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Mississippi River Spring Perch Fishing

The Mississippi River is a complex river fishery that features a wide variety of habitat that includes expansive backwater oxbows and sloughs, wing dams and overhead dams along with side channels and a defined main channel.  This environment has the potential to produce enormous jumbo perch with some fish that stretch past fifteen inches.  Spring can be one of the prime opportunities to target these fish. 

Jarrad Fluekiger is a river rat that has spent his entire life guiding on the Mississippi River.  According to Fluekiger, this particular spring has been off the charts for finding numbers of big perch.   This particular spring is shaping up to be a longer window.   With a long spring and low water, fish move up through the river to spawn at predictable locations, but these locations are spread out throughout the river.  Some fish have already spawned this spring or are close to spawning while other fish still have hard eggs. This exaggerated window has created more opportunities than typical years.

Mississippi River Perch Fishing

“The key with perch often is to find dead water or slack water outside current,” explains Fluekiger.  Many perch do spawn or congregate near the top of overhead dams. The key to finding perch near the dams is to find slack water away from the current.  Near the dams, these fish can be in either three feet of water or twenty-eight feet of water, but they will usually be out of any substantial current.  Fluekiger uses Live Scope to look for fish.  Earlier this spring, many of the schools were larger where some schools were made up of as many as a hundred fish.  Later into the spring, the schools often become smaller, but these packs of perch will often show up near the bottom on Forward Facing Sonar.  Fluekiger’s favorite presentation for targeting perch near the dams is a simple drop shot rig and minnow.  Use an 8 lb. main line and an 8 lb. mono leader with the hook about 8-12 inches above a ¼ to 3/8th ounce weight.  Slack water between wing dams can also hold perch.  This spring in particular, the water is low, and the current is drastically reduced, so fish are not pushed away from the channel like many springs when the fish are forced to move into flooded willows and trees away from the channel.

Fluekiger stresses however that many perch also relate to shallow weeds and sand in backwater areas and side channels where there is dead current.  The fish that use these locations are often found in much shallower water.  Fluekiger likes to target shallow troughs and dip in the sand and often finds fish as shallow as two feet.  Because the water is low and much clearer than most springs, you have to step back away from the fish and cast bobbers or floats to the fish as they will spook from the boat.  Again, a simple float with a split shot and small jig tipped with a minnow is often all that is needed to catch some of the biggest and heaviest perch of the year. 

Particularly around the dams but up and down the river, there are often massive shad die offs that occur throughout the winter and these dead shad often concentrate perch.  These perch are gorging themselves on these dead shad.  Some perch will have three or four shad in their mouths when you catch them.  You can often confirm the presence of dead shad with an underwater camera. 

These shallow perch opportunities should hold on for a few more weeks and realistically, this is hands down some of the best perch fishing you can find in the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin for numbers of trophy class fish.  This perch fishery on the Mississippi River continues to impress.


Jarrad Fluekiger is a guide with Rutting Ridge Outfitters based out of Alma, Wisconsin.

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