The Perch-Bluegill Connection

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Before we get started, just a quick note to say that this is something we have not written about before. Dave didn’t want to talk about it in print until he was convinced it’s something you can take to the bank no matter where you fish. It’s a dynamic that is still a theory, but it has held true for years, in many lakes across the Ice Belt…

Dave Genz revolutionized ice fishing by seeing what the sport could be, rather than what it always had been. By noticing what others miss, he continues to help us catch nice fish.

One of Genz’s more recent connect-the-dots theories has to do with jumbo perch and big bluegills. In essence, it’s find one and find the other, in waters that hold both.

Among ice anglers, these are two of the most prized specimens. When they come in a mixed bag, it makes for a memorable day on the ice. Over the years, Dave has come to see that it’s worth the effort to seek bull-nosed bluegills where big perch swim, and vice versa.

“Granted, there are lakes that only have one or the other,” says Genz, folding his hands together and looking off into his memory banks. “I can think of lakes in South Dakota that don’t have weeds, and they only have perch. But there are plenty of places with both.

“On Okoboji (Iowa), the perch size is good, and it has really nice ‘gills. Cutfoot (part of Lake Winnibigoshish), Tulibee Lake, Reno, Blackduck (all in Minnesota) have nice perch and big bluegills. In New York, there’s Silver Lake, with decent bluegills and nice perch.”

There are others, including numerous lakes so small that Dave wrestles with whether to name them, which he chooses not to do. The big takeaway, no matter where you fish, is that this connection between bluegills and perch is worth looking for.
“If the perch are big, the ‘gills are, too,” says Genz.

A Working Theory on the Dynamics
So how is it that Genz’s theory tying jumbo perch to big bluegills might work?

After all, when both species reach grownup size, neither is a threat to the other. And, truthfully, it’s rare to sit and jig in one hole, catch a big bluegill on one drop, then a jumbo perch on the next drop, then a couple ‘gills followed by another perch. They don’t really run under the same circles, you might say… a little ice fishing humor there.

“Stunting is so common,” says Genz, “for both perch and bluegills.”
(Stunting is a term that means there are zillions of little fish, but few big ones. When there are zillions of little fish, those cumulative little fish take up the lake’s capacity to sustain fish life, and it becomes rare for any individual fish to grow large.)

“Once a lake has a stunting problem,” Genz continues, “it’s tough to fix it. But in lakes that have these larger perch, the big perch control stunting of bluegills because they eat the small bluegills. That keeps the bluegill numbers down, which lets more of them get big.

“That’s why lakes that have large keeper-size perch are also the key lakes for large bluegills.”
Genz believes

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