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White Perch

Morone americana

White perch is a small, silvery fish with a dark, highly domed back. (Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology)
White perch is a small, silvery fish with a dark, highly domed back. (Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology)

White perch is a small, silvery fish with a dark, highly domed back. It lives in fresh and brackish waters throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries.

Appearance:

  • Silvery, greenish-gray body
  • Highly domed, gray or blackish back
  • Whitish belly
  • Slightly projecting lower jaw
  • Faint lines on the sides
  • Mildly forked tail
  • Deep notch in the dorsal fin. The first part of the dorsal fin has several spines.
  • Three spines on the anal fin
  • Grows 7-10 inches long and rarely weighs more than one pound

Habitat:

  • Lives on flats and in channels in shallow, fresh and brackish waters
  • Also frequents quiet, freshwater streams
  • Moves to deep channels in winter

Range:

  • Spends its entire life in the Chesapeake Bay and tidal tributaries
  • Common in nearly every Bay river

Feeding:

  • Adults eat small fish, insects, detritus, and fish eggs and larvae
  • Juveniles feed on tiny zooplankton, including insects and crustaceans

Predators:

  • Predators include bluefish, weakfish and striped bass
  • Humans catch white perch recreationally

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Considered to be semi-anadromous because it does not travel all the way from the ocean to its spawning grounds in freshwater rivers
  • Begins its spawning runs when water temperatures increase in late March
  • Adults move upstream to fresh or slightly brackish streams and rivers. After spawning, adults migrate back downstream.
  • Eggs hatch in approximately 1-6 days. Juveniles remain in the shallows of their natal rivers through summer and autumn. As they grow, juveniles migrate downstream to brackish waters.
  • Can live as long as 17 years

Other Facts:

  • A close relative of striped bass
  • It is believed that each Chesapeake Bay river has its own white perch population, since this fish likely does not venture far from the stream where it was born
  • The Maryland Chesapeake Bay record white perch, caught in 1979 in Dundee Creek, weighed 2 pounds, 10 ounces

Sources and Additional Information:




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