When people think of fishing Lake Simcoe, naturally their minds go to giant smallmouth. Of course, during the warmer open water months there is no better place to catch the biggest smallmouth of your life. Lake Simcoe is truly the smallmouth bass fishing capital of Canada but when the water gets hard in the winter months, I’d argue there is no better place in the world to catch the biggest perch of your life.
Perch as big as bass swim here and there are a lot of them! Not only are they very plentiful but when you come to Lake Simcoe expect to catch perch all day when you’re in the right area. Some days you’d think they litter every square foot of the lake. It’s very common for anglers to catch well over 100 perch in a day and did I mention they taste incredible!
Location: Beaverton, Ontario (Township of Brock)
One of the best access points on the Lake is Beaverton Ontario at Beaverton Harbour and Harbour Park. With ample affordable parking and a great boat launch at the mouth of the harbour, it’s a great place to walk, ATV, or snowmobile out. In addition to the great fishing there are lots of local attractions and restaurants when your fishing day is over. The cost for launching and parking for the day is very reasonable.
Safety Note: Lake Simcoe covers an area of 744 square kilometers and is more than 40km from end to end. Ice thickness can vary from area to area plus winter storms or strong winds creating whiteouts can appear quickly and are extremely dangerous for anyone out on the ice. If you are unfamiliar with navigating Lake Simcoe, its best to check with local hut operators about ice thickness and always have a GPS with you to make sure you can navigate in the event of a whiteout. Please exercise extreme caution and only head out alone on a sunny calm day. Always let someone know where you’re going and your access point on the Lake in the event you don’t return.
Now that you know about this incredible ice fishing opportunity, here’s how to catch them…
Strategy, Techniques, and Gear
Jumbo Perch can be the easiest fish to catch at times but when heavily pressured and as the season goes on, they can become more finicky eaters. The biggest perch are smart and big for a reason.
Where to Start
Before venturing out, it’s important to look at a lake map (ideally with depth markings) and decide where you are going to start for the day. Typically, you will find Jumbo perch in 6 to 30 feet of water. I find the shallow water is best during the early season and they move deeper as the winter drags on. Beaverton is a great central location that is close to many drop offs, shoals, and one of the largest islands on the lake – Thorah Island. The various points and steeper drop offs around the island can be incredible. Often you will find Jumbo perch on any of these types of locations, but you may need to drill several holes in various depths to find them. I always start shallow and work my way out deeper. My rule of thumb is if you find perch and they are active eaters, stay there for the day. Where there is one you will find hundreds. You may want to drill new holes close by if the bite slows down during the day but stay in that general area.
Baits and Equipment
Baits – Spoons, Plastics, and Jigging Raps
As mentioned before, finding these fish is nearly the entire battle. They tend to be very easy to catch. Keeping it simple for me has never failed. The best bait I have found for catching perch of all sizes, especially the big ones is the Taco Spoon by an Ontario-based company called Great Lakes Finesse. This is a small spoon that gives off a lot of flash, vibration, and glows in the lower light below the ice.
When the Taco Spoon is not working, which I will add is very rare I will switch to a very small Rapala Jigging Rap or a Great Lakes Finesse 2.2″ Flat Cat. Either of these baits will get the most stubborn fish to bite when presented properly.
With any of these baits you will want to jig them about a foot off bottom. When fish aren’t around, I will impart lots of action in the bait with big sweeps of the rod to attract fish but once fish appear under the ice and I know they are there I barely move the bait with the smallest twitches of my rod. Bites are generally quite subtly which leads us into electronics.
So how do you know if you have fish below you? Lake Simcoe has extremely clear water so generally I like to sight fish for perch anywhere up to about 20 feet of water by just looking down the hole. In a hut with the windows blocked from sunlight, you will easily see down to the bottom clear as day. If you fish often or plan to fish deeper than 20 feet, I highly recommend an ice fish finder or flasher. This piece of equipment will allow you to see bottom, the depth you’re in, your bait jigging, and fish below you in real time.
Rod, Reel, and Line
When it comes to my rod and reel setup it’s quite simple. I bring two rods with me on every trip. One is a 30″ ultra-light rod and the second is a 30″ medium rod. The light rod is for days when the fish are biting very light, and I need a lighter rod tip to detect the bites. More often, I use the stiffer medium action rod so I can get a solid hook set into those larger fish. Remember these perch can be as big as bass so having the extra strength in your rod helps with landing more and bigger fish. I pair both of my rods with a quality size 500 or 1000 spinning reels spooled with 4lb test line (ice monofilament). Gagnon Sports in Oshawa has one of the largest selections of ice equipment in Canada and have the knowledgeable staff to get you setup. They also sell every product mentioned in this article.
“One ice fishing trip for Jumbo Perch on Lake Simcoe can bring home 1000 fish stories! There is no better place to take my son fishing in the winter” – Sarah Delyea
If DIY Isn’t Your Style Book a Local Operator
Everything I talked about above is for the angler that wants to do it all themselves. For some people the planning, the gear, and the learning through trial and error is all part of the fun. Alternatively, if all this work doesn’t interest you but you still want to experience incredible perch fishing you can rent a hut from a local hut operator. They take care of everything… They will put you in a heated hut, give you the baits and equipment, and generally have you on a good fishing spot.
Check Out these Local Hut Operators
Pricing is extremely reasonable for the service these local operators provide, and this is a great option for a unique and exciting family activity.
Whether you decide to go it alone or rent a hut, it won’t take you long to agree with me that this is the best place to ice fish for perch in the world. Give it a shot this winter, you may just get “hooked” on this amazing winter activity!