Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens)

Yellow Perch

Yellow Perch

The waters of North America have long been a viable resource for the inhabitants of the continent. Early settlers quickly discovered what the natives already knew – the waterways of the land were not only useful for transportation, but were teeming with potential food sources. Explorers and anglers of the late 1800s discovered the yellow perch and it has maintained a strong presence on the ‘fisherman’s favorite’ list ever since.

How to Identify a Yellow Perch

Yellow perch are distinctively yellow in color, with green vertical bands down the sides of the fish. Its fins have an orange tint, and the underbelly of the fish is cream colored. Considered a smaller fish, the yellow perch typically is less than 12 inches long although they can reach up to 15 inches. Most yellow perch average less than 1 pound in weight. These fish are close relatives of walleye which will grow much larger.

Where to Find

The yellow perch is a native North American fish, and can be found in lakes, rivers and ponds across the continent. Although some small populations of the fish can be found in the southern parts of Canada, the fish has primarily thrived in the waters of the United States. Yellow perch are not picky – they are happy in waters that are warm, or cool, and can move easily between deep and shallow waters. They do best in areas where there is heavy vegetation, as this provides both hiding places and a food supply.

Catching Perch

Perch rig with minnows attached for fishing yellow perch.

Shown here is a typical perch rig with minnows. Some people hook the minnows through the mouth, while others insist the minnows should be hooked through the back. I am a firm believer that hooking in the back will keep the minnows moving more freely and alive longer.

These fish mainly feed near the bottom of the lake or river they inhabit, although it happens, these fish will rarely come o the surface to feed. The main technique used to catch these fish is a heavy bell sinker sent to the bottom, with two hooks hanging off heavy monofilament. This is known as a perch rig and typically works well. The heavy weight keeps the rig anchored and allows you to tighten up the line so you can easily detect these light biting fish. The perch are usually easiest to catch during spawning in the spring when they move into rivers and even small ditches.

Habits of the Fish

A communal fish, they travel in schools, often moving into deeper waters during the day and then return to the shallows at dusk to eat. Spring is the primary mating season of the yellow perch, and the female will lay up to 40,000 eggs in strands that they attach to underwater vegetation. Once the eggs are laid, male yellow perch will fertilize the eggs and they will swell in size – often the strands can stretch to over eight feet long.
The eggs will hatch within three weeks of being laid, and the babies will stay within the vegetation of the shallow waters until they are larger. As a fry, the fish will eat algae and plankton, eventually moving on to aquatic insects, fish eggs, snails and crayfish.

Predators of the Yellow Perch

Fishermen have long enjoyed the hunt of the yellow perch, and the strong population has supported the continual use of yellow perch as a commercially caught fish, as well as for the sport fisherman. Other species have had their eye on the yellow perch as well, and it is a favorite menu item for walleye, bass, and crappies. In addition, the fish is a favorite of hawks, herons, eagles and turtles.
As vast as the continent of North America, the reach of the yellow perch is amazing. The fish is found in ponds and lakes, rivers and streams, and seems to thrive wherever it is found. It has been introduced into manmade areas with ease, and yet continues to be a strong presence in the native areas it began in.

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