Jumbo perch make Gary Light real hot spot
BY DALE BOWMAN firstname.lastname@example.org April 30, 2013 9:30PM
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Updated: June 2, 2013 6:33AM
We joined the flotilla of boats at midmorning Monday off Gary Light for the hot bite around Chicago fishing: deep-water jumbo perch.
‘‘It looks like Japan, all drop-shotting on top of each other,’’ Pat Renwick joked.
The bass-obsessed host of the Region Bass Buzz (Saturday mornings on WJOB-AM) was making his first perch-fishing trip since his youth.
‘‘That’s perch fishing: It’s when Mother Nature allows us to come out,’’ said Mike Starcevich, the guru of southern Lake Michigan perch fishing.
Last week, Bobby Bergren, one of the hottest young fishermen in the Chicago area, invited me out for perch and smallmouth fishing. By the time the tall, lanky 21-year-old, a junior in marketing and entrepreneurship at Purdue-Calumet, was done, we had an expedition of four.
We met at Mik-Lurch Fishing Tackle Outlet in Hammond to stash gear and load up on fathead minnows, then launched from East Chicago Marina (Pastrick).
Bergren set up Renwick and me with 7-foot, 6-inch Fenwick HMX light perch rods loaded with 6-pound Trilene monofilament with double-green or orange Honey Badger perch flies set above two ounces of weight. The weights were on clips and could be adjusted lighter or heavier.
Starcevich first joined the largest pack of boats in 47 feet of water. He later counted 72 total boats. There were some 200 out during the weekend at one point. Unfortunately, weather and winds look dicey for the next several days.
We started slowly, so Starcevich moved to the smaller pack in 53 feet. I hit two quick small ones. I reeled them in slowly enough that their air bladders didn’t bulge out, so they went down on release. When Renwick put the first keeper in the box, we began keeping track on a clicker.
Then the keepers — we had multiple ones longer than 13 inches and two that topped 14 — began filling the box. With four of us, the clicker was essential. Even so, we had 33 on the clicker but 40 in the box at the end. Good thing we were under the 15-fish-per-angler limit.
The perch are gorging. They coughed up minnows, and one had a drowned bee.
Bergren asked Starcevich what his biggest perch was.
‘‘Fifteen and seven-eighths [inches],’’ he said. ‘‘I vowed not to get a full tree mount until I get a 16.’’
Starcevich has an innate sense of perch, but he trusts technology, too. Since he put an i-Pilot in his 20.5-foot Alumacraft boat, he lauds its necessity.
‘‘There’s no going back,’’ he said. ‘‘If you’re going to fish open water, you have to have GPS and an i-Pilot.’’
With an i-pilot, he can hold on a spot in 50 feet of water without an anchor and 200 feet of anchor rope.
‘‘If you don’t have electronics with zoom on it, you’re in trouble,’’ he said.
He fished saved waypoints but trusted what he saw on the fish-finder. In midafternoon, we went shallow again, but the bite was tough.
‘‘We’ll give it 20 more minutes,’’ Starcevich said at 5:10 p.m.
It was time.
But after those minutes, he made one more swing to another waypoint. Such is the pull of perch fishing.
Starcevich blessed us with a perch recipe. He sautes onions half-done, then adds minced garlic and/or chives to taste and the perch fillets. After a minute or two, he flips the fillets. Before the fillets finish, he covers the pan and turns off the heat, then lets the final cooking finish. He completes it with squeezed lemon or lemon pepper to taste.
Launch fee for non-residents at East Chicago is $15.
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