my fishing cape cod logo

Yellow Perch Fishing: Early March Freshwater Report

Yellow perch are native to Cape Cod's ponds, and fishing for yellow perch with lures and live bait can be very productive during late winter and early spring.

This past week on March 9th I headed out freshwater fishing in hopes of catching enough big yellow perch to make a meal.

Regardless of whether or not I caught any fish, I knew the simple act of getting back on the water would feel mighty good. I don't know about you, but Spring is almost here and I am excited to be fishing again.

You can continue reading below for my latest yellow perch freshwater fishing report. 🎣 πŸ‘‡


Yellow Perch 101

The average size for yellow perch is between 4 and 10 inches, however on Cape Cod and southeastern Massachusetts they can grow to be much larger.  

In fact, the world record for yellow perch is an 18 inch 4lb 3oz fish. The perch was caught in New Jersey way back in 1865 which makes it the longest-standing record for a freshwater fish in North America.

As their name suggests, yellow perch are quite colorful, with a pattern of 6-8 dark vertical bars over a background color of yellow or yellowish-green.

Yellow perch reach sexual maturity within 2-3 years. They gather in large schools each spring and spawn in shallow water. These schools can contain upwards of 200 individual fish, and are an important food source for largemouth bass, cormorants and other species.

On Cape Cod and in southeastern Massachusetts you can find yellow perch along the shoreline among weeds, docks and other structure. They seem to thrive in weed-filled ponds with a mucky bottom, as opposed to deep and open water lakes.

March 9 Fishing Report

It was a cool and breezy morning when I woke up at 4am on March 9th, so I made sure to bundle up. The forecast was calling for gusty winds, but fortunately the pond we'd be fishing was small and protected.

By 6:30am we had arrived at the spot and the first thing I noticed was the peace and quiet. It was a refreshing feeling to be back in the woods and surrounded by nature.

I was excited to hop in the Jon boat and get underway via trolling motor power. Fishing from shore is always fun, but the Jon boat would allow us to go straight to where the big schools of yellow perch were hiding.

MFCC Member Jeff Coates

During this trip I would be fishing for yellow perch with My Fishing Cape Cod member Jeff Coates. You might recognize Jeff from his insightful posts inside our private forum.

I first met Jeff when I was a teenager working at a small bait and tackle shop, and we've been sharing fishing information and tips with each other ever since

Jeff has always been pretty dialed-in on the local freshwater fishing bite, so I jumped at the opportunity when he invited me to go fishing for yellow perch. Like most great fishing spots, Jeff discovered this area by spending hours on the water and putting his time in.

Bait, Technique and Gear

For bait we used live shiners and chubs fished just off the bottom. We used a 5/16 ounce weight with a size 1/0 hook that was tied about 12 inches up from the weight.

The way Jeff rigged this was by tying a Palomar knot to the size 1/0 hook and leaving 12 or more inches of tag line, which was then used to tie on the 5/16 ounce weight. Please remember that lead weights are prohibited from use in freshwater ponds in Massachusetts.

Yellow Perch Blitz!

Jeff started up the trolling motor and we glided along the tranquil surface of the pond, towards his yellow perch honey hole.

We began by fishing a drop off, where the bottom went from 7 to 10 feet. There was also grass growing along the bottom in this spot.

The bite was on from just after sunrise until maybe 8:30am. A school of yellow perch had taken up residence on the deeper side of the drop off, and we were able to experience some fast and fun fishing.

  1. I stumbled on a great use of Yellow Perch many years ago in New Hampshire while fishing for Smallmouth Bass. I was fishing out of a canoe in 30 feet of water on Lake Winisquam. I caught a Yellow Perch from the bottom with a worm on a small hook while using a slip bobber . As I brought the Perch to the surface, a 5 pound size Smallmouth came up from the depths and skittered along the surface trying to eat the Perch. It didn’t get hooked as the hook for the Perch was too small. Aha moment! I put the Perch on a Bass sized hook and dropped it to the bottom. The Perch was soon taken by a big Smallmouth and a very effective system was discovered. This would also work when ice fishing. Live lining bait fish is one of the most exciting ways to fish, especially with a float.

