Perch is a common name for fish of the genus Perca, freshwater gamefish belonging to the family Percidae. The perch, of which there are three species in different geographical areas, lend their name to a large order of vertebrates: the Perciformes, from the Greek perke meaning spotted, and the Latin forma meaning shape. Many species of freshwater gamefish more or less resemble perch, but belong to different genera. In fact, the exclusively saltwater dwelling red drum is often referred to as a red perch, though by definition perch are freshwater fish. Though many fish are referred to as perch as a common name, to be considered a true perch, the fish must be of the family Percidae.
The yellow perch (Perca flavescens), smaller and paler than the European perch, is found in the United States and Canada. In northern areas, it is sometimes referred to as the lake perch. This species is prized for its food quality and has often been raised in hatcheries and introduced into areas in which it is not native. Yellow perch are almost identical in appearance to European perch, but have a more yellow coloring. These fish typically only reach a size of about 15 in and 2.2 lb (1 kg).
The body of the yellow perch is oblong, somewhat compressed, and rough to the touch because of the ctenoid scales. The name, Perca
flavescens, is descriptive of the body coloration. Perca is an ancient name meaning dusky, and flavescens, yellowish. Generally speaking, the coloration conforms to the defiition; the back of the yellow perch is olivaceous, varying to greenish, and golden yellow on the sides, with six to eight dusky crossbars running from the back to below the middle of the sides; the belly is whitish or yellowish; the upper fins are dusky and separated; the pectoral fins are light in colour, and the pelvics pale bright orange, especially in the spring. There are numerous line teeth in the jaws but no canines. This serves to distinguish the perch from the young walleye which is the only fish it resembles.
Yellow perch are commonly found in northern and northeastern North America from the Hudson Bay drainage south to Kansas and the northern portions of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, to western Pennsylvania, and in coastwise streams from Nova Scotia to South Carolina. They are commonly found in the Great Lakes drainage, and have been introduced to waters beyond their original range and, unwittingly, to many trout waters in Ontario, to the detriment of the trout.
Perch prefer lakes, ponds and sluggish streams; they are seldom found in strong currents. They are most numerous where there are expanses of open water, moderate amounts of vegetation and moderate fertility. Turbidity and siltation have been responsible for decreases in their numbers but, apparently, they are more tolerant of oxygen deficiency under the ice in winter than bluegills, smallmouth and largemouth bass and walleyes.
They often occur in large numbers, swimming in loose schools. They are essentially a lake fish although they may leave lakes and ascend streams in spring They prefer a temperature of about 70°F. and, as the temperature exceeds the preferred temperature, they seek deeper, cooler water. During the summer, they are most often associated with the cool water of the upper part of the thermocline At Lake Simcoe, they are known to frequent shallow water during the winter.
Sexual maturity may be reached at two years. Spawning takes place in sheltered areas, usually at night during April and May, in five to ten feet of water. In Lake Simcoe, they migrate up large rivers to spawn. The spawning period often coincides with that of the sucker and follows that of the walleye.
Zigzag, gelatinous strings of eggs which the male fertilizes as they appear, are deposited freely in the water. The spawn ‘often becomes attached to aquatic vegetation or submerged brush on sand, gravel or rubble bottom. The time between the depositing of the spawn and hatching is twelve to twenty-one days at a temperature of 45°F. to 50°F.
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