Yellow Perch Fishing Tactics with Captain Tony Zelms
Thursday, Mar 12

This isn’t a yellow perch but it is a great picture!
tony walleye
Yellow perch always takes second to Lake Erie Walleye for the chase, but most people will agree that yellow perch are the most delicious fresh water fish to eat! If you go into any local restaurant along Lake Erie, you will find yellow perch on the menu, and for good reason. These are some of the most mild and delicious fish you will ever eat and are great for fish sandwiches or dinners! Check out our previous blog on HBB Bar and grille if you don’t want to catch and cook your own Yellow Perch:
Yellow perch aren’t quite as exciting to catch as some of the other Lake Erie sports fish, but Perch fishing is still a blast and can be a challenge as well. Some of the best days on the water for me have been yellow perch fishing, and the fish fry’s that result were always a bonus! For this blog entry we are going to talk to Captain Tony Zelms of Marblehead Ohio. Tony runs for Dunlap’s Charter Service out of East Harbor Marina on his boat, “Perpetrator”. Tony was not only the best man in my wedding, but he is also a very accomplished fisherman and charter captain on the big lake! I can remember plenty of perch trips with Tony and his Father Jerry, and some with his cousin Mike Zelms as well when we were kids. Tony uses different tactics on Yellow Perch than others that I have fished with and sadly, he always seems to out-fish everyone else! Shew, that was pretty hard to admit…I’m not going to lie! In this blog I am looking to shed some light on why that is, and see if we can get some secrets out of Tony “TZ” Zelms!
Captain Tony with his boat “Perpetrator”
Tony and boat
Me: “Tony, thanks for giving us a chance to learn how to catch some perch! Don’t hold back now, tell me all of your secrets!”
Tony: “No problem Jason, I’m glad to help out fellow anglers anytime I can! I don’t have too many secrets on perch fishing but I will tell you one thing from my experience…if you want to catch big hog nosed perch, Springtime is the best time to do it!”
This is a “hog nosed perch”
big perch
Me: “Amen! I happen to remember a Springtime trip we had back in the day. I was driving by your house and saw you and your dad unloading the cooler so I stopped by to see what you had. You had a cooler of the biggest perch I had ever seen and you asked if I was off work and said “Lets go!”. We may have gone over the limit that day (hopefully no Game Wardens are reading), but needless to say we went out and caught a bunch! We got a limit of eyes too didn’t we?”
Tony: I don’t recall the violating part, but I do remember catching our limit of walleyes and perch! It’s very common to catch walleye while perch fishing in the Spring. Both species are looking for food before they spawn.”
Me: “Man did we catch some hogs that day, the best perch fishing I’ve ever had BAR NONE! Drank too much beer too from memory, but that is a different story. So you have already stated that Spring is the best time to catch big perch. Is there a better time for sheer numbers?”
Tony: “Springtime isn’t too bad for numbers, but I like the fall months for numbers better. The fish are super active and in big schools looking for bait fish to prey on.”
Me: ” How do you dictate where to set up? Does it change for the different seasons?”
Tony: “During Springtime I typically fish gradual drop-offs where the rock meets the mud. Sometimes they are in the mud and sometimes they are in the rocks, it depends on the day! In the fall I typically go out and find a deep mud flat where the water is a bit cooler.”
Me: “I am assuming then, that electronics play a big role in finding the fish?”
Tony: ” Oh yes, when it comes to perch fishing good electronics are worth their weight in gold! They show you everything from contours along the bottom to schools of fish either in the mud or on the rocks. Good electronics are essential in deciphering where the fish are laying.”
Me: ” What unit do you use and what do you like about it most? What do you look for on the graph to find the spot?”
Tony: “I use an older Furuno myself, and it shows the marks very well. When I’m looking for perch I look for humps on the bottom or close to it. Typically perch feed close to the bottom on freshwater shrimp and minnows. So, on my graph I look for schools of perch by idling slowly and looking for humps along the bottom. Sometimes it is hard to decipher if they are rocks or perch. You may have to circle the spot a few times and look for separation between the fish and the bottom to make sure.”
My choice for electronics:
Me: “Do you find a certain weather pattern is best to catch a bunch of perch?”
Tony: “Not really. Sometimes when the weather is nice they bite like crazy, and sometimes not at all. Making sure you are on top of them is one way to ensure you don’t have those bad days, so use your fish finder! That is why they call this fishing and not catching!”
