Many people consider perch to be the best eating fish in freshwater. I tend to agree with them. They have a taste all their own, are always firm and on top of that they fillet up easily and really can’t be prepared wrong for the table. All 11 of the Finger Lakes have perch. All the lakes I guide have good to excellent perch fishing.
In past years, Cayuga’s fish ran on the smaller side – usually averaging around 7″ to 8″. Since round gobies have invaded the lake, the perch seem to be getting bigger here. They are now similar to Skaneateles sized fish – plenty of 8″ers yet encouraging numbers of once rare 11″ to 13″ fish in the mix and surprising numbers of bigger ones. Keep an eye on this lake for perch! Owasco is similar to Cayuga Lake with great numbers but they run smaller on average. But fish are everywhere here!
Seneca Lake has the top reputation in the area, if not the State. Fish here average around 10″ to 11″. The lake does get fished hard and there really aren’t nearly as many fish here per acre as the other lakes. DEC surveys/netting in 2020 showed decent numbers of fish here – but they are just netting the few major points/flats on the lake – like Valois, Severne and Watkins et. al. As of this writing in 2020, the perch fishing on Seneca Lake has been slow. The lake has a huge alewife population and they tend to eat a lot of perch fry thus keeping perch numbers suppressed.
Skaneateles is a very good perch lake and there are plenty of 8″ to 11″ fish here. 14″ers are around but it isn’t like Seneca in that respect.
Another lake to keep an eye on is Keuka Lake. The alewives have collapsed here and that bodes well for the perch. This lake produces numbers as well as trophies. I don’t perch fish Canandaigua Lake, but it’s a popular option especially with Rochester area anglers. It also produces some hefty fish.
For my guiding I consider perch a bonus fish. I don’t guide for them specifically, though we do catch plenty in Skaneateles Lake from October through June – and they can be taken throughout the summer. Perch populations appear to be going up in all the Finger Lakes, due mainly to the increase in weedgrowth due to more light penetration, courtesy of the zebra/quagga mussels.