Spring has sprung! There are several sure fire signs of spring like boats being cleaned in driveways, robins on the lawn, snow blowers being pushed to the back of the garage, kids on bikes with fishing rods, and even some buds on the trees. But in Orillia they don’t call it spring, they call it Perch Season and the official start of spring is April 21st when the 31st annual Orillia Spring Perch Festival licks off.

This year’s festival has been greeted with an early taste of summer after the winter that wasn’t. Perch fishing is one of Lake Simcoe’s largest economic contributors and the Perch Festival is a major part of this impact. Thousands come from all over to fish for these little green striped delicacies and if you happen to catch one with a tag you could win one of 70 prizes ranging from $500.00 to $3100.00 and entering a single perch could win you a new Mercury powered Lund boat package.

It is only befitting that Catch a Dream kids fishing derby organizer David Chong is this year’s Perch Festival Honorary Chairperson. The festival is hosted by the Orillia and District Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with the Orillia Fish and Game Conservation Club. It’s about all about family, fun, and Canadian tradition, fishing.  All of the fish entered are live release thanks to the efforts of volunteers from the Orillia Fish & Game Concervation Club. Special Events Coordinator Doug Bunker has been the driving force behind the festival and spend a few sleepless night making sure everything is ready to have fun.  

Dave says "Orillia is full of fishing memories for myself, as a child, a tournament angler and over the last few years as the host site of our "Catch a Dream!" Kids Fishing Derby! My memory is suspect these days but I may have fished in the first Orillia Perch Festival. I can't wait to be a part of this fantastic fun family oriented fishing event! Looking forward to seeing everyone at the 31st Annual Orillia Perch Festival!"


Anyone can catch a perch

The great thing about perch fishing is that anyone can catch them in the spring. You can be two or 92. It doesn’t require expensive equipment or fancy baits or techniques. Something as simple as a worm or minnow on a hook will do the trick. There are all kinds of small plastic artificial baits that work as well.

For the kids while fishing from shore a bobber with live bait works best because they can see the bite. If they are in a boat a drop shot rig with live bait is best because the hook is less likely to get snagged in the bottom grass or weeds while drifting.

Ashley Rae of She Loves to Fish will be attending and fishing this year.


Along with the fishing and prizes there is a social club on land and sea as everyone converges. Some just go out for the boat to boat conversation and boat to boat is what it is on any given weekend. On a nice day upwards of 200 boats can be seen within a one kilometer area. Get to one of the launches early or you could wait in line for a while. There are two very good free ramps.

Smiths Bay Boat Launch

Port of Orillia

Where to Fish

If you are a shore angler space is limited but you can always find room somewhere. The Port of Orillia has ample waterfront and several tagged fish have been caught there through the years. This is particularly convienent for kids because if the get bored or hungry the City of Orillia has everything within a short walking distance.

Many choose to fish from the old train tracks right in the Atherly narrows. You can park behind the strip mall on the north west side of the bridge and walk down the tracks. On the other side of the bridge to the east there is a road that ends at the water.

Many of the marinas allow limited access even though their policy is for members only. As long as you don't leave garbage or infringe on someone's privacy in their boat they are fairly tolerant for the Perch Festival only.


There is a small park on the south west side of the channel off of Creighton St. where you can park and fish.


If you want to hook up with someone with a boat and share the expenses and have some company try Hitching a Ride on the .


How to Catch Them

There are times when when it seems they are everywhere and you can't do anything wrong. In spite of the number of fish taken every year the area seems to replenish every year and other than during extreme weather related events the bite is usually good. Finding the best places away from the crowd might be an issue because if you are catching fish someone will join you.


As we said earlier live bait such as minnows and worms work just fine, but when the bite is really on you should take advantage of it. Try small spoons like Northlands Forage Minnow or Slab Grabbers. Jigging Raps by Rapala work very well in deeper water. You can even try tying more than one bait on or different colour's of the same bait on a multi hook drop shot.

Once you catch a couple of fish on the same bait or colour you will have a better idea of what they want that day.


Start your day covering water by drifting. The current going from Lake Simcoe to Lake Couchiching can help you. The deeper water on Simcoe starts at the south east tip of Grape Island and it gets shallower all the way into the narrows. You may have to adjust your course as you get closer to the narrows because there will be plenty of boats anchored along the way. Once you find fish stay on top of them and you may not need to move for some time.


Just because they are perch it doesn't mean they only eat small baits. Any bass angler will tell you how many large perch they catch while fishing for bass using larger lures. Small lipless cranks are a great search bait.



You can just drag them or cast them and if the bite is really on it may surprise you how fast you can catch fish. Let them drop down close to the bottom and try a steady retrieve along the bottom. If there is rocks or sand let them hit and stir up a bit of bottom. Live Target makes a 2 inch Golden Shiner that is perfect for the job.


There are also many small spoons and inline spinners that work well on their own or tipped with live bait.


There is a wide range of small plastic baits that are very effective for drift and drag as well.


Where to Take Your Fish?

When you are finished for the day and would like to enter a fish there are a two options. Remember the size of the fish doesn't matter for entry into the grand prize draw. It only has to be alive so make sure you bring a bucket to hold your live catch.

You can only enter one fish per day per person. If your not alone you might want to pull up to the dock in Smiths Bay and simply walk across Atherly Rd. with your bucket. Make sure you bring your entry form. If there is more than one person and someone has to man the boat at the dock you will need both forms.


This isn't a good option near the end of the day when everyone wants to take their boat out. The ramp gets very busy. Just load your boat on the trailer and drive over. There is lots of parking and it only takes a few minutes.

This is Perch Festival Headquarters located at Tudhope Park across the road from the Smiths Bay launch.

Orillia Chamber of Commerce Special Event Coordinater Doug Bunker has been the driving force behind the Perch Festival. Doug has a few sleepless nights until the event is ove.


To learn more about perch fishing and Lake Simcoe perch read:


For The Love of Perch

Fishing with the Young & Restless





View Perch Festival in a larger map


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