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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.


The yellow perch has an elongated, golden or greenish-yellow body with five to eight dark, vertical bands on its sides. It grows to 12 inches in length. Its fins are reddish-orange, with spawning males having more intensely colored fins. It has a forked tail fin and two separate dorsal fins: one spiny and one smooth.


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. Migrates upriver in early spring to spawn in freshwater streams. Often travels in schools.


Yellow perch feed on insect larvae, crustaceans and small fish.


Yellow perch is an important food source for freshwater predators. Herring gulls and diving ducks also prey upon yellow perch.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Spawning occurs in late February to March. The yellow perch is 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 between 2 to 4 years old, while males mature about one year earlier. Yellow perch can live for 13 years.

Other Facts:

  • Yellow perch are relatively poor swimmers, because they are not able to accelerate quickly.
  • These fish used to be abundant, but populations have declined because of pollution in the freshwater streams where they spawn.
  • Yellow perch are a popular recreational catch. Anglers sometimes refer to yellow perch as jumbo perch or jack perch.

Sources and Additional Information:

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