White perch are abundant in some places, rare in others, similar enough to other species to be misidentified, and underappreciated as table fare.
Identification. The white perch is not a true perch but a member of the temperate bass family and a relative of the white bass and the striped bass. It is similar in shape to the striped bass, but it has a deeper, less-rounded body and lacks the horizontal lines found on the striped bass. Although shorter, stockier, and smaller in weight than a striper, it is very similar in appearance to a white bass, except that it has no stripes. A more appropriate name for this species would probably be silver bass, and it is called by that name in some areas.
The white perch has a deep, thin body that slopes up steeply from the eye to the beginning of the dorsal fin and that is deepest under the first dorsal fin. On large, older specimens, the white perch can be nearly humpbacked at that spot. Its colors can be olive, gray green, silvery gray, dark brown, or black on the back, becoming a lighter silvery green on the sides and silvery white on the belly. The pelvic and the anal fins (both on the belly) are sometimes rosy colored. Like all members of the temperate bass family, it has two dorsal fins on the back, and the pelvic fins sit forward on the body, below the pectoral fins. The first dorsal fin has nine spines, but the second one is soft rayed. There are three spines at the front of the anal fin, and a single spine precedes the second dorsal fin and each pelvic fin. The white perch has no teeth on its tongue, its scales are relatively large, and the lateral line is complete.
Size/Age. White perch are generally small and slow-growing after attaining juvenile size. The average white perch caught by anglers weighs under a pound and is probably close to three-quarters of a pound and 9 inches in
silver bass, silver perch, sea perch, bass, narrow-mouthed bass, bass perch, gray perch, bluenose perch, humpy; French: bar blanc d'Amerique.
Distribution. White perch are found along the Atlantic coast from the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence to South Carolina and inland along the upper St. Lawrence River to the lower Great Lakes. They are present in all three Maritime Provinces, common in Lake Ontario, and especially abundant in the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay areas. The white perch is far more coastal in occurrence than is the white bass, and most of the overlap in their distribution occurs in the area of the Great Lakes and the upper St. Lawrence River.
Habitat. Like its striped bass cousin, the adaptable white perch is at home in saltwater, brackish water, and freshwater. In marine waters, it is primarily found in brackish water, estuaries,
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Perch, White (continued) and coastal rivers and streams, and some of the latter have sea-run populations. Some white perch remain resident in brackish bays and estuaries, whereas others roam widely in search of food.
White perch inhabit scattered freshwater lakes and ponds throughout their range, but in varied abundance. A prolific fish, they have overpopulated some ponds and small lakes and have been deemed a nuisance, especially when crowding out black bass, trout, and other species. For marine purposes, white perch are considered demersal (bottom dwelling), and in general they do tend to stay deep in their home waters, on or close to the bottom.
length. These figures can obviously vary among regions and populations. In some places, the average white perch is just 6 inches long.
These fish have a normal life span of between 5 and 7 years, but some specimens may live for 14 to 17 years. They are said to be able to grow to 19 inches and 6 pounds, but these dimensions are extremely rare; the largest white perch in angling records is a 4-pound, 12-ounce Maine fish that was caught in 1949.
Life history/Behavior. White perch are spring spawners, usually accomplishing this act when water temperatures are between 57°F and 75°F and in shallow water over many kinds of bottoms. Males and females each spawn several times in random fashion. For unknown reasons, white perch in some bodies of freshwater are extremely successful at reproduction, whereas in others they are virtually unsuccessful.
These fish are a schooling species that groups even while young and continues to stay in loose open-water schools through adulthood. They do not orient to cover and structure and tend to be deeper than yellow perch, with whom they occupy the same lakes and ponds in parts of their range.
Food and feeding habits. White perch in lakes are known to feed both during the day and at night but are generally more active in low light and nocturnally. Freshwater and saltwater populations move to surface (or inshore) waters at night, retreating to deeper water during the day.
Perch eat mostly aquatic insect larvae when they are small. As they grow, they eat many kinds of small fish, such as smelt, yellow perch, killifish, and other white perch, as well as the young of other species, particularly those that spawn after them. They also reportedly consume crabs, shrimp, and small alewives and herring.
