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.
White perch grow seven to ten inches in length and rarely weigh more than one pound. They have a silvery, greenish-gray body with faint lines on the sides; a whitish belly; and a highly domed, gray or blackish black. Their lower jaw is slightly projecting. They have a mildly forked tail, three spines on their anal fin, and a deep notch in their dorsal fin. The first part of the dorsal fin also has several spines.
Adults eat small fish, insects, debris, and fish eggs and larvae. Juveniles feed on tiny zooplankton, including insects and crustaceans.
The white perch is considered to be semi-anadromous because it does not travel all the way from the ocean to its spawning grounds in freshwater rivers. Spawning runs begin 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 to 6 days. Juveniles remain in the shallows of the rivers they were born in through summer and autumn. As they grow, juveniles migrate downstream to brackish waters. White perch can live as long as 17 years.
Did You Know?
White perch is 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.