Game Fishing > Perch Family, Percidae > Yellow-perch


Yellow-perchThe yellow-perch was first described by Dr. Mitchill in 1814, from the vicinity of New York. He named it flavescens, "yellowish," owing to its coloration. It is closely allied to the perch of Europe. It is commonly known as perch or yellow-perch, also as ringed-perch and raccoon­perch. It is abundant in the Great Lake region and in coastwise streams of , the Atlantic slope from Nova Scotia to North Carolina. It is also common in some of the tributaries of the upper Mississippi River and in certain lakes in northern Indiana.

It is a handsome fish, well proportioned, and of a lively disposition. It has a shapely body, with a depth of about one-third of its length, somewhat compressed, and with an arching back. The mouth is moderate in size, with bands of small, bristlelike teeth, but no ca­nines, and has a projecting snout. The head is not quite one-third of the length of the body. Its back is dark olive, sides bright golden yellow, belly pale or pinkish, with half a dozen or more broad, dark, vertical bars. The lower fins are bright red or orange. While the coloration varies somewhat in different situations it is always brilliant, rendering it one of the handsomest fishes among the fresh-water species.

The yellow-perch is gregarious, always in schools, and the fish of a school will be about of a uniform size, be that great or small. It frequents waters of a moderate depth in streams or lakes or ponds. In streams, early in the spring, it frequently resorts to the edge or foot of riffles, when feeding, but later prefers the deeper water under dams and about the submerged timbers of bridges, and the still water under hollow banks, or in the eddies of old logs, rocks, etc. It is averse to a muddy bottom in fresh water, but along the eastern coast it is often found on the weedy shoals of shallow bays in brackish water.

In my boyhood days it was a prime favorite with myself and companions. We sought it on the mud-flats, among the waterplants, of the Patapsco River, near Baltimore. It was there known as "yellow Ned," and was considered a good pan-fish. In Lake Michigan, after leaving its winter quarters in the spring, it fairly swarms about the piers and wharves of Chicago and other towns, where it is caught. It is a very predaceous fish and feeds principally on small minnows and the young of other fishes, also on crawfish, tadpoles, small frogs, insects, etc.

In large waters it grows to a pound or two in weight, sometimes more. Usually it is much smaller, a half-pound perch being a good-sized fish in most localities. In midsummer, in weedy ponds, it is not good; but at other seasons, or in clear, cold water, it is an excellent pan-fish, firm and flaky. In brackish water it is good at all seasons. Whenever it has a muddy taste, it should be skinned, by which the objectionable flavor is removed almost entirely, and owing to its adherent scales it is the best plan for dressing it. It spawns early in the spring, in March and April, though in very cold waters not until May. The eggs are about twelve to the inch, and are held together by a glutinous substance in long, ribbonlike masses from two to six feet in length, and from an inch to three or four inches wide.

Light trout tackle, either for bait-fishing or fly­fishing, is suitable for the yellow-perch for those anglers who can appreciate the pleasure to be derived only by the use of appropriate and elegant tackle for any kind of fishing, and a pound perch is well worthy of such implements. With a fly-rod of a few ounces, a light click reel, an enamelled silk line, and a small leader and flies on hooks number 7, the yellow-perch will not disappoint the most exacting angler who has a true love for the sport. Under such circumstances it is a good game-fish, eager to rise, bold to a degree, and fights to a finish.

Most of the flies used for black-bass, as coach­man, polka, oriole, professor, Abbey, etc. are successful, as well as the hackles of various shades, and occasionally red ibis and stone fly. The late afternoon hours are to be preferred for fly-fishing. The flies should be allowed to sink with each cast, after being fluttered on the surface a few seconds.

The most taking bait is a small minnow, but grasshoppers, crickets, white grubs, or earth­worms are good. In tidal waters the shrimp is preferred. But in the absence of any of these baits, cut-bait, either fish or flesh, may be used with good results, for the yellow-perch is not very particular or fastidious. Large perch are also easily taken by trolling with the minnow, or a very small spoon on lakes or ponds. If the spoon is employed, but a single hook should be used, and that not too large. I am not an advocate, however, for trolling for so small a fish, and merely mention it as one of the ways and means that may be followed. There are men who never rise above this method for any game-fish, but they are more to be pitied than blamed. They either lack the skill to practise more approved methods, or are too indolent to learn them.