Releasing Deep Water Perch

Dan O.
Date added:
Monday, 17 January 2011
Last revised:
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Question and Answer


Hi Wil:

I am catching a lot of perch in depths over 17'. I don't want to keep the majority of them. They are landed quickly and torpedoed back down the hole. They only seem to develop the expanded air bladder problem if I take too long to unhook them (over 10 seconds). They seem to swim deep immediately and I'm assuming they quickly return to the original depth. Is that a safe assume for most of them? This is winter fishing so the DO is great and they're landed quickly.

Seems to be a question on the Simcoe Board about "fizzing" them. Seems too invasive given the situation. Maybe for a larger fish in the summer when temperature and DO are an issue.

What do you think?

Dan O.


Hi Dan,

Great question and topic.  Over the last several years I have become convinced that fizzing is a viable treatment – for bass showing symptoms of barotrauma.  This is based on the five year research project that I have coordinated on behalf of the Aurora Bassmasters.  It would be a bit of a leap however to assume that because it works for bass in late fall open water conditions, that it would also work for perch, below the ice.   So until we see further research I cannot advocate that  fizzing works and is an effective treatment for those perch we see with extended air bladders.   It would be great to see some of this research initiated though.

Until then … my recommendation is for anglers to reel their perch from deep water, in much slower than they are accustomed to. This allows the perch a little more time to try and adjust to the different pressure as it is reeled to the surface.  As you have realized first hand as well Dan … it is of paramount importance that the fish to be released, be unhooked quickly and immediately torpedoed back down the hole.

It’s odd you mention symptoms begin at 17 feet and deeper though Dan, as typically the ~30 feet seems to be the benchmark for when we see fish showing symptoms.  Nonetheless, even in our bass research, we have come to realize that some bass will have that telltale extended air bladder even when caught from shallower water.

Having said all of this … if an angler is fishing deep water where it appears like almost all the perch he/she is catching have extended air bladders … and the angler is practising catch and release with most, or selective harvest – then the responsible thing to do is to move to shallower waters and look for another group of perch.

Here’s another tip that I recommend from firsthand experience. When I’m fishing deep water for perch- especially with one of my favorite HT Jigs or dropper spoons and a maggot combination … I will set the hook when I feel the bite … reel in a few feet – and within those first few seconds try to estimate the size of the fish. If I believe it is much smaller than I wish to harvest. I will: stop reeling, drop my rod tip and open the bail on my reel. With practice … and filed barbs … you can intentionally practice “long-line-live release” with the majority of your perch this way.  Of course, some small perch will get hooked so well that they won’t come off down there – so with those, I will continue to reel in slowly and to periodically drop my rod tip and try to shake it off with an open bail.  Also – you will also invariably miss-calculate the size of some perch and loose a few bigger ones.  The beauty of all of this Dan, is not just that you’ll get rid of a lot of dinks without needing to handle them … but if you are overtop a decent school of perch – you can sometimes actually draw them up from bottom as they follow your perch on the end of your line.   Therefore, there are times when – say you are fishing in 35 feet, that your school of perch can be brought up to 20 feet and worked.  But- in order to capitalize on this little phenomenon, you need continue to reel the perch in slowly, and the second he’s out of the water, unhook it, torpedo it down and get your lure back down super fast - all in the blink of an eye.   If you don’t, that school of suspending perch will take off.   By no means does this always occur – but it’s awfully rewarding and effective when it does.

Anyway, I hope this helps for now Dan … and all the best for the rest of the 2011 ice fishing season.



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