Me: “Wait a minute here, Tony Zelms doesn’t always catch fish like crazy?!?! You are admitting that in writing on the internet? WOW! Ok, here comes the big question since you are feeling honest here…where is your hot spot?!?! Come on now, cough it up pal!”
Tony: “Oh no Mr. Clemons, you’re not getting my hot spots! Typically in the Spring on Lake Erie anywhere in between Kellys Island and Marblehead lighthouse is pretty darn good. In the fall I like to fish off the Lafarge Quarry loading dock and the Lakeside pier. I have never done it, but I know they catch some big numbers in the Fall off the Lorain area.”
Me: “What a cop out! Whats this “anywhere between” crap, COME ON MAN! Ok, I’ll let it go for now and we will come back to it. Do you have any special perch fishing equipment you like to use?”
Tony: ” I use a medium action rod with a spinning reel with 8lb test line. I just use a simple perch spreader with #4 long shanked hooks (helps with swallowed hooks) tipped with emerald shiners.”
Nice “double header”
double header
Me: “You used to use crappie rigs didn’t you? Why not anymore?”
Tony: “Occasionally I still do, but the spreaders don’t tangle near as much!”
Me: “Do you have any special techniques you use? I know perch fishing takes a certain “feel” but what is your typical technique like?”
Tony: “I just drop it down to the bottom and let it sit for 10-15 seconds and then lift it up real slowly. Just lift it up about a foot and a half, just to where the hooks are scraping the bottom. You will feel a small tap if there is one there, if not set it back on the bottom for another 10-15 seconds. Pick it back up real slowly and you can feel them biting or maybe just hanging on it. If there’s one on it, just set the hook and reel it on in!”
Me: “Sounds simple, but they can be tough to feel! Do you use power pro or another braided line?”
Tony: “I use power pro on my walleye rods but for perch I just stick with good ole mono, it is easy enough to feel em”
Me: “Hey, I’ll take any advantage I can get, a little extra help doesn’t hurt. So now you hopefully have a cooler full of perch, are you the kind of guy that cleans them himself or do you pay to have it done like myself, because I am lazy!?”
Tony: “I’m just like you, I take them to the cleaners!”
Me: “Do you have a certain place you like to take them?”
Tony: “Bays edge is great. They will even come right to my boat at the dock and pick them up!”
Me: “That’s where I always go as well. Is the pick up only for charter captains like yourself,or regular fisherman too?”
Tony: “Anyone! Just have to call them on either channel 19 on you marina radio or call them on the phone!”Call 419-732-9960 for Bays Edge fish cleaning
Me: “That’s awesome, I didn’t know that! Do you prefer to pan fry or deep fry your perch? do you have a favorite seasoning?”
Tony: “Oh yes, deep fry them in Andy’s batter. they have a few different flavors, but I prefer the “red” flavor.”
Me: “I think we may have had that at my bachelor party “after party”? Hell, I don’t remember! HAHAHAHAHAHA!”
NOTE: Jill and Sarah, if you are reading this..thanks for saving me that night!
Tony: ” Yes we did! We have it every time we cook fish, that’s how good it is!”
Me: “Well next time, I’ll make sure I remember! I know I’ve had it before though and it is definitely good stuff. Pan fried is my preference though! Anything else we have missed on here that people should know?”
Tony: “Yes. Remember to always respect Lake Erie in every sense. We are very lucky to have such a great place to fish. Take care of it, and it will take care of us!”
Me: “That is a fact JACK! Thank you for taking the time Tony. I’m sure you will be booked up soon, but how can people get a hold of you to book a trip if they want to learn this from a pro or don’t have a boat?”
Tony: “You can go to our website . All of the information is on there, or you can call us at 877-797-4361, make sure and ask for Captain Tony!”
Captain Tony’s Boat
Tonys boat
Me: “Thanks again Tony. Hopefully this will help someone put a few more perch in the boat or enjoy the table fair a little better!”
Captain Tony definitely knows how to put a hurting on some perch! Make sure and look him up if you want to hit the water for some Lake Erie sport fishing. He is more than capable for walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass….and even SHEEPHEAD! Tony not only knows how to fish, but has a very memorable personality that keeps clients coming back year after year. Trust me when I say, he is one of a kind. I guess that’s why he was my best man!
Until next time…
See you on the water,

Jason Clemons

Clemons Boats - Life is better on a boat!

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