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What is a Yellow Perch?

By S. Ashraf
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A yellow perch, scientifically named Perca flavescens, is a small freshwater fish. In appearance, its body has an oval, oblong shape. The colors of this species of perch range from a golden brown through olive and brilliant green on its back to shades of yellow and yellowish green on its sides. A series of dark vertical stripes along each side is the most distinguishing physical characteristic of the yellow perch. An average-size adult is about 4.0-11.4 inches (10-29 cm) in length and weighs 6-16 ounces (170-454 g), although individual specimens, called jumbo perch, might be considerably longer and heavier.

Geographically, the distribution of this fish is limited to the United States and Canada. Its easternmost range is from South Carolina north to Nova Scotia. From there, the natural reach of the yellow perch extends westward through Alabama, Missouri and Kansas to the continental divide before turning north to include the Dakotas, Montana and most of Canada. This type of perch is a highly popular sport fish and commercial fish, and it has been widely introduced to other areas of North America, where it is not a native species.

For habitat, the yellow perch is a freshwater fish that prefers quiet, slow-moving rivers, ponds, streams and lakes. Most often, this fish is found in shallow waters of less than about 50 feet (15 m), but it might sometimes be encountered at deeper depths or on sandy bottoms. A favorite habitat is close to shore among reeds, weeds or other aquatic vegetation that offers protection, food and cover. Yellow perch are not very abundant in waters that are deep, clear or free of vegetation. As a species, it has also been introduced into man-made reservoirs, lakes and river channels.

In its diet, the yellow perch is carnivorous. Very young perch feed mainly on zooplankton. As juveniles, they shift to such prey as mosquitoes and small flies. An adult yellow perch feeds mainly on small fish, fish eggs, crayfish and shrimp. Given the right circumstances, this perch is also known to be cannibalistic.

Yellow perch spawn once a year toward the end of April or the start of May when the water temperature is right. Spawning occurs late at night or in the early morning. Females deposit an egg clutch into the water, and two males release sperm over the eggs. The female leaves immediately, but both males briefly stay with the eggs. Neither parent cares for the eggs, which usually hatch in eight to 10 days.

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