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Yellow Perch

Perca flavescens

Yellow perch have two separate dorsal fins: one spiny and one smooth. (Caranx latus/Flickr)
Yellow perch have two separate dorsal fins: one spiny and one smooth. (Caranx latus/Flickr)

The yellow perch is a bright yellow fish with dark, vertical bars on its sides. It lives year-round in the Chesapeake Bay’s rivers.


  • Elongated, golden or greenish-yellow body
  • 5-8 dark, vertical bands on the sides
  • Two separate dorsal fins: one spiny and one smooth
  • Reddish-orange fins (spawning males have more intensely colored fins)
  • Forked tail fin
  • Grows to 12 inches long


  • Native to freshwater rivers and streams
  • Has adapted to living in brackish waters
  • Usually found near the shoreline among bay grass beds, which provide food and shelter


  • Common in most Chesapeake Bay rivers, often near the mouths of rivers
  • In early spring, migrates upriver to spawn in freshwater streams
  • Often travels in schools


  • Feeds on insect larvae, crustaceans and small fish


  • An important food source for freshwater predators
  • Herring gulls and diving ducks also prey upon yellow perch

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Spawns in late February-March
  • Considered to be semi-anadromous, which means it lives in fresh or brackish rivers and spawns in small, shallow freshwater streams
  • The female lays long, gelatinous strands of amber-colored eggs, which stick to underwater vegetation, tree braches and other debris
  • After spawning, adults migrate back downstream
  • Females mature at 2-4 years old, while males mature about one year earlier
  • Can live for 13 years

Other Facts:

  • Yellow perch are relatively poor swimmers. They are not able to accelerate quickly.
  • Used to be abundant, but populations have declined because of pollution in the freshwater streams where it spawns
  • A popular recreational catch

Sources and Additional Information:

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