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. Fish in the 14” to 15” range are taken in nearly all the lakes, and even bigger fish turn up every year.
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 2015 showed good numbers of fish here – but they are just netting the few major points/flats on the lake – like Valois, Severne and Watkins et. al. The fishery here is still great for size, but it can be tough finding fish and you’re nearly always dealing with other boats here.
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 fishing on Seneca Lake can be “combat fishing” with successful anglers being surrounded by boats. These fish can be caught in water as shallow as 4’ to 5’ and as deep as 90’ or more.
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.