Yellow Perch

Aquaponics Yellow Perch

Look at the stripes on this Yellow Perch

The yellow perch (Perca flavescens) is a species of perch found in the United States and Canada and is an extremely popular fish to raise in Aquaponics especially in colder climates.

Yellow perch look similar to the European perch but are paler and more yellowish, with less red in the fins. They have 6-8 dark vertical bars on their sides. The yellow perch is in the same family as the walleye and sauger, but in a different family from the white perch.

Yellow perch size can vary greatly between bodies of water, but adults are usually between 4-10 inches (10-25.5 cm) in length. The perch can live for up to 11 years, and older perch are often much larger than average; the maximum recorded length is 21.0 inches (53.3 cm) and the largest recorded weight is 4.2 lb (1.91 kg). Large yellow perch are often called “jumbo perch”. Yellow Perch reach sexual maturity at one to three years of age for males and two to three years of age for females. Spawning occurs at the end of April or beginning of May, depositing 10,000 to 40,000 eggs upon weeds, or the branches of trees or shrubs that have become immersed in the water. After fertilization the eggs hatch in 11 to 27 days depending on temperature and other weather conditions.

Fishing – Yellow Perch are fairly easy to catch and are often caught while fishing for other species in which they share the same body of water. They are also an important source of food for larger species, and therefore many fishing lures are designed to look like yellow perch. Yellow Perch are one of the finest flavored of all panfish, and this has led to inaccuracies with use of their name in the restaurant industry. Menus will sometimes list “White Perch”, “Rock bass|Rock Perch” or simply “Perch” that are actually other species, usually panfish in the Centrarchidae (sunfish) family.

Aquaponics Yellow Perch

Beautiful Yellow Perch ready for the frying pan

Ecology – Primarily age and body size determine the diet of yellow perch. Zooplankton is the primary food source for young and larval perch. By age one; they shift to macroinvertebrates such as midges and mosquitos. Large adult perch feed on invertebrates, fish eggs, crayfish, mysid shrimp, and juvenile fish. They have been known to be predominantly piscivorous and even cannibalistic in some cases. About 20% of the diet in a yellow perch over 32 grams (1.1oz) in weight, consists of small fish.

Maximum feeding occurs just before dark, with typical consumption averaging 1.4% of their body weight. Their microhabitat is usually along the shore among reeds and aquatic weeds, docks, and other structures. They are most dense within aquatic vegetation since they naturally school, but also prefer small weed filled water bodies with muck, gravel, or sand bottoms. Perch are commonly active during the day and inactive at night except during spawning when they are active both day and night.

Life History – Yellow perch spawn once a year in spring using large schools and shallow areas of a lake or low current tributary streams. They do not build a redd or nest. Spawning typically takes place at night or in the early morning. Females have the potential to spawn up to eight times in their lifetime. Two to five males go to the spawning grounds first and are with the female throughout the spawning process. The female deposits her egg mass, and then at least two males release their milt over the eggs with the total process taking about five seconds. The males stay with the eggs for a short time, but the females leave immediately. There is no parental care provided for the eggs or fry.

The average clutch size is 23,000 eggs, but can range from 2,000 to 90,000. The egg mass is a jelly-like mass that is semi-buoyant and can reach up to two meters long. The egg mass attaches to some vegetation while the rest flows with the water current. Other substrate includes sand, gravel, rubble and submerged trees and brush in wetland habitat. Yellow perch eggs are thought to contain a chemical in the jelly-like sheath that protects the eggs and makes them undesirable since they are rarely ever eaten by other fish. The eggs usually hatch in eight to ten days, but can take up to 21 days depending upon temperature and proper spawning habitat. Spawning occurs in the spring when water temperatures are between 6.7°C and 12.8°C. Growth of fry is initiated at 6°C-10°C, but is inactive below 5.3°C. Larval yellow perch survival is based on a variety of factors such as wind speed, turbidity, food availability, and food composition.

Sexual dimorphism – is known to occur in the northern waters where females are often larger, grow faster, live longer, and mature in three to four years. Males mature in two to three years at a smaller size.

In 2000, the parasite Heterosporis spp. was discovered in yellow perch in Wisconsin, and has since been found in Minnesota, Michigan, and Ontario. The parasite doesn’t infect people, but can infect many important sport and forage fish including the yellow perch.

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