Yellow Perch

Yellow perch side view photo with black background
Scientific Name
Perca flavescens
Percidae (perches) in the order Perciformes (perchlike fish)

The yellow perch is a rather deep, slab-sided fish that is nearly sunfish-shaped. There are 2 separate dorsal fins. The mouth is moderately large. The upper jaw extends back about as far as the middle of the eye. The anal fin has 2 spines and 6–8 soft rays. The rear margin of the preopercle (the bone just ahead of the gill cover) is strongly saw-toothed.

The jaws and roof of the mouth have teeth that are small and inconspicuous. They lack large prominent “canine” teeth.

Coloration: A key ID feature is the 6–8 regularly spaced dark bars that cross the back and extend vertically onto the sides. In life, the back is olive green, grading to golden yellow or brassy green on the sides. The belly is white. The back and sides are crossed by blackish or dark green vertical bars. The spinous dorsal fin is dusky, usually with a prominent black blotch near the back and a smaller blotch near the front. The other fins are yellowish or white.

Similar species: Yellow perch can be distinguished from walleye and sauger by their lack of large, prominent teeth (walleye and sauger have large, prominent teeth); by the several dark vertical bars, which are regular in size and shape; and by the anal fin with only 6–8 soft rays.

Other Common Names
Striped Perch
Lake Perch

Adult length: 6–8 inches; weight: usually from 4 ounces to 1 pound. The world record yellow perch weighed 4 pounds, 3 ounces.

Where To Find

Scattered. Mainly in and near the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Also established in some artificial lakes statewide, such as Bull Shoals Lake.

The yellow perch is rare in Missouri’s natural waters. In Missouri, most of the time they are collected in or near the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. They also occur in artificial lakes. In the 1930s and before, they were stocked in Missouri’s streams and lakes.

Missouri is on the southern edge of the range of this species. They are more common in northern states and Canada. Yellow perch in Missouri might be stragglers that swam here from the north, but there’s evidence that Missouri has self-sustaining populations, too.

Yellow perch are primarily lake fish. Their scarcity in Missouri may stem from our having few natural lakes.

Yellow perch live in large schools. By day, they move into deep water, but they move inshore to feed in late afternoon or evening. Principal foods are small crustaceans, insects, and fish.

Native; occurrence is considered accidental. The yellow perch is so rare in Missouri waters as to scarcely qualify as a native fish.

Life Cycle

Spawning occurs in the spring. Females scatter eggs over sandy or gravelly bottoms or on vegetation. A single large female is followed by 15–25 males that form into columns as they swim behind her. The eggs are released in long, gelatinous strings that remain attached after deposition. Growth and development of the young varies with local conditions such as water temperature.

The yellow perch is a popular game fish in states where it is common enough to have a fishery. They are delicious pan fish, and in northern states they are a favorite of recreational and commercial fishers. They constitute more than 80 percent of the sport fish caught in Lake Michigan. Because they are so popular, restaurants sometimes market other types of fish as “perch.”

Yellow perch can be farmed in aquaculture situations.

In states where they are common, yellow perch are so popular several communities host annual perch-themed festivals and fundraisers. Attendees enjoy fresh perch dinners or fried perch sandwiches, and like community festivals everywhere, there are things like parades, vendors, live music, and so on.

Yellow perch are not common in Missouri. Where they are more abundant, they are important in the aquatic food chain. Numerous predatory fish feed on yellow perch, including bass, walleye, pike, trout, crappie, and sunfish. In areas where the three species are common, largemouth bass and walleye feed especially on yellow perch.

In northern states, double-crested cormorants also feed heavily on yellow perch. Other fish-eating birds that eat yellow perch include gulls, diving ducks, mergansers, herons, kingfishers, pelicans, and loons. In northern states, fisheries managers have attempted to deter the foraging of cormorants and other birds. Yellow perch populations are one of the concerns when people address water quality in the Great Lakes.

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About Fishes in Missouri
Missouri has more than 200 kinds of fish, more than are found in most neighboring states. Fishes live in water, breathe with gills, and have fins instead of legs. Most are covered with scales. Most fish in Missouri “look” like fish and could never be confused with anything else. True, lampreys and eels have snakelike bodies — but they also have fins and smooth, slimy skin, which snakes do not.
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