The Yellow Perch commonly referred to as perch, is a freshwater perciform fish native to much of North America. The Yellow Perch was described in 1814 by Samuel Latham Mitchill from New York. Yellow Perch are closely related, and morphologically similar to the European Perch, however, the two are recognized as independent species based on anatomical and genetic differences.
Latitudinal variability in age, growth rates, and size have been observed among populations of Yellow Perch, likely resulting from differences in day-length and annual water temperatures. Typically, northern populations of Yellow Perch live longer and grow to larger sizes. However, southern populations of Yellow Perch generally grow much faster. In many populations, Yellow Perch often live from 9–10 years, with adults generally ranging from 4-10 inches in length.
The Yellow Perch has a yellow to brass-colored body and distinct pattern, consisting of five to 9 olive-green, vertical bars, triangular in shape, on each side. Its fins are lighter in coloration, with an orange hue on the margins. The body is laterally compressed. The anterior portion of the body is deep, gradually tapering into a slender caudal peduncle. The opercle is partially scaled, and a single spine is present on the posterior margin.
As with all percid fishes, Yellow Perch have two dorsal fins. The anterior is convex in shape and consists of 11-15 spines. The posterior dorsal fin has a straight margin, consisting of one or two spines and 12-16 rays. The nape, breast, and belly of yellow perch are all fully scaled. A complete lateral line (50-70 scales) is present. The anal fin consists of two spines and six to 9 rays. A single spine and five rays make up the pelvic fins, and the pectoral fins consist of 13-15 rays. The caudal fin of the yellow perch is forked.
The voracious feeding habits of Yellow Perch make them fairly easy to catch when schools are located, and they are frequently caught by recreational anglers targeting other species. Yellow Perch will at times attack lures normally used for bass such a 3" tubes, Rapala minnows and larger curl tail grubs on jigheads, but the simplest way to catch them is to use light line, 4#-6# test and light jigheads, 1/32-1/16 oz. There are too many small soft plastic lure designs to mention that catch all panfish, but minnow shaped lures with a quivering tail work 99% of the time as long as the retrieve speed is slow and the lure fished at the depth the Yellow Perch are swimming. Curl tail grubs require the slowest speed of retrieve and may not be preferred when the bite is slow.
Some good baits for perch include worms, live and dead minnows, crickets, and any small lure resembling any of these. The bigger ones are caught on a large live minnow on a jighead, especially when fished over weed beds. Bobbers, if used, should be spindle type for the least resistance when the bait is struck, yet indicate any slight pull of the bait. Raising the rod top is usually more than enough force to set the hook.
Some Yellow Perch fisheries have been impacted through intense harvesting, and commercial and recreational harvest rates often regulated by management agencies. In most aquatic systems, Yellow Perch are an important prey source for larger, piscivorous species, and many fishing lures are designed to resemble Yellow Perch, though fish eating fish don't have the intelligence to tell the difference between lures representin.
Yellow perch are only found in North America; they are native to the Arctic, Atlantic, Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River, and Mississippi River basins. In Canada, its native range extends throughout Nova Scotia and Quebec north to the Mackenzie River. It also is common in the northwest to Great Slave Lake and west into Alberta. It is not native to any other areas of Canada. In the United States, the native range extends south into Ohio, Illinois, and throughout the majority of the northeastern United States. It is also considered native to the Atlantic Slope basin, extending south to the Savannah River.