So you want to try fishing for yellow perch at night? Yellow perch are one of the most sought-after fish in the northern hemisphere due to their strong fight, wide-availability, and great-tasting meat. But let’s tackle this whole yellow perch night fishing issue.
Do yellow perch bite at night & how do you catch them? Yellow perch can be caught at night but it will be a lot harder than during the day because perch have very limited night vision. There are a variety of methods to catch them which I will address but you need to fish a quality bait very slowly and fishing on full moon nights or near artificial lights will only help.
In this article, we will address how to fish yellow perch at night, what to look out for, and what nights to simply avoid. I have caught my fair share of nighttime perch but I will warn you, it is a lot tougher than during the daytime.
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Yellow Perch Night Fishing
Best Time of Day to Catch Yellow Perch
On most days, the best time of day to catch yellow perch is early morning and late afternoon/evening. The reduced light periods from dawn until about 2 hours after sunrise and 2 hours before sunset until dusk tend to be prime time for big yellow perch as well as schools of smaller fish.
Yellow perch really benefit from the reduction in light because they have really good reduced light vision that allows them to find food.
These times of day are also much cooler than during the middle of the day so perch really take advantage of it. Lastly, these transitional periods also tend to have an abundance of food items and insects out and about available to be eaten.
This section is just scratching the surface. There is so much to learn about picking the best times to fish for perch based on season, storms, cloud cover, moon phases, and fishing pressure. For a complete breakdown of the best time of day to catch yellow perch, check out this article.
Do Yellow Perch Bite at Night?
Yellow perch will feed all day and all night long. They are not bound by feeding times as many people think. That said, yellow perch do most of their feeding during the day because they can see what they are doing. A yellow perch can see very well during the day but have minimal night vision.
This means finding suitable food at night becomes very hard. Perch have to pretty much luck into a food item swimming right to their mouth.
For the most part, yellow perch won’t be out hunting for food at night. That is an inefficient waste of energy hunting for a food item they cannot see and are unlikely to find.
Furthermore, they run a great risk of swimming into the jaws of a hungry catfish or walleye — two fish that can see very well in the dark and love eating yellow perch. You can catch yellow perch at night but the bite will be a lot slower and you’ll need patience.
3 Best Methods to Catch Perch in Dark
Take a small 2 to 3-inch crayfish soft plastic and with a small football-shaped split shot, Texas rig the bait on 2 to 4-pound test fluorocarbon.
Fluorocarbon will sink so it is perfect. Cast the bait out and very slowly drag it along the bottom. Pause the bait and then continue to drag it. Fish very slowly. Drag the bait, don’t jig it.
This is my favorite method for crappie fishing but it works really well for yellow perch too. It is designed to make you fish very deliberately and very slow. Simply hook a 2-inch Gulp! Minnow to a small marabou jig and attach a small bobber or trout float about 2 to 4-feet above the bait.
Simply cast out the bait and drag the bobber. The bait beneath will rise in the water and settle back beneath the bobber once it rests in a very slow arch motion. This is the best rig for nighttime perch feeding in the upper water column requiring very slow-moving baits.
Live minnows are my favorite yellow perch bait all year long. They do work well at night as the natural scent and vibrations put off by the struggling perch will attract perch.
I recommend using a small bobber to fish at night or else the minnow will sink to the bottom where yellow perch can’t see them.
You will want to keep the minnow near the surface if you want a good chance at bites. I have had some luck fishing with fathead minnows off the docks in well-lit marinas.
You will naturally see small baitfish swimming near the surface at night in these locations and yellow perch seem to respond favorably to minnows in these conditions.
How to Predict the Best Nights to Fish
The truth is you can catch yellow perch on any given night, but generally speaking, a full moon or near full moon night will work the best. Yellow perch have pretty good reduced light vision for hunting around sunrise and sunset but they struggle to see in the dark.
Even on full moon nights, the moonlight really only penetrates the upper couple feet of water meaning perch will only be able to feed near the surface. The best nights of the month to fish are the days around the full moon.
If it’s cloudy or rainy or the moon simply is blocked by some form of weather event, don’t fish even on full moon nights. I honestly don’t think it is worth your time. If you really want to fish at night, go for walleye, striped bass, or catfish.
Best Season to Night Fish Perch
I think the best season to catch yellow perch at night is during the summer. This is because perch will be more active in the relatively cool water after being lethargic in the hot water all day.
This is especially the case on very hot, sunny days. The perch will be itching get out and feed once the light reduces and the temps drop.
Insect activity at night will also be at its peak during the summer which will attract shad and minnows. Not only will perch eat the baitfish but also some of the insects too.
Summer fishing can be really good if you are fishing on a full moon night or by an artificial light source like a marina or street lights.
Ice Fishing Perch at Night
I have never tried ice fishing for perch at night which is surprising to me since ice fishing is my favorite form of fishing. I will have to defer to my research for this one. Generally speaking, most anglers report ice fishing at night is very slow because of the lack of light and the colder water temperatures.
As I mentioned earlier, light from the moon can only penetrate the top layer of water. Well when you cover that water up with a few inches of ice, you can imagine even less light can pass.
If there’s any snow on the ice, forget about it. You can catch perch at night through the ice but you will need a good deal of luck from everything I have learned.
Invest in a Castable Fish Finder
If you are fishing perch at night, you really can use all the help you can get. Yellow perch are a lot tougher to catch at night than during the day. If you have $80 or so to spend, an iBobber castable fish finder can be a great purchase. You don’t need a boat to use a fish finder anymore.
The transducer can be tied to your fishing and cast from shore, a dock, or a boat. It can also be used while ice fishing. It has great depth range and is user-friendly.
It can give you water depth, water temperature, show you bottom topography, weeds, wood, rocks, baitfish, and of course, fish. The accuracy of the iBobber is pretty impressive for a very affordable castable fish finder.
I think it is worth it not only for night fishing perch, but just about any fishing you do. If you want to check out the iBobber and see a complete list of fishing gear, lures, rods, electronics, and attractants I recommend for yellow perch fishing, check out this gear list.
5 Best Baits for Nighttime Perch
- Fathead Minnows: best perch bait regardless of the season. Natural prey for perch.
- Marabou Jig with Gulp! Minnow: an awesome combination that will catch perch at night used with a bobber rig.
- Gulp! Minnow: produces a great scent and looks very realistic. Yellow perch really like them.
- Small Plastic Crayfish: select a natural colored 2 or 3-inch craw and drag it slowly along the bottom.
- Shad: shad are arguably a perch’s favorite natural food but they are tough to catch and even harder to keep alive. I don’t think they are realistic bait for very many perch anglers to use.
Yellow perch can certainly be caught at night but the bite will be slower and most nights, it will be a struggle to catch much.
I’m not telling you to avoid perch fishing at night because you can catch some nice fish, but if you have a choice, fish during the day. The optimum times to catch perch are early morning, late evening, and just before a rain event.