6 Best Yellow Perch Fishing Lakes in Indiana

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By some measures, yellow perch are commonplace. Practically any lake in Indiana has schools of diminutive 5- and 6-inch perch that gobble up worms in shallow water.

But any time an angler comes in with serious perch—those big, chunky brutes that stretch a tape measure past 12 inches—it’s guaranteed to turn some heads. Fish like that have a way of getting attention. 

And deservedly so. Yellow perch are, without a doubt, some of the tastiest fish in freshwater. They’re aggressive fighters on light tackle, and they’re just plain nice to look at.

Options for catching giant perch in Indiana are somewhat limited, which is one of the reasons many anglers so greatly prize these fish. It often takes effort to score a pail full of jumbo perch, making the catch all the more rewarding.

Don’t worry, though, because we’re about to share a half dozen Indiana lakes where you can catch a pretty pile of perch. Stick around at the end of the article for plenty more how-to information that will boost your perch catches.

Yellow perch thrive in lakes with deep, clear water, healthy vegetation, and plenty of rocks and gravel. For the most part, that restricts them to the natural lakes of Northern Indiana, though they have been introduced into reservoirs elsewhere in the state with mixed results. 

Top Indiana Perch Lakes

Perch offer year-round fishing opportunities in Indiana lakes, but summer and winter are the best seasons to catch them. And the following lakes are the best places to do so.

Lake Michigan

The southern tip of Lake Michigan easily offers the best fishing for jumbo perch in Indiana. Although the Lake Michigan perch fishery has arguably declined since hitting a peak in the 1980s and 90s, significant opportunities are still available.

Indiana’s 45-mile stretch of Lake Michigan’s shoreline is, for the most part, heavily developed and industrialized. As a result, perch often relate to artificial structures like harbors, rock walls, and rubble piles. You also will find schools of perch around naturally occurring rocks and reefs.

There are chances to tap into schools of chunky 10-inch-plus perch year-round, but winter offers the widest window of opportunity for shore-bound anglers. This time of year, perch congregate in protected bays, harbors, and other warmer-water areas that attract baitfish. 

Michigan City Harbor and the mooring basin at nearby Washington Park are prime winter spots. Many anglers ice fish for perch in these protected harbors when safe ice is available. There’s also a good bite here in early spring immediately after ice-out. 

Yellow perch spawn soon after the ice recedes and often congregate on clay flats during spring. While anglers may find some fish in shallow water, most of the largest schools of perch will be in 50 feet or more. 

Summer is a great time to target perch, as fish roam 20- to 50-foot depths in huge schools, following their various food sources (shiners, gobies, freshwater shrimp) and seeking optimal temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees.

Overall, the eastern part of the lakeshore around Michigan City is the most consistent. The areas known as Mt. Baldy and Black Ditch, both near Michigan City, provide some of the most reliable summer perch bites. The “Donut” structure just off the beach in Burns Harbor is another top spot. 

Farther west, waters off the Gary Light and the “Hole in the Wall” at Lakeshore Coal Company are also good spots, though they’re often better in spring and fall. The Cal Harbor Breakwall west of Hammond can be productive as well. 

Lake Michigan stratifies from July through September. The thermocline can shift from as little as 15 feet to as much as 100 feet below the surface. Schools of perch are often on the move as they seek optimal temperatures just above the shifting thermocline. 

Fishing vertically with spreader rigs baited with emerald shiners or fathead minnows is usually the tactic of choice. However, jigging can be as effective when the bite is strong.

Either way, keep your bait within a few feet of the bottom.

You’re also likely to nab some smallmouth bass while fishing with live minnows, jigs, or other natural baits or lures because Lake Michigan is among the best bass fishing lakes in Indiana thanks to these hard-fighting smallies.

Lake Maxinkuckee

The 1,854-acre Lake Maxinkuckee is one of Northern Indiana’s best walleye lakes. Like many great walleye lakes, it also offers excellent yellow perch fishing. The two species often use much of the same rocky main lake structure, one serving as prey for the other.

Maxinkuckee is especially well-regarded by ice fishermen, who catch great numbers of perch dipping Swedish Pimples and ice jigs tipped with live bait through holes in the ice. Perch up to 12 inches are a real possibility.

The best fishing gets going during the tail-end of the open water season in December. That’s when perch eagerly hit live minnows and small jigs along underwater bars and humps, of which Lake Maxinkuckee has many. 

There are some great spots north and east of Long Point. Be prepared to stay mobile, as perch are liable to move a lot from one day to the next. 

Once safe ice has formed, as it usually does by January, the fishing for perch and walleye through the ice becomes a major attraction. As a result, it’s common to see the lake’s surface dotted with shanties on any given day. 

Some of the best humps rise within 6 to 12 feet of the surface. These are places where schools of perch congregate looking for a meal.