    1. Nice Dex! It’s not often I hear you speaking about freshwater fishing. Thanks for sharing that insight! I’ve also read that yellow perch make great bait for bass, but I have never tried them before. Maybe I’ll give it a shot after reading about your experience. Thanks!

      1. Ryan,
        Early the next morning on the same lake I was fishing from a dock using some saved live perch from the day before. I hooked the perch about three feet below a traditional red and white bobber and cast it out. The Perch was immediately surrounded by a group of about 5 big bass and a few big pickerel who came up from deeper water nearby. The biggest bass grabbed the perch and while it was hanging hanging out of the bass’s mouth, a pickerel attacked the bass and took the the Perch away! I ended up catching the Pickerel but I wanted the Bass. The water was crystal clear so I could see it all happening in the span of about a minute. It was just like Fish TV!

        1. It’s great how that experienced has been burned into your memory. I could imagine the scene unfolding as I read your comment. Love it!

  2. I spent all winter catching yellow perch, white perch, and crappie in the Charles River on barely open water. They school up in several spots and are easy to catch. I even took my wife, son, and daughter out and everybody loaded up.

    The unfortunate problem is the fact the state says you can’t eat these fish from there or most places in Massachusetts. Do you have a list of freshwater locations where it is safe to catch and eat fish?

    1. That sounds like a great way to spend the winter Dwight. Regarding your question, here is a link to some helpful information about bag limits in Massachusetts. My interpretation of the information on the website is that anglers are able to retain fish from many ponds, lakes and rivers throughout the state. Check it out and LMK what you think, and thanks for reading MFCC! 🎣

      1. Thanks for the info Ryan,

        It is good to know what we can retain on a seasonal basis. I saw some helpful links in there that went into the topic of safely eating fish. What do you think? My wife has lived here her whole life and can’t fathom taking anything freshwater home.

        1. Hey Dwight, with regards to eating the fish, I suppose it boils down to your personal comfort level. I’ve only eaten freshwater fish that were caught during the cold winter or early spring months. They were taken from ponds which are fairly “remote” and are not surrounded by houses and development. The water was clean-looking and aside from some trash here and there, the ponds were as close to “pristine” as is possible these days. I feel pretty comfortable eating fish that came from waters such as that.

  3. Hey Ryan…Great article..Almost fainted when I saw you went fishing with Jeff Coates..I have known Jeff since he was a very young lad…He went to School with my brother Rob from the Hoxie School to Bourne High..My dad coached both of them in minor and little league baseball,most games played at the field in Sagamore beach..He was a great kid…Haven’t seen him and ages say hi to him for me when u see him again ,Hope he remembers me…lol

    1. Hey David, good to hear from you! Thanks for your comment, and it’s good to know that you also know Jeff. Your mention of the Hoxie brought back memories because I also went to elementary school there. I will definitely let Jeff know you say hi! πŸ‘

  4. We are fortunate that our Cape Cod “happy place” is on a beautiful kettle hole in Eastham. First our kids and their cousins caught their first fish there and a lot of yellow perch. Now our grand kids fish and have semi-friendly debates about who catches the most and who catches the biggest. I get to referee with the official scale and yard stick on a nearby pine. By the way they are all released, except the first good size large mouth that each kid catches. The kettle holes of the Cape are treasures we should all work to preserve.

    1. Well said Mark. Thanks for the comment! Your “happy place” in Eastham sounds like paradise to me. 🎣

  5. My favorite fish fry is yellow perch. Will be on the water
    for them in a few weeks here in central NY. Glad you were
    able to find some Ryan!

    1. Nice Tom! Yellow perch are definitely delicious when fried. Good luck out there in a couple weeks!

  6. Good job!

    yellow perch was the 2nd fish I caught when I was about 7 or 8 years old. The first was a sunfish in Jamaica Pond. Later in life my wife and I used to catch TONS of white perch in Long Lake and Brandy Pond in Maine – also great for pan frying. I love the way you continue to expand your fishing experiences and coverage thereof. Please send me your snail mail address so I can send you my annual dues as every year.
    Tight Line,
    P.S. Were you and Lauren unable to go to Costa Rica this year due to Covid-19?

    1. Thanks for the comment Gene! I’ll send you an email today with my snail mail address. And we did go to Costa Rica this year and had another amazing time. I’ll fill you in via email. Thanks!


Leave a Comment

Left Menu Icon