Jackson Outdoors: Bring back Friday night perch dinners

I didn't want to listen to the state DNR biologists when they rang the doomsday bell signaling a major decline in the Lake Michigan perch population. They were reporting facts based on science. We as a fishing community reacted out of ignorance, disappointment and customary rituals.

If you held to the age-old expression "nothing stays the same" in Chicago, you are probably right. But I hated change, especially when it impacts recreational fishing.

Having reportedly exceeded their daily catch limits, commercial fishing operators would then constantly pass the buck by blaming the hook-and-line crowd that we were to blame for the decline and ultimate demise of the perch population.

The commercials eventually were ticketed and charged with exceeding catch limits by DNR police investigators, and then they subsequently stopped perching operations. One operator claimed he couldn't make a decent profit from perch catches based on what limits were worked out between the DNR and the small number of commercial license holders

We in turn would then look to northern Minnesota lakes if we wanted to come home with enough perch filets to satisfy a hungry Friday night crowd.

The perch hot spots included Lake Winnibigoshish, Cut Foot Sioux, Leech Lake, Red Lake, the Madison chain and Lake Geneva. But Lake Geneva had its own problems with the perch schools. Poachers continued to decimate the schools until perching was a hit-or-miss operation.

It was more than a decade ago when state biologists warned recreational anglers that food sources for newly hatched perch was scarce.

I refused to believe the DNR until it became quite evident its predictions were right on target.

So I hauled my boat, a big cooler, and a couple of friends to northern Minnesota to find the hot spots that were supposed to be loaded with fat, well-fed lake perch.

But those were long drives intended to satiate a hunger for big perch and other species such as walleyes.

Some will recall the days when you would drive around just about any Chicago neighborhood and see signs on tavern windows that Friday night was perch night. The beer, perch filets and sports conversations were the order of the evening.

That is a rare happening these days.

Freshwater gobies, foreign originated mussels and lots of other swimming garbage have contributed to a food shortage for starving young perch.

For now we will continue to catch coho and king salmon, along with lake trout and smallmouth bass, while sitting on a park bench close to the water of Lake Michigan and dream of those wonderful days of cane-polling for yellow perch.

• Catch Mike Jackson Outdoors 8 to 9 a.m. Sundays on WCGO AM-1590 or stream live at Reach him at

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