By Bob Kingsley
Local Sports Journal

Muskegon Lake continues to be a hot spot for one of the more under-valued panfish commonly caught from local waters having direct access to Lake Michigan.

Brandon Ruiter, 11, caught this 13-inch white perch that tipped the scales at 1 pound, 5 ounces.

The white perch, not to be confused with a white bass, is much smaller with an average length of 6-7 inches. A fish more than 10 inches long would qualify for a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Master Anglers Award.

The majority of area anglers consider the white perch as little more than a “bait stealer”  with little value. Most times, anglers are targeting walleye, bluegill, yellow perch and sunfish when the white perch appear.

That could be a big mistake.

Scott Ruiter, a local veteran angler who specializes in every species of fish that might be biting, has found them to be the equal of the bluegill when it comes to quality table fare, but with one caveat.

“The skin tends to be a little tough, so it’s best not to scale them,” Ruiter said. “But when skinned, these fish fry up very nicely. The mean is both firm and white. There is no size or creel limit so when you find a good school of fish, you can keep as many as you want.”

On a recent fishing trip with his 11-year-old son, Brandon, the Ruiters managed to catch and keep 42 white perch, including a trophy taken by Brandon that measured 13 inches in length and weighed 1 pound, 5 ounces.

“That fish will most likely be the largest white perch registered in Michigan this year,” Ruiter said. “We also caught two others that would qualify for a Master Angler Award.”

Using a panfish rig, the Ruiters also managed to catch numerous bluegill, sunfish and yellow perch during their late afternoon fishing trip along the breakline near the Bank Point Light (Black Buoy).

Then, as the sun was setting, large schools of alewives began coming to the surface.

“I told Brandon to tie on a Pop-R (surface bait) and on his first cast, he caught a 5-pound largemouth,” Ruiter said. “It was a great trip for us both and one we’ll both remember.”