Perca flavescens
    Yellow Perch

Yellow Perch

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods



  • Perca, an early Greek name for perch
  • flavescens, from the Latin, "becoming gold colored"
  • Common name from its yellowish coloration
  • Other common names include: American Perch, Bandit Fish, Calico Bass, Convict, Coon Perch, Coontail, Eisenhower, Jack Perch, Lake Perch, Raccoon Perch, Red Perch, Redfin, Redfin Trout, Ring-tail Perch, Ringed Perch, River Perch, Sand Perch, Striped Perch


  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Chordata, animals with a spinal chord
    • Subphylum Vertebrata, animals with a backbone
      • Superclass Osteichthyes, bony fishes
      • Class Actinopterygii, ray-finned and spiny rayed fishes
      • Subclass Neopterygii
      • Infraclass Teleostei
        • Superorder Acanthopterygii,
        • Order Perciformes, the perch-like fishes
        • Suborder Percoidei
          • Family Percidae, the true perches
            • Genus Perca, the yellow perches


  • A hardy, adaptable fish found in almost all BWCA lakes.
  • Length 6"-12"
  • Weight 6-16 ounces; adult females generally larger than adult males of the same age.
  • Coloration
    • back bright green to dark olive green to golden brown
    • sides bright yellow, yellow-green, to brassy green with the color of the back extending down in seven dark, tapering, vertical bars.
    • belly lighter, grey to milky-white
    • colours of spawning males more intense, with bright orange-red fins and generally brighter in color.
  • Body
    • oval shaped
    • lateral line of 57-62 scales
    • dorsal fin of 12-13 soft rays
    • anal fin of 7-8 rays
    • two well separated dorsal fins, the first spiny-rayed and the second softrayed
  • Head
    • slightly concave above the eyes; giving a somewhat humpbacked appearance.
    • no canine teeth on the jaws or roof of the mouth.
    • cheeks covered with 8-10 rows of extended scales.


  • Distinguished as a perch by its two well separated dorsal fins, the first spiny-rayed and the second softrayed.
  • Distinguished from other native perch by the tapering bars on its side.


  • Almost circumpolar in the fresh waters of the northern hemisphere. A glacial lakes species widely distributed except in unglaciated regions.
  • Northwest Territories across Canada and the northern US to Nova Scotia, south to Kansas, Florida, and Georgia. Especially abundant in Manitoba lakes and the Great Lakes drainage.
  • Successfully introduced in the western half of North America including Montana, Idaho, Washington, California, New Mexico, Texas, and British Columbia.


  • Primarily a lake fish, though also found in ponds, slow moving streams, and rivers where they tend to be much smaller. Not present in large numbers in flowing waters.
  • Prefer cool, clear water, though quite adaptable, tolerating low winter oxygen levels better than many other native fish species. (Though still susceptible to winterkill). Prefer water temperatures of 65º to 70º F.
  • Usually at depths less than 30' but found in waters as much as 150' deep. Larger fish tend to prefer the deeper regions of lakes, leaving the shorelines to smaller individuals.
  • During different seasons, they prefer different areas of the lake. In spring, bottom structures such as rock piles and bottom drop-offs; in summer, outside edges of submerged vegetation; in fall prominent land points with bottom structures; and in winter, they stay over the flat bottom reaches near bottom structures.


  • Strictly carnivorous, consuming small fishes, aquatic insects, crayfish, and snails. Feed by sight and therefore need light to find prey. They feed throughout the daylight hours in deep water but often move into the shallows during evening to feed on schools of minnows. Midgefly larvae and both the immature and adult stages of mayflies often comprise a large part of their diet. They may feed off and on throughout the day, but have two peak feeding times; once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
  • A recent study reported Yellow Perch showed a positive growth response in the presence of zebra mussels. Zebra mussels increase the biomass of benthic invertebrates which juvenile and adult yellow perch feed on, therefore improve the growth of the fish.
  • Young eat zooplankton, other aquatic invertebrates, and insects. As they become adults, they consume less zooplankton, and more things such as insects, snails, crayfish and fish eggs. Yellow perch are also piscivorous preferring shiners and minnows. They also eat smelt, trout-perch, and even juvenile yellow perch.
  • In turn, Yellow Perch is, in the ecology of many rivers and lakes, of inestimable value as the prey of larger fish.


  • World Record: 4 lbs, 3 oz, from Cross Wicks Creek, New Jersey, 1865
  • Minnesota Record:


  • Valuable as a commercial fish and game fish, caught by anglers on minnows, worms, or cut fish as bait.
  • A mainstay of the lower Great Lakes commercial fishery, particularly on Lake Erie, but never figuring highly in Lake Superior's commercial catch.


  • Spawns once a year in early spring, shortly after ice-out, usually at night or early morning, with water temperatures of 45º to 55º F. Spawning closely follows that of Walleyes and often coincides with that of suckers.
  • Random spawners, they do not build nests. Instead, the female deposits a long, flat, ribbon-like, amber colored mass of eggs. This strand of eggs is fully formed in the ovary and is covered with a thick mucilaginous sheath. The sheath protects the eggs from infection and predation. Depending on the size, a female may produce anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 eggs.
  • Eggs are deposited over a variety of substrates such as sand bars, submerged vegetation, fallen branches, or other debris in the water. As the female deposits the eggs, she is followed by 2-25 males who fertilize them. After fertilization, they swell and the string of eggs can become up to 8' long. Many egg masses are eaten by other fishes, washed up on shore, or stranded by low water. Surviving eggs hatch in 12-21 days, depending on water temperature. There is no parental care of eggs or fry once they hatch.
  • Young perch school in or near weedy areas where food is abundant. Slow swimmers when young, they must depend upon aquatic plants for cover. Heavy predation from most fish-eating fishes and birds is common.
  • Young reach about 3" in their first summer.




Boreal border

Last updated on 17 October 1999