Most commonly found in North America, the yellow perch is also known as Perca Flavescens and referred to by many as simply the perch. The yellow perch looks similar in many ways to its European counterpart, however, they are generally paler and their fins contain less red with around half a dozen vertical lines on their sides. The yellow perch is not related to the white perch but belongs to the same family of fish as the sauger and the walleye.
There can be large differences in the sizes of yellow perch, depending on the waters they are found in. However, most adults measure between four and ten inches in length. They can grow much larger, however, depending on their age. The largest perch ever recorded was a massive 21 inches in length and weighed over 4lbs. These larger specimens are often referred to as ‘jack’ or ‘jumbo’ perch.
Females will generally reach reproductive maturity at the age of two to three years. Male perch can reach sexual maturity from the age of one. During late April and early May, the spawning process occurs. This involves anything between 10,000 and 40,000 being laid on weeds or submerged trees and branches. The weather conditions will determine when eggs hatch after fertilization, however this usually occurs sometime between 11 and 27 days.
Catching yellow perch is a relatively easy task. Many inadvertently catch them while fishing for other varieties of fish that share the same stretch of water. The perch is also prey for several larger species of fish. This is why many fishing lures are designed to look like the yellow perch. Authentic yellow perch is one of the tastiest pan fish available and is extremely popular in the restaurant industry. However, it is common to find inaccuracies on menus with perch dishes actually containing a completely different species.
Identifying a yellow perch can be done by checking for the oval shaped body. The anal fin can be orange or green, while the dorsal fin is often olive colored. The belly of the perch is usually a cream color. In spawning season, the vertical bands on the males becomes more pronounced while these bands have not yet formed on juveniles. While the anterior fin of a perch can have up to 15 spines, the softer rear fins will normally only have one or two. The pelvic fins will be close together and the caudal fin forked. A yellow perch will have several fine and very sharp teeth. The ctenoid scales covering the fish give its skin a rough texture.
Sometimes referred to as the American perch or lake perch, the yellow variety are among the smallest of the species known as Percidae. The fish has the ability to cross breed with other varieties and is thought by many to be a subspecies of the European species. The harvesting of yellow perch has been popular for over 100 years in the United States and Canada. In 2002, Canada’s catch alone was over 3,500 tons, valued at over $16 million. This made it the second most valuable catch after pickerel.
As the yellow perch is relatively easy to catch, it is very popular in sport fishing circles. The species accounts for 85% of all the fish caught in Lake Michigan. The Midwest of the United States has a limited aquaculture industry, providing over 200,000 lbs of yellow perch a year, however this is a relatively small amount and there are no plans to significantly grow the industry.