Yellow perch
Perca flavecens (Mitchell 1814)

member of the Perch Family (Percidae)

photo by Konrad Schmidt












What's In a Name?
Yellow perch: a perch with sides that vary from a pale yellow to a bright orange yellow

Perca (purr´-kah) the early Greek name for "perch"
flavescens (
means "becoming gold" or "yellow colored" in Latin


    Where Do They Live?
Yellow perch occur in all major drainages of Minnesota. They live in both lakes and streams, including Lake Superior and the trout streams of the North Shore. Yellow perch are more abundant in lakes and backwaters of large rivers than they are in swift-flowing streams. But they also occur in the pools and runs of many of our small streams. The young are most abundant in areas of aquatic vegetation.


How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
Female yellow perch grow faster and reach an overall bigger size than males do. Some females get to almost 375 mm (15 in) and weigh over 0.5 kg (1 lb). But it is more common to find both sexes at lengths of 200-290 mm (8-11 in) and average weights of 170-300 g (6-10 oz). The state record for this fish is 1.5 kg (3 lb 4 oz). It was caught in Lake Plantaganette in Hubbard County. Yellow perch typically live for 7-9 years. The oldest known age is 13. Females live longer on average than males do.

    What Do They Eat?
Larval yellow perch commonly eat copepods, waterfleas, and other small crustaceans. Juveniles quickly begin to include bigger items such as aquatic insect larvae and larval fish. By the end of their first growing season, perch are including small fish, crayfish, leeches, and snails in their diet. Adults continue to eat all of these items, but include more fish as they get larger.

What Eats Them?
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. Even sunfishes and crappies consume larval yellow perch. 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.


How Do They Reproduce?
Yellow perch spawn fairly early, soon after ice-out in April and early May. Water temperature only needs to reach 7° C (45° F) to induce spawning. They build no nest, and there is no parenting of the eggs or young. Males reach sexual maturity at 2-3 years old and females at 3-4 years old. These adult perch move to shallow, weedy areas of lakes or into slower protected areas of a stream. At night females are escorted by two or more males as they move among the weeds. Females drape their eggs in an accordion-like strand over the vegetation. The males fertilize the eggs as they are released. A single female may lay 10,000-200,000 eggs, depending on her size and health.

The eggs (embryos actually) hatch in about 2 weeks and shortly afterwards migrate to the open water of the lake or drift downstream to pools or backwaters. They stay in the open water until they are about 25 mm (1 in) long and then migrate into weedy areas near shore.


Conservation and Management
Yellow perch are usually not the sport fish most anglers try for, but they are one that most anglers catch. They are especially common in the ice-anglers bucket. Yellow perch flesh is firm and very good tasting. One of the problems with perch is that they have a tendency to overpopulate, especially in lakes where too many of the larger sport fish have been harvested. Lakes with lots of "nuisance" small perch are called "perch lakes". The usual management strategy is to allow the predator fish species to recover, which often happens on its own because anglers go elsewhere.




Permission is granted for the non-commercial educational or scientific use of the text and images on this Web document. Please credit the author or authors listed below.

Photographs by Konrad P. Schmidt
Text by Nicole Paulson & Jay T. Hatch in cooperation with
the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' MinnAqua Aquatic Program

This page developed with funds from the
MinnAqua Program
(Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fisheries)
and the
Sport Fish Restoration Program (Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior)

Maintained by Jay T. Hatch
General College and James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Last updated 23 October 2002