Close Up on the Yellow Perch
by Roland Sigurdson
Yellow Perch:Perca flavescens (purr’-kah flah-vess’-sins): Perca the early Greek word for "perch" and flavescens means "becoming gold" or "yellow colored" in Latin
Yellow perch occur in lakes, rivers and streams throughout Minnesota. Yellow perch are more abundant in lakes and backwaters of large rivers, but also occur in the pools and runs of many of our small streams.
While not typically targeted by sport fish anglers in the summer, yellow perch are highly sought after by ice anglers. Yellow perch have firm, very good tasting flesh that rivals that of their larger cousin, the walleye.
Yellow perch have a stocky torpedo shaped body. They are pale yellow to bright orange with 6-7 dark, vertical bars on their side. Their mouth is small and points forward. One of the sure signs that you’ve caught a perch is that their dorsal fin is made up of two parts, divided by a space. The front portion is spiny and rear portion soft-rayed. Perch have two spines in their anal fin and a forked tail. In order to correctly identify the yellow perch utilize Lesson 1:3 – Fish Families to learn about all the members of the Perch Family.
When landing a yellow perch, smooth down the spines of the dorsal fin from nose to tail much like you would handle a sunfish. Lesson 6:1 – Safety and Fishing at the Water’s Edge gives a good overview on handling fish.
Young of the year yellow perch (those that hatch out in any given spring) feed on zooplankton, and then as they grow they switch to benthic macroinvertebrates and finally fish. Yellow perch swallow their food whole. An esophagus, the tube between the mouth and stomach, is flexible. A fish esophagus usually can handle anything that fits into the fish’s mouth. It can even adjust mid-swallow—just in case the fish eats something that happens to be considerably larger than it.
Female yellow perch mature between two to four years old, males usually mature one year earlier. Spawning takes place in the spring (April through early May) when the water temperature reaches 45 - 52°F. The average female will lay approximately 23,000 eggs. After deposition the eggs rapidly swell and harden. Eggs hatch in 8 -10 days and the emerging fish are 4-7 mm in length.
Yellow perch larvae have large mouths, well-developed jaws, teeth and eyes. They begin active feeding immediately after hatching,but still absorb food from the yolk sac until it is used up. Yellow perch are relatively short-lived fish, few over seven years old are ever caught.
The yellow perch is a common prey to many piscivorous (fish-eating) fishes, including largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, musky, walleye, bowfins, burbot, lake trout, and others. Common fish eating birds such as gulls, mergansers, loons, kingfishers, eagles and herons consume perch of various sizes. Since the meat from this fish is similar to that of the ever-popular walleye, it is commonly a treat for many anglers, especially those who ice-fish.
Tackle & Fishing Tips
Use a light action fishing rod spooled with 4-6 lb. test line. While a basic hook will work fine, you can also try spinner rigs, beetle spinner, small jigs, and curly-tail grub worms. Jigs, flies & live bait work well at night in vegetation and off bottom or during the day in open water. Live bait such as nightcrawlers, red worms, crayfish, shiners, or fathead (crappie) minnows can increase your success. During the ice fishing season use smaller jigs and ice flies tipped with small minnows, wax worms or other grubs.
If you are taking your students out for some perch action, shallow water around docks, scattered weeds, lily pads and rocky bottom points will be some good places to start. A piece of worm rigged underneath a bobber will give your students plenty of action.
Preparation for Cooking
Filleting a yellow perch is very similar to filleting a sunfish. Follow the step-by-step instructions provided in Lesson 6:5 – Eating Fish to clean your catch and cook up some tasty treats.
- The largest yellow perch recorded in Minnesota was caught in Lake Plantaganette (Hubbard County) and weighed 3 lbs., 4 oz.
- The yellow perch method of spawning is unique in that female yellow perch lay their eggs in long gelatinous strands, usually floating or hanging from vegetation or some other structure.