Award-winning outdoor writer, Wil Wegman, is back with tips for spring fishing on the waters of Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe in this five part anglers series for Orillia & Lake Country.
Spring has sprung and for anglers living in or visiting Orillia and Lake Country there are unparalleled opportunities to fish a wide variety of fish species and enjoy tremendous action on the end of their lines. In our first introductory article to this series found here we wrote about the various angling prospects and lakes you can visit, so in this piece we will focus on fishing the spring season and see what’s available, where to find ’em and how to catch ’em species by species. And, with the upcoming return of the Orillia Perch Festival this April 29 to May 6, there’s no better time to test your knowledge!
Yellow Perch: With no closed season this favourite among young and old, experienced or beginner is widespread throughout OLC and found in every waterbody we mentioned in our introductory article and then some. Of course a couple rise to the top … especially in spring and number one (perhaps in the whole country) has to be Lake Simcoe. Those northern waters in Simcoe County close to Orillia are especially productive for some of the biggest jumbo’s found anywhere. Right after ice out you can begin to target them here or in adjoining Lake Couchiching which may not have the trophy sized fish of her big brother next door, but Lake Couchiching makes up for it in quantity of delicious ’eaters’ and ability to still fish there if massive Lake Simcoe becomes too windy.
Spring perch fishing and the tackle you use can be as simple or complex as you’d like to make it or your pocket book can afford. Spinning gear rules for anglers of all skill levels … with the trend however going towards longer light action or medium light rods in the 7 to 8 foot range. 13 Fishing’s Omen Gold Panfish/Trout rod for instance matched with a mid-sized reel, 6 lb test Suffix braid and 4 lb Suffix floro leader should be an ideal set- up you can use for all your perch fishing as well as other panfish and even brook trout. Drop shot rigs, VMC Ned Rigs and small jigs with minnow imitating soft plastics are top choices for advanced spring perch anglers but those starting out may have more confidence with live bait “pickerel’ type rigs using either minnows (early spring) or worms (later).
Look for spring perch in freshly emerging weed (aquatic plant) growth … especially early in spring and then either shallow adjacent flats thereafter or deeper water nearby.
Hot Tip: To find schools of big perch, I often cast or troll a Rapala X Rap jerkbait – the same size or a touch smaller than I would for bass. The most aggressive or hungriest perch within the school often attacks it with a vengeance and most importantly gives away the location of the rest of the school. Those can usually be caught with the above mentioned finesse baits.
Panfish: Perch aren’t the only panfish that are prolific and fun to catch every spring in Orillia & Lake Country and the following are also available in the waterbodies mentioned in Part One. Brown bullhead catfish in spring are delicious and usually found shallow on soft bottoms and easily caught with a simple sinker, long shanked hook and worm. Bluegill and Pumpkinseed Sunfish love hanging out near shore around fresh aquatic plants and a bobber and worm can do wonders, as well as a variety of small crankbaits when they’re suspended or jigs when you find them near bottom.
Hot Tip: Spring is often the best time for Black Crappie and although they can be a here today gone tomorrow deal the important thing to keep in mind is that they love structure. Look for them around docks, in harbors or channels and amongst fallen trees. Realize they are almost always suspended off bottom and look up to feed – so a slip float (bobber) and small jig/plastic bait combo is ideal.
Lake Trout and Whitefish: The northern part of Lake Simcoe is really the best bet for both these big fish that open here on the second Saturday of May. They are often found in the same areas … with hard bottoms near shoals or humps. Around the opener check shallow on these features for either fish and as the season progresses move deeper and deeper being sure to keep a close eye on your sonar unit.
Hot Tip: Lakers, which usually suspend in the water column are not as plentiful so spend most of your time fishing spring whitefish near bottom.
Northern Pike: Again, found in almost all of the lakes within OLC with the exception of Bass Lake and perhaps the odd other one. Spring pike are found shallow near the heaviest weed growth you can find.
Hot Tip: Lake Couchiching has some remarkably big pike and jerkbaits like a large size Rapala X Rap or 13 Fishing’s Loco Special are tough to beat. When things slow down though, don’t be afraid to work slower presentations like the Storm GT 360 swimbait!
We hope you enjoyed this ‘season by season’ article on fishing in Orillia & Lake Country and invite you to check back throughout the year to help you enjoy this wonderful year-round fishing destination.
The Orillia Perch Festival – run by the Orillia District Chamber of Commerce – is a highly anticipated annual event. Visit the Perch Festival webpage on Orillia.com for more details on the event and how to register in time. Please note, the Centennial Drive boat launch located at The Port of Orillia is currently inaccessible due to the waterfront redevelopment project by The City of Orillia. The remaining boat launch located at 425 Collins Drive, across from J.B. Tudhope Memorial Park remains open for use.
Wil Wegman is an award winning outdoor writer from Simcoe County who has been published in most Canadian and several US outdoor and fishing magazines and appeared as a guest on several popular fishing TV shows. Wil was inducted into the Canadian Angler Hall of Fame in 2017 and has won the National Recreational Fisheries Award, The OFAH Rick Morgan Professional Conservation Award and the Bill Bond Memorial Award. He can be reached through his Focus on Fishing site at www.wilwegman.com
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