Game Fishing > Sea-Bass Family, Serranidae > White-perch


White-perchThe white-perch was described, but not named, by Shoepf, in 1788, from the waters near New York. From his description Gmelin named it, in the same year, Perca americana, or "American perch." The genus Morone was established for it in 1814 by Dr. Mitchill, as owing to structural differences it could, not properly be placed in the genus Perca.

The white-perch is one of the most abundant fishes of the brackish waters on the Atlantic coast, its range extending from Nova Scotia to South Carolina, but more especially from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras. It is also landlocked in fresh-water ponds at various places along the coast.

It is a handsome fish, symmetrical in outline, and well proportioned. Its body is compressed, its depth is not quite a third of its length. Its head is as long as the depth of the body, depressed above the eyes, and with a somewhat pointed snout. The mouth is rather small; the teeth are small, without canines; there are a few teeth on the edge of the tongue, but none on its base. There are two dorsal fins, though they are connected at the base.

Its color is olivaceous, or green of various shades on the head and back, with silvery or greenish sides, and silvery white belly. Sometimes the color is bluish on the back and head. Those confined in ponds are always darker in hue.

The white-perch is one of the best and most esteemed pan-fishes of the eastern coast. It grows to a foot or more in length, occasionally weighing three pounds; but the usual size is from six to nine inches, and from one-half to a pound in weight in brackish water. Smaller ones ascend the streams to fresh water. It is usually found associating with small striped-bass, and their habits are much alike, feeding on the same food, as small minnows, young eels, shrimp, etc. It spawns in the spring, usually in May, in shallow, weedy situations in both fresh and brackish water. The eggs are quite small, about forty thousand to a fish, and hatch in three or four days.

As a boy I was very fond of fishing for white­perch, which were then very abundant in the Spring Garden branch of the Patapsco River, at Baltimore, from Ferry Bar to the mud-flats near the Long Bridge, and also above the bridge on the main river in brackish water. Being gregarious, it was found in large schools, and was a free biter at shrimps, shedder-crab, small minnows, and earthworms. At the time of which I write it was very plentiful at the mouths of all tidal rivers emptying into Chesapeake Bay. I have seen great wagon loads brought ashore in one haul of a long market seine. And in camping along the Bay, during my summer vacations, they seemed to be as plentiful as blackberries. There was never any dearth of fried white-perch or other fishes in our camp, and we never tired of them. We feasted on them daily, with terrapin, soft-shelled crabs, oysters, green corn, tomatoes, cantaloupes, and watermelons, and all to be had for the mere catching or asking.

Any light rod may be used for white-perch, with or without a small multiplying reel, with a line of braided linen, smallest size, and hooks number 6 to 8. Most anglers use two or three hooks, but I would advise a single hook for all kinds of fishing. A short leader of single gut, about three feet long, is an advantage, and hooks should be tied on gut snells.

In quiet water, with small, live minnows for bait, a sinker or float need not be used. In tidal waters a sinker is necessary to keep the bait at mid-water, or a few feet from the bottom, especially when shrimp, crab, or earthworms are used for bait. The weight of the sinker must be adapted to the strength of the tide. The best season is during late summer or autumn in brackish water, from an anchored boat, at half­flood or half-ebb tide; up the tidal rivers at high tide. At low water they must be looked for in the deep holes, among the rocks. Wherever found the white-perch will not disappoint the angler, but is ever ready to respond to his baited hook.

It rises pretty well to the artificial fly, especially when landlocked in ponds, or far up the streams. Trout tackle and trout flies are just right, on hooks number 7 or 8; and as the most favorable time for fishing is toward dusk, light-colored flies are the best, as coachman, gray drake, red ibis, oriole, etc.