Yellow perch are one of the most prized fish targeted by ice fishermen but how about trying to catch them at night? Believe it or not, a lot of ice fishermen do fish for perch at night and many of them enjoy incredible successes.
Can you catch yellow perch at night through the ice? Yellow perch will bite at night, with or without artificial fishing glow lights, as long as you can locate a school of perch and present them with a bait they can locate in the darkness.
The trick is presenting a slightly larger, slower bait to them and giving perch enough time to locate it. Artificial fishing “glow” lights can really amp up fishing success and keep a single hole-producing perch for hours.
Most perch anglers fish for yellow perch during the daylight hours because they are able to see what they are doing, they can hole-hop quicker, and perch generally feed more during the daytime during the winter months.
I feel like ignoring the nighttime bite, however, will be leaving a lot of fish off your hook. Nighttime perch bites during winter can be downright awesome.
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For a complete breakdown of which fishing bite best at night, please check out this helpful article I wrote.
Where to Locate Night Perch
At night, yellow perch will associate with shallow or medium-depth waterways with weeds or submerged logs. Look for water between 6 and 20-feet deep, preferably near a deep-water dropoff. Perch will congregate among the weeds as darkness settles in to avoid being caught in the open by hungry bass, pike, or walleye.
The schools of perch can be as small as 4 or 5 so be prepared to hole-hop a lot as the bites ebb and flow. Don’t fall in love with one spot at night or you could quickly run out of perch to catch.
The only reason I would set up shop at a single hole for the whole night is if I had some LED glow lights I could use to draw in with fish.
You still need to find a good location to start, but throughout the night, the lights will progressively draw in more and bigger fish. You can sit over a single hole and wait as waves and waves of perch roll in throughout the night.
Best Time to Catch Winter Perch
For most of the year, the early morning and late afternoon are the best times to catch perch in good numbers. During the winter, especially when ice fishing, I would say mid-to-late afternoon until sunset is the best.
That said, perch can be caught in big numbers after the sun goes down with the right approach and location. The nighttime can be a great time to fish for yellow perch during ice fishing season.
For a complete breakdown of the best times of day to catch yellow perch all year long, check out this article I wrote.
Best Baits for Night Perch Ice Fishing
When fishing for perch at night in winter, you are best off using slightly larger baits than you would during the day. Yellow perch have a hard time seeing food at night, especially with ice covering the lakes making visibility even worse.
If you want to catch yellow perch consistently at night, you will have to use slightly larger baits and jig them slower so perch can hone in on them. If you are using a single wax worm, hook on two wax worms instead.
Upgrade the size of the jig head and maybe incorporate jigheads that have some glow-in-the-dark properties. You simply want to give perch something more substantial that will allow them to find it in near-total darkness.
For a complete breakdown of how to use minnows to catch monster yellow perch and crappie, check out this helpful article I wrote. For a list of the 15 best yellow perch baits and how to fish with them, check out this article.
How to Catch Perch at Night
Jigging will be the most effective for catching large numbers of perch after dark. By jigging, I am referring to using an ultralight ice fishing rod and vertically jigging a small jig with wax worms, minnows, or soft plastics on the hook.
This technique is very effective for drawing and catching large numbers of perch and other panfish.
When doing this at night, upsize your bait and use a brighter colored jig head or even one with glow-in-the-dark properties. You basically just want to use something that can attract perch and they can find once they arrive.
Deadsticking is when you literally just let your live or cut bait suspend beneath a hole with your rod often just lying on the ice. This is nothing more than live bait fishing but through ice.
If I’m trying to deadstick for perch at night, I want a lively minnow or small shiner that will swim around and struggle. Wax worms and mealworms can also be a great option too. The more action and struggling it does, the better perch will be able to hone in on it in the dark.
If your state allows you to use 2 rods, I recommend deadsticking one hole and jigging the other right next to it so you can be fishing two holes simultaneously. The double baits will also draw in schools of perch in the dark.
I grew up a tip-up ice fishermen. Tip-ups allow you to fish multiple holes and over a wider expanse of water to locate fish. It is the premier way to fish live bait on the ice. The good thing about using tip-ups for nighttime perch is you can cover a large area of water passively while you jig.
For line, attach a very light leader to your tip-up braid. I recommend going with a 2 or 4-pound fluorocarbon since fluorocarbon will sink and very hard to see.
I recommend strongly that read my complete review of monofilament, braid, and fluorocarbon fishing line so you can understand why I recommend fluorocarbon as your leader here.
Use a single split shot to keep your bait down in the strike zone and just about any live or dead bait of suitable perch size will do. Small minnows, small shiners, dead shad, small bluegills, Berkley Gulp! Minnows (great as well), mealworms, wax worms, and even nightcrawlers.
I also recommend you attach a fishing bells or paint some reflective or glowing paint onto your flag so when that tip-up springs up with a bite, you can see or hear it in the dark.
Invest in a Good Ice Flasher
An ice flasher can be critical to your success at night. There are a number of great ice flashers on the market but I recommend you check out the Deeper Pro + (link to Amazon where you can check out current pricing and customer reviews).
This castable fish finder is great for ice fishing and offers an ice flasher mode that is comparable to many good ice flashers on the market.
But this castable fish finder is much more versatile because you can use it fishing from the bank, from a boat, or a dock instead of only on the ice like other flashers. It is a great value.
What About Fishing Lights?
Yes!! Invest in a set of LED fishing glow lights. These things will catch you fish. It sounds gimmicky but they will draw in fish for hours and keep a hole viable potentially all night long. These LED lights can be dropped beneath a nearby ice hole and really illuminate the entire area with a soft green light.
Bacteria and plankton will be drawn in first, followed by hungry baitfish. Curious crappie, bluegill, and perch will follow and also start snacking on baitfish. Don’t expect immediate results. It can take more than an hour for the whole process to start delivering larger fish.
But just know that even though small fish will show up first, the quality and quantity of fish will improve the longer you wait. Instead of having to hole-hop, you can literally position over a pretty good section of weedline and wave after wave of perch will be drawn in every hour you are out there.
There are many great LED fishing lights out there, but I think these are one of the best ones and are priced very affordably at Amazon. Just make sure you pick up a 12V battery to help power the light.
Does Moon Phase Matter?
Yes and know. Generally speaking, full moons create a better perch bite than no moons or quarter moons. That said, you can still catch a lot of perch ice fishing on no moon nights. Just fish a lot slower as the lack of moonlight will make it harder for perch to find food.
Again, glow lights can really amp up fishing because they can also illuminate the water and make it easy for perch to find food.
At night the perch fishing can be hit or miss. You can stack the odds in your favor by using glow lights and using larger baits that will be easier for perch to locate. If you enjoy night ice fishing like I do, especially on calm windless nights, you will love nighttime perch fishing.
You can catch a lot of good-sized perch jigging, deadsticking, or on tip-ups. Some nights you may get skunked but that will be the exception, not the norm if you are fishing with glow lights.
To view my complete guide to catching more and larger yellow perch, read the article I wrote. You will absolutely become a better perch angler by following my helpful tips.