hezzy- DW's suggestions are right on. I might throw out a few, as I've observed over the years, specifically at Fish Lake.
First, perch "ice" fishing equipment is cheap and there is little need to get carried away outfitting the family. A willow and a piece of string is almost good enough, if that's the best you can do!
Having an ice rod is nice but not necessary, any rod and reel will work. Any weigh of line will work, 2 to 4 pound is what I like. Course, at Fish Lake, you could have a 30 pound Mackinaw latch on, so some folks prefer a little stouter line.
The reel is simply to hold the line, and you don't need much line. The best perch fishing at FL is on the inside or the outside edge of the moss line which is generally from 4 feet to 15 feet deep, so you can almost handle the line without a reel, but a reel is certainly more practical. The lake is 100 plus deep but the perch rarely, if ever, venture more than a few feet from the edge of the moss. No need to go more than a few hundred feet from shore, at FL. In fact, you'll do better if you don't go out but a few feet pass the moss line.
Are you going to catch rainbow, splake or lake trout fishing next to the moss? Yes, all species in the lake work the moss, for feed, so the trout species are near the moss as well, the Lake Trout are more commonly caught in deeper water but I've seen them, on occasion, in shallow water as well.
People will be concentrated along the south end of the lake and if the ice conditions permit, along the shore line next to the highway, this is where most of the perch are concentrated and going out further or attempting to cross the lake would be counter productive and certainly would be unsafe, very dangerous, and foolhardy, due to open water and very thin ice, out near the center of the lake, at the present time.
Of course, drilling a hole or two is the first thing you need to do. If your not sure where, watch were others are set up and pick a line along about the same distance from shore and put a hole down. Most people will tell you if they are over moss, if you ask.
"Do not" fish over moss, fish as close as you can to it but never directly over it. Why? Your bait and line will get tangled in the moss and while it isn't difficult to get your hook loose again, the perch will not be able to find your bait if you're tangled in the moss. You need to be able to fish very close to the bottom of the lake, 4" to 10" off the bottom is usually best, and getting down that deep, through the moss, is nearly impossible.
How can you tell if you're over the moss or not. First you ask some body, that''s already got a hook in the water, if they are catching any moss.
Then, you put your hook down through hole in the ice, let it go as far down as the weigh will take it. Let is set a second or two than reel it back in, see if you bring up any moss, if not, do it again. Do this three or four times, if you get no moss, you're good to fish. If you get moss, "move"! Don't wait, do it immediately, you'll be wasting your time trying to fish for perch if your over moss.
There are four or five standard perch rig set ups for Fish Lake, maybe more, I don't know everybody's "family perch fishing secrets" but I've been at it a few years, so take my suggestions for what they're worth. If someone else is catching a ton of fish, watch what they're doing and do it.
!. Use a "small" single barb hook, tied to the end of your line, don't use a swivel. These Fish Lake perch are small, (small because they are over populated) that means they also have a small mouth.
2. Use a small piece of bait. They can actually eat a fair sized bait but if your fishing for volume, way would you use a large bait and make them work hard to get it in their mouth.
3. Perch meat is a key bait. Why? The skin on perch is tough as boot leather and they can't pull it off your hook, period. I've used a single piece of perch for a hour and a fifty perch later they've wore it out but it's still catching perch.
4. A 1/4" x 1/4" or a 1/2" x1/2" piece of perch is ideal, for the Fish Lake perch.
5. After I've put the perch meat on the hook, I'll add a meal worm or a small piece of shrimp meat under it. If they hit the bait, they'll often get away with the meal worm or the piece of shrimp, but the perch meat won't come off the hook, so they turn right back and take another run at the hook (because there's still perch meat bait on it).
6. Meal worms and shrimp can get pricey, for "volume perch fishing" because you generally need a new piece for every strike a perch makes, and you'll likely have a lot of strikes. So......after if catch a few perch, that usually means a school of perch have come to the hole I'm fishing, I switch to putting a single red salmon egg on, in place of the meal worms or the shrimp, (I always leave a piece of perch meat on.) Salmon eggs are cheap and you can put one on quick and get your hook back on the bottom fast. A couple of bottles of salmon eggs will go a long way. Some guys just use perch meat and that's it, I like to give them a little more to keep them going for it, but perch meat is, for sure, a key ingredient.
7. I use a small white headed plastic jig, with wiggle legs, (pink, watermelon green, tan are three other popular colors) and add my baits to the hook on the jig, or I just use a plan hook without a jig head on it. Regardless, be it a plan hook or a plastic jig head, 6" up, from the bottom of the line, (where I've tied my hook,) I clamp on a SS4 or SS5 lead split slot. Why so heavy? When I'm fishing for perch I'm fishing for a lot of perch and what ever I can do to get my bait where the perch are, quickly, is what allows me to fill a bucket in the least amount of time. A light weigh jig, like these little perch jigs, flutters, floats and slowly sinks to the bottom of the lake, be it 4 feet down or 15 feet down. I want my bait get to the bottom, back where the perch are waiting, as quickly as I can get it back to them. When I catch a perch, i get it out as quick as I can, add new bait and get the hook back down the hole immediately and I don't want to wait for a bait of slowly sink, I want it to "drop like a rock" to the bottom and so I can get another perch on.
8. I make sure my bait is 4 to 10 inches off the bottom. I do this by letting my sinker take the bait right to the bottom, when it hits the bottom, I reel in 12" of line, that put's my bait six inches of the bottom. (The split shot will be 12" off the bottom and the baited hook is 6" below the split shot, or six inches off the bottom.)
9; When I first start to fish, I might jig (raise my rod up 18" and let it drop it back down) every 10/20 seconds. I do this because I need to attract a perch over to the bait. Once you catch a couple or three a school of perch will come rushing over to see what the others are eating. When that happens, you don't have time to do to much jigging, just hauling them in as fast as you can get the hook up and down through the hole. If you catch a bunch and then it slows down, go 50 yards away and drill a new hole and start the process over. If your not catching perch in a few minutes in one place, move to a new place. Stay on by the edge of the moss, if possible.
10. Some guys like to use a small flashy hook to attract fish. They'll put on a 1" spoon type hook, with the treble hook removed, a foot above their bait, rather than a split shot, they find the flashing helps attract perch. I find it works well on trout but haven't cared for it on perch but don't let me stop you from trying it, if you like the idea or nothing else is working.
11. Some guys like a wax worm, a piece of night crawler, and/or a ice jig that is covered with florecent paint, supposed to shine in the dark water, etc. Some guys buy a bottle of "Caster Oil" (fish oil) and dip their bait in it, they think it adds scent to their bait. I've tried them all, some times they work, some times I can't see much different in what I get with perch meat, meal worms and or salmon eggs on a small white jig or even a plan bare hook. (See the graphic below)
Mostly, come and have fun, if you need help, there should a tournament volunteer close by, grab one and ask them anything you'd like to know. I'll be at the registration location all day, if you're not getting the information you need, come look me up. Ask for DeLoss.