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Yellow Perch Perca flavescens
Identifying characteristics: (Native Fish) Two dorsal
fins separated into a spiny and soft-rayed portion, yellow sides,
seven blackish bars on the sides, no canine teeth.
The yellow perch and walleye, members of the Percidae
or perch family, are characterized by a dorsal fin, which is completely
divided into a spiny and a separate soft-rayed portion. Both are
important game fish in the Great Lakes area.
Yellow perch have the distinction of being the most
frequently caught game fish in Michigan. In addition their reputation
as a tasty treat makes them a doubly valuable Great Lakes product.
The gregarious perch travel in schools, generally preferring relatively
shallow waters near shore. They are rarely taken from waters more
than 30 feet deep, although in spring and fall they inhabit shallower
areas than they do in the heat of the summer, they tend to travel
shoreward each morning and evening to feed, while during the spring
and fall they appear to feed throughout the day. At night they appear
to rest on the bottom and refrain from feeding. Unlike many Great
Lakes fish species, perch remain active all winter long under the
ice in both shallow and deeper water, hence they provide the ice
fisherman with much sport and many a meal. When given the choice,
perch prefer a water temperature of 66-70 degrees F and some suggest
they follow the 68 degree F water temperature levels in their seasonal
movements. They inhabit all the Great Lakes, with greatest Michigan
concentrations in Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, Saginaw Bay, the eastern
end of the U.P. and southern Michigan.
Adult perch dine primarily on immature insects, larger
invertebrates, (crayfish, etc.) and the eggs and young of other
fish, which they take both from open water and from the bottom.
In turn, bass, walleye, and northern pike all prey on perch.
Perch average adult length is 4-10 inches, with a
weight of 4-10 ounces, although adult size is quite variable. Perch
are prolific breeders, but growth and ultimate size depend on population
density and habitat productivity. Crowding results in stunted offspring
that may never exceed a length of six inches; thus, a controlled
harvest program can benefit both the angler and the fish themselves.
Male perch reach sexual maturity at about three years
of age, females at four. Perch spawn in the spring, laying eggs
in gelatinous strings over dense vegetation, roots, and fallen trees
in the shallows. These spawning grounds provide some of the best
perch fishing available. Great Lakes perch populations were severely
crowded and reduced in the late 1960s by the alewife, but perch
are adaptable, and have staged a comeback that shows us they are
here to stay.
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