there are two locations where perch provide the angler a bonanza. Number one is Lake Simcoe in southern Ontario, about a 200-mile drive from Detroit. The other is Devils Lake in North Dakota. Both provide a winter perch paradise and reasonably-priced accommodations for groups of anglers. The possession limit at Devils Lake is 40 and Lake Simcoe has an unbelievable 100-perch possession limit.

I’ve fished both and found Lake Simcoe a bit better, if you hit the bite right. Devils Lake is better regarding guide services and motel availability. ‘Bobber’ Anne and I have been to Simcoe twice with our good friend, Bob Kook of Detroit. Bob loves to fish Simcoe and keeps a close eye on its ice conditions. If he had his way, he’d make a half-dozen trips there each winter—or maybe just stay there! Either way, when we need to film there, or gather a few of those delicious filets, he can clue us in as to where, when and how to ice fish Lake Simcoe for Perch

Lake Simcoe perch fishing through the ice!

Such was the case last winter when we finished working the Detroit Sports Show. We only had to ask Bob once if he’d like to head over to Simcoe. His instant response was, “you bet!” Besides his vast knowledge of this Lake Simcoe perch ice fishing paradise, Bob has all the gear needed packed into a huge camper trailer. Inside, he has a four-wheeler, snowmobile, a pair of ice shelters, insulated suits and all the rods and reels you need. For lures, he has a great variety–including a good selection of Gapen Flickers, which he loves.

“You’ve got a deal, guys, as long as you provide Flickers for the excursion,” Bob said. Since we make the slim jigging spoon, we could easily comply. “Bob, what colors do you need?”

He smiled and asked for perch, red & white glow, a blue holograph and a shad holograph, plus a couple more glowing colors. How many should we provide? He suggested a dozen of each. Far too many, we thought, but Bob explained that there were a great many pike cruising the perch staging areas. We loaded up with even more than the dozen requested, and threw in a few additional colors.

We began our drive that night to hit the ice at early daylight. Bob would drive and we’d pay for the gas—not a small amount considering what we’d burn hauling that burdened trailer!

Sharp teeth and thick ice

Once at Lake Simcoe’s southern end, we needed to take the four-wheeler and portable shanty to the fishing spot on our winter perch paradise. Anne and Bob headed out first. I was on the second trip. It was about a half-mile to where Bob thought we should set up. Forty minutes later, we closed the fabric door on the fish house, started up the heater and the electronics, and began to jerk perch. With Anne’s underwater video equipment filming the whole thing, we were well on the way to gathering the film we needed for a DVD to promote Gapen Flickers. Twenty minutes into fishing, Anne heaved up hard on her ice rod and began a fight that lasted around four minutes. I’d been watching the underwater camera video screen and noticed the sharp nose of a decent-sized pike clamp onto her red and white Flicker. Finally, as the eyeballs of the mean fellow came up her hole in the ice, she reached for it, pressed the gills tight and lifted out a good-eating 7-pounder. Once de-hooked it was tossed out the shanty door onto the ice.

Bob and I congratulated our partner and kept looking at our video camera’s monitor for more predators. The day ended as we counted a total of 52 Lake Simcoe perch kept and Anne’s pike. She was queen for the day.

Perch-packed pike

When fileted, we found the pike full of small perch. Even the pike know this lake is a winter perch paradise! The pike provided thick, rich filets which we fried that evening. I’ve always preferred the tail part of a northern pike over walleye. When guiding as a youngster in Ontario, I prepared walleye shore lunches every day of the summer and grew tired of it. Having to eat fried fish every day, I learned I could eat pike more days in a row and not get tired of it. Brook trout was okay for three days in a row. Lake trout I could tolerate for five days.

They got their pike, go get your own!

Advice you can take to the bank

Bob Kook not only loves ice fishing like no one else I know, he is one of the best at it of anyone I know. I’ve learned several things worth passing along. He claims most ice anglers jig too much. Allowing your lure to sit still, giving it a quiver every once in a while, then raising it slowly upwards gets more strikes. I asked why. Bob, thinking like a fish, stated that the predator thinks the lure is attempting to get away. Rather than watch it anymore, the fish seizes it. Who knows? I’ve never been a fish, so maybe he’s right.

Before we brought out our Red Ball Eggs, he told me that perch will inhale a red, egg-sized object even though it isn’t scented or as soft as our egg is. He was right! Perch inhale a red hard plastic or glass egg-sized round object. You must let it sit still after jigging it a couple of times. Thus, we came up with our Red Ball Eggs which can be used on any lure to scent it. On the Mississippi, two springs ago, Anne and I were trolling Flub Dubs with some success. After attaching a Red Ball Egg to the rear hook, I caught several channel cats. So Anne put one on, too, and began catching cats. This proved the eggs’ anise scent helps attract strikes. A number of our customers have put these eggs on spinners, Rapalas and spoons and now swear it helps increase their catch!

I swear by them when it comes to perch fishing Lake Simcoe.

Their fill of filets

We stayed another day, caught a bundle more 10- to 13-inch fish and went home happy—except for all the fileting we had to do!

My friend Bob has had the golfing bug hit him and might head south after the Detroit Sport Show this coming year. He’s found a place in Florida and might go hit a little white ball around instead of going to our winter perch fishing Lake Simcoe. Bob, if you see this column, keep this in mind: you can’t eat golf balls!

Considered one of the world’s leading river anglers, Dan Gapen, Sr. will continue to recount his past and recent adventures and offer his knowledge to MidWest Outdoors readers. For more information call The Gapen Company at 763-263-3558, email them at gapen@gapen.com or visit them at Facebook @TheGapenCompany.