Lake Washington has large schools of perch that can be fun to catch. (Mike Benbow photo)

Lake Washington has large schools of perch that can be fun to catch. (Mike Benbow photo)

A day reeling in a mess of perch is good for the soul

Head to Lake Washington for large schools of the easy-to-catch fish.

By Mike Benbow / Special to The Herald

I wouldn’t suggest that perch are the key to the fountain of youth, but catching a bunch of them on a recent trip to Lake Washington made me feel younger.

It had been many years since I had fished on the lake. I’m pretty sure it was a trip for sockeye salmon 12 or 15 years ago. The recent visit was a salmon trip, as well, and we loaded up several rods with dodgers and hoochies and fished for coho on down riggers set between 90 to 110 feet.

After a couple hours, we’d had a good chat, enjoyed looking at all the big waterfront homes and put a dent into a container of mini, chocolate-covered donuts. When I say “we,” I mean Jerry Harris and his son, Bryan, and Steve Haug and his son, Spencer, all from the Marysville area.

In the old days, a busted salmon trip like the one we were experiencing would mean I would be heading home soon with nothing to show for the effort.

Over the years, without really thinking about it, I’ve morphed into a guy who eats his legally caught salmon and practices catch and release for nearly all the other fish I reel in. After all, there’s nothing wrong with that. I like the idea of catching a nice trout more than once.

A strip of flesh from a perch can be used as bait to catch more perch. (Mike Benbow photo)

A strip of flesh from a perch can be used as bait to catch more perch. (Mike Benbow photo)

But I also used to enjoy catching a mess of fish for my dinner or someone else’s.

If you can find a bunch of perch, you can usually catch a bunch of perch, so I was glad when Steve Haug’s sophisticated fish finder started lighting up with a group of perch in about 50 feet of water. We were all game to keep fishing.

But we had difficulty anchoring up on the fish, so we went into shallower water and found a bigger school down about 20 feet. They turned out to be much easier to get to.

Spencer Haug put a small crappie jig on an ultralight fishing rod and almost immediately started reeling in perch.

On the first one, he cut small strips of flesh and used them to bait up all the other rigs, which had small weights on them to get the bait down quickly. Then we just jigged the bait strips up and down until we hooked up with a fish.

Right away, we were off to the races. It seemed like there were at least two people pulling in a fish at any given time, and sometimes three or four.

We were going to fill a bucket with perch, but instead we put them in the live well in the back of the boat to keep them in better shape until the trip home. I’m not sure how long we caught perch, but even when we’d caught quite a few and the number of bites dwindled, they didn’t stop.

Spencer Haug displays a nice perch that grabbed his crappie jig. (Mike Benbow photo)

Spencer Haug displays a nice perch that grabbed his crappie jig. (Mike Benbow photo)

It had been far too long since I had caught fish in some kind of situation that didn’t seem like a competition. But we all found catching perch simple and easy, and we couldn’t have turned it into a competition without a lot of extra work.

It reminded me of the days of my youth, when a mess of perch usually ended with a fish fry, often on a Friday night, with sides of french fries and cole slaw.

When we’d tired of catching perch, we trolled for trout around the part of the lake that includes Bill Gates’ house, which I learned is mostly underground.

Then we headed back to our launch area in Magnuson Park.

Before we got back to the ramp, we caught one nice cutthroat trout, which we released for someone to catch another day.

It seemed fitting.

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