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Southern Lake Michigan hasn’t been the best of places to catch perch this summer, although that’s starting to change. Word from Adam Pyle at Pyles Porthole in South Haven is the perch are finally in from wherever they’ve been spending their summer vacation, and there are starting to be some good—if sporadic—reports from places like Michigan City, Indiana and St. Joseph, Michigan.

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Uncle Bud with one of 10 nice perch he caught Tuesday, September 4.

Last Thursday at New Buffalo, Michigan, I trolled for salmon with Bud Roche (everybody’s Uncle Bud) and James Clark, a friend of his who first mates on a head boat Bud fishes on during the winter inFlorida. We trolled Bud’s favored spread of meat rigs and flasher/flies out of his 22-foot Grady White, “The Uncle Bud,†struggling to get four bites and land two fish. After a long day, we idled up the Galien River towards the public ramp in tandem with an older bow rider carrying three guys and several spinning rods, obviously perchers. Bud engaged them in conversation and soon learned they’d each caught a limit of 35 nice perch in 40 feet of water up towards Warren Dunes State Park, several miles north of New Buff. They said they’d each caught about a hundred, weeding through lots of small fish.

And after a telephone call from Bud Monday night, that’s where we were yesterday, along with Hoosier angler Charlie Lentine, in Bud’s dedicated perch boat, a 20-foot Grady-White center console, “The Uncle Bud Two,†searching for elusive schools. And searching and searching. Bud isn’t one to fish memories, picking a waypoint where he caught fish before and setting up there again. He uses his sonar unit to see schools of fish and fishes them. If they’re not the fish he’s looking for, he’s moving to find another school after just a few minutes.

That was yesterday’s lesson. We spent around four hours looking. First spot where he saw fish turned out to be a big school of gobies—we caught several in just 10 minutes—and it was up anchor and move again. Second spot, all we caught were perch more appropriate for the home aquarium than a frying pan, so it was moving on again, in shallow to 15- and 16-foot depths, out to 40-plus feet. Still none in the cooler.

Finally, after nearly four hours of this, within sight of Tower Hill, Bud saw something he liked in 19 feet of water, and a legitimate keeper yellow-belly about 10 inches long ate the top minnow of my two-hook rig. We circled back out and anchored, and in the next couple of hours, weeded through maybe 70 fish to keep 20. The fish ate minnows and small frozen crayfish, seeming to prefer the minnows. Bud with three rods in the back of the boat equaled Charlie and me in the front of the boat. He caught 10, I caught four using two rods and Charlie caught six with his noodle rod. Charlie, who fishes inland a lot for panfish, said he had plenty of fillets in his freezer and donated his six to me, which will make for a nice meal tonight.

A few basics: Lively minnow work way better than dead ones, an aerator in the bucket helps keep them kicking. Bud swears by 6- and 4-pound fluorocarbon leaders and braided no stretch line. Number 4, 6 and 8 hooks all work, but Bud prefers No. 4s, believing they catch fewer small fish and are easier to remove from keepers. Use enough weight to keep the rig on the bottom.

One good tip: When he saw a school on the electronics, Bud tossed a marker buoy overboard to mark it, then positioned the boat so that when the anchor was lowered (my main duty yesterday), wind and current would bring the boat back to that precise spot.

Seems like South Haven is the place to go, and we’ll update what’s happening there in tomorrow’s BLOG. In the meantime, you can contact Pyles Porthole to find out where perch are snapping at 269-637-1849. For a New Buffalo report, call Captain Cook’s at 269-469-4510.

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