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Yellow Perch


SCIENTIFIC NAME: Perca flavescens

CHARACTERISTICS: This moderately large, yellow percid is distinguished by a serrated preopercle and a large black spot at the posterior base of the spiny dorsal fin. Most individuals have six to nine black saddles across the back, continuing down the sides to below the midlateral area. The body has yellowish green or golden yellow color on the back, lighter yellow on the sides, and a white venter and breast. Dorsal and caudal fins are olive yellow; pectoral fins silvery orange or yellow. The pelvic and anal fins are yellowish orange on individuals in the Tennessee River drainage and Chattahoochee River system and bright red on individuals from tributaries of the Mobile Delta.

ADULT SIZE: 3 to 12 in (75 to 300 mm). The first Alabama state angling record (1 lb, 15 oz) was caught in Wheeler Reservoir on the Tennessee River on February 26, 2000.

DISTRIBUTION: The range of this northern species has expanded through introduction into western and selected southern states (see inset map). Populations in the Tennessee River drainage and Chattahoochee River system are introduced. A single 1964 Choctawhatchee River system specimen housed at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology is puzzling; no other individuals of yellow perch have been collected from that drainage. Populations in the Mobile Delta are native, based on collections made in 1851 housed at Harvard University (Smith-Vaniz, 1968). Yellow perch bones were also recovered from an archaeological excavation in Mobile dating to French occupation in 1702-20 (Sheldon and Cottier, 1983). Our samples from four delta tributaries confirm that the species still exists in the area. The single observation in the upper Tombigbee River system probably resulted from migration through the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. (Fisheries Section note: Yellow perch are found in the Tallapoosa River above Harris Lake and in Lake Martin and downstream as a result of angler releases, which are now illegal.)

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: We have collected yellow perch in a variety of habitats, including moderate to large flowing streams and rivers, tannin-stained tributaries of the Mobile Delta, and reservoirs. Most fish remain in deep water during the day and move closer to shore to feed during the evening hours. Spawning occurs from March to May, when gelatinous strands of eggs are scattered over sand and gravel substrates or draped over vegetation or submerged snags. Small yellow perch eat microcrustaceans and insect larvae. Large adults consume small fishes, large crustaceans, and are occasionally caught by anglers fishing for crappie with live minnows. The flesh of this small fish is delicious.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Mitchill described yellow perch in 1814.

Perca means perch.
Flavescens means yellow.

Except for the updated state angling record information, this copyrighted information is from the Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.

ADDITIONAL COMMON NAMES: In the southeast, anglers also call yellow perch: raccoon perch, coon perch, ringed perch, striped perch, jack perch, sand perch, lake perch, convict, redfin, coontail, bandit fish, redfin trout, Eisenhower, and calico bass, according to Cloutman and Olmstead in Fisheries (Vol. 8, No. 2).

Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move a yellow perch or any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.

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