Jeff Knapp photo

Jeff Knapp photo

Lured by an open-water season that’s extended well into January — along with reports of late of good yellow perch fishing on Pymatuning Lake — my friend Sid Brown and I made a recent trip to the 16,000-acre Crawford County reservoir.

In the 30-plus years during which I’ve fished Pymatuning, most outings have been directed toward walleyes. Others have focused on muskies, a few on bass. And, on a handful of past trips, yellow perch.

I first bumped into good fishing for quality-sized yellow perch on Pymatuning several years ago. My friend Dave Lehman and I happened upon perch in the 9- to 12-inch range while fishing a large, mid-lake structure in the south end of the lake.

While our original hope was for walleyes, we quickly changed our plan when we started catching the big perch. Nearly all of them came on Hopkins Jigging Spoons.

That fall and early winter provided a string of relatively mild, windless (rare for that lake) weekend days, so Lehman and I continued to take advantage, returning several times to enjoy the good yellow perch fishing.

Not surprisingly, it was to that same major mid-lake spot that I pointed the bow of the boat last week when Sid and I decided to see if it was holding perch.

Before even dropping a line, we made a lap around the structure, scoping things out via the sonar views on my Garmin chartplotter. Occasional pods of fish showed up near the bottom, most of them in 16 to 18 feet of water.

Armed with this knowledge I set the boat up along the downwind edge of the shoal and began slowly working into the wind with the trolling motor. Sid rigged up with a blade bait, while I opted for a jigging spoon. Within a few minutes a yellow perch in the 9-inch range took my spoon. A while later Sid scored on a blade bait. We continued to catch a perch here and there, but the action was relatively slow.

Our next spot was a submerged bridge abutment not far from the mid-lake hump. The spot looked good, with sizeable bridge headwalls found on both sides of the main river channel clearly visible on the side imaging view on the chartplotter, but we came up blank.

Having given that spot a good hour’s effort we motored down the lake a couple miles to another submerged bridge structure. This one was loaded with fish. We caught dozens of yellow perch along with some undersized walleyes. They were stacked all along a bridge abutment as well as in the bottom of the river channel.

While the action was good, most of the yellow perch were small: perhaps eight to 10 were in the 9- to 10-inch range. This coincides with what the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission found when it surveyed the lake last spring.

According to the report, “trap net catches of yellow perch have steadily increased over the last four years producing the second highest total catch rate ever for the species in 2019. Most of the yellow perch sample (55 percent) was 6 inches or less, suggesting that they play an important role in the forage base. The next largest segment of the yellow perch catch was between 7 and 9 inches at 32 percent. Only 13 percent of the catch was equal to or greater than 9 inches, sizes preferred by anglers.”

Perhaps the strong yellow perch population revealed in last year’s PFBC survey will provide sport for better-sized fish during the next few years.