The most widely distributed member of the Percidae family, the yellow perch is one of the best loved and most pursued of all freshwater fish, particularly in northerly states and provinces in North America. This is due to its availability over a wide range, the general ease with which it is caught, and its delicious taste.
Identification. Unlike the white perch, which is actually a temperate bass, the yellow perch is a true perch. Although it resembles the true bass in many ways, it is more closely related to fellow Percidae family members, the walleye and the sauger. Its most striking characteristic is a colorful golden yellow body, tinged with orange-colored fins.
The yellow perch is colored a green to yellow gold and has six to eight dark, broad vertical bars that extend from the back to below the lateral line, a whitish belly, and orange lower fins during breeding season. Its body is oblong and appears humpbacked; this is the result of the deepest part of the body beginning at the first dorsal fin, then tapering slightly to the beginning of the second dorsal fin. This trait is somewhat similar in white perch, to which the yellow perch is unrelated, although both fish may inhabit the same waters.
The yellow perch is distinguished from the trout and the salmon by its lack of an adipose fin, which is ordinarily located between the dorsal and the tail fins, and from sun-fish by its separate dorsal fins (connected in sunfish) and two or fewer anal fin spines (sunfish have three or more). It is distinguished from the walleye and the sauger by its lack of canine teeth and by a generally deeper body form.
Size/Age. The average yellow perch caught by anglers weighs between V4 to 3/4 pound and measures 6 to 10 inches in length. In lakes with stunted populations, the fish are on the lower end of this range, and a 10-inch fish is
ringed perch, striped perch, coon perch, jack perch, lake perch, American perch; French: perchaude.
Distribution. Yellow perch are widespread in the northern United States and Canada. They range east from Nova Scotia to the Santee River drainage in South Carolina and west throughout the Great Lakes states to the edge of British Columbia and into Washington. Small numbers extend north through Great Slave Lake almost to Great Bear Lake in Canada's Northwest Territories. They appear in nearly every state due to stocking, but they are sparsely distributed in the South, most of the West, and parts of the Midwest; they are also sparse in British Columbia and northern Canada. Although the yellow perch is a freshwater fish, Nova Scotia fisheries personnel report that it is occasionally found in brackish water along the Atlantic coast.
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Perch, Yellow (continued) Habitat. Yellow perch are found in a wide variety of warm and cool habitats over a vast range of territory, although they are primarily lake fish. They are occasionally found in ponds and rivers. These fish are most abundant in clear, weedy lakes that have a muck, sand, or gravel bottom. Smaller lakes and ponds usually produce smaller fish, although in very fertile lakes with moderate angling pressure, yellow perch can grow large. They inhabit open areas of most lakes and prefer temperatures between the mid-60s and the low 70s.
usually considered fairly large. Some lakes produce perch in the 1-pound and larger class, although fish greater than 1V2 pounds are infrequent. The all-tackle world-record yellow perch, taken in 1865, weighed 4 pounds, 3 ounces and is the oldest freshwater sportfish record in the books. Yellow perch can grow to 16 inches in length and can live up to 12 years.
Life history/Behavior. Yellow perch usually spawn in the early spring when the water temperature is between 45°F and 50°F. Eggs are spawned in the shallow areas of lakes or up in tributary streams in gelatinous ribbons by an adult female and are fertilized by as many as a dozen males in weedy areas several feet deep. The ribbons, which may be up to 7 feet long and several inches wide, attach to vegetation until one-quarter to one-half of the 10,000 to 48,000 eggs hatch into fry in 10 days to 3 weeks after spawning.
Yellow perch travel in schools composed of fish that are similar in size and age, and there is some evidence of the sexes dividing into separate schools. In large lakes, adults move in schools farther offshore than do the young. They move between deeper and shallow water in response to changing food supplies, seasons, and temperatures.
Because of their predaceous nature and swift breeding, overpopulation is a problem in many lakes where yellow perch have been introduced; the fish may become stunted, and other species may be adversely impacted as a result. The introduction, through natural or artificial means, of yellow perch into ponds containing trout usually results in a collapse of the trout population, and this may be true for other species of fish that were dominant before yellow perch entered.
Food and feeding habits. Young yellow perch feed on zooplankton until they have grown to several inches in length and then feed on larger zooplankton, insects, young crayfish, snails, aquatic insects, fish eggs, and small fish, including the young of their own species.
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