The live baits of choice are mayfly larvae (known locally as “wigglers”), but any grub or maggot will do in a pinch.

Lake Wawasee

Lake Wawasee is Indiana’s largest natural lake, spanning a little over 3,000 acres in Kosciusko County. The lake is deep and clear, with no shortage of great habitat for yellow perch. 

This lake has a lot of perch, including quite a few measuring 9 to 11 inches. But they’re less common than other panfish (including lots of crappies), and finding perch is often challenging. There’s simply a lot of water out there. 

The lake has an abundance of rocky ledges, humps, points, and drop-offs that can be productive during the open water season. In particular, some very productive main lake humps top out at depths of 10 to 15 feet, dropping to 40 feet or more nearby. 

Johnson Bay, at the northeastern end of the lake, is also a good area to find perch, with a lot of good structure and depths up to 30 feet. Areas off Cedar Point and Morrison Island also have potential. 

Most anglers who target perch here do so through the ice in winter. Bays like Johnson Bay are the first places to offer safe ice, sometimes as early as December. Anglers catch many perch while ice fishing in the shallow residential channels adjacent to the bay, along with big bluegill and crappie. 

Public access to Lake Wawasee is somewhat limited, but there is a public access site with boat launch facilities and fishing docks at the east end of the lake on East Hatchery Road.

Honorable Mentions

Some Indiana perch lakes tend to cycle between ‘on’ years and ‘off’ years. While these honorable mention lakes might not be quite as consistent as those listed above, they can still send anglers home with a whole mess of perch.

Tippecanoe Lake

The 880-acre Tippecanoe Lake is a glacially-carved lake in Kosciusko County. It’s part of a group of connected lakes and ponds known as the Tippecanoe Chain. At 123 feet, it’s the deepest natural lake in Indiana.

Perch are abundant in Tippecanoe Lake, but reports suggest that their size isn’t what it once was. Expect to catch some solid 9-inch perch for the table, but you’re not likely to catch anything you’d take to a taxidermist. 

Some of the best perch fishing is in the southeast corner of the lake, where nearshore flats 5 to 10 feet deep drop swiftly to 30-plus foot depths. Just out past the drop-off is a large hump that rises to within 5 feet of the surface. 

Depending on the day, perch may school up at various points on the flat close to the drop-off or in deeper water nearby. Either way, many are caught on small minnows, Jigging Rapalas, and teardrop jigs tipped with wigglers. 

Clear Lake

Spanning 800 acres and a little over 100 feet deep, Clear Lake is a natural jewel of a lake in Steuben County, in Indiana’s northeasternmost corner. It’s an excellent multi-species lake that yields good perch catches during summer and winter. 

True to its name, the lake’s waters are crystal clear and cool enough to support one of Indiana’s most successful trout stocking programs. Panfish are abundant, too, including perch that typically measure 7 to 9 inches but occasionally top a foot long. 

The middle portion of Clear Lake sports a broad, sandy flat about 9 feet deep, with steep breaks on either side that lead to some of the lake’s deepest water. Edges of the main flat that abut the steepest drop-offs are great perch spots.

Start with the area from Paradise Point out past Kasota Island. Then, if perch aren’t biting on the central flat, work your way down the break to areas that plateau at around 40 feet. Ice anglers often find success catching perch on the flat at first light and deeper at midday.

Public access with a boat launch is available on S. Clear Lake Drive at the lake’s southeastern corner.

Private property lines most of the remaining lakeshore. Early spring often offers some good shallow perch fishing around boat docks and bulkheads.

Summit Lake

Earning its name by being one of the highest-elevation lakes in Indiana (a whopping 1,066 feet above sea level), Summit Lakes has the distinction of being the southernmost perch lake on our list and the only one that isn’t naturally occurring. 

Summit Lake, a.k.a. Summit Lake Reservoir, spans about 800 acres just a short drive southeast of Muncie. The lake sports ample populations of panfish, including yellow perch, redear sunfish, and crappie. Anglers often catch a mixed bag, and perch populations can be up and down.

Schools of larger perch typically set up a little deeper than other panfish. As a result, anglers catch many near the reservoir’s dam, where the bottom drops swiftly to about 50 feet.

Areas around the big island and off points on the east shore also can offer excellent perch fishing on the lower lake.

Ice anglers often set up multiple tip-ups baited with small minnows to catch perch.

Slow-trolling with spreader rigs is effective in summer.

Summit Lake State Park surrounds the entire lake.

Catch More Yellow Perch

Follow the tips for each lake in our roundup of the best perch fishing lakes in Indiana, and you’ll quite likely come home with a bucketful of delicious panfish.

However, if you want to perfect your perch prowess, check out both our full-service article on simple tips and techniques for yellow perch fishing as well as our impressive listing of dozens of all the top perch baits (both familiar and unusual) that can come in handy when you can’t score minnows or wigglers.