Yellow perch are brassy green to golden yellow fish with white bellies, dark vertical bands across their back and sides, and reddish-orange fins. On the Atlantic coast, they range from South Carolina to Nova Scotia. Generally freshwater fish, yellow perch have adapted to the estuarine waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its major tributaries and streams.
Adults begin their migration from the lower Bay to the upper regions in late February, signaling the arrival of the spring fishing season for many anglers. Female yellow perch lay their eggs in long gelatinous strands, usually floating or hanging from vegetation or another structure. Once fertilized, the eggs hatch between 11 and 27 days later, depending on water temperature. One female perch can produce upwards of 109,000 eggs, and yellow perch are known to live as long as 13 years.
Historically abundant and once harvested without restriction, populations began to decline in the early 1970s due to over-harvest and habitat deterioration. In 1989, creel and size limits and area closures were imposed.
Today yellow perch populations in the Chesapeake are generally believed to be stable or increasing. Upper Bay systems still have substantial populations and spawning runs; however, tributaries in the middle and lower Bay are experiencing depressed populations.
Environmental factors – including increased sedimentation from improper land use, decreased spawning habitat caused by stream blockages, and the interaction of metals and acid rain -- may be to blame for these declines and may also adversely affect stock reproductive success.
Harvest limitations and DNR stocking efforts have helped rebuild populations in the Choptank, Wye and Patuxent Rivers.
Illustration of Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens)
For more information: