How cool are fish? Each species is different and has biological differences that control so much about where they live and why. Knowing these facts will help dial in the location and patterns of the fish you seek to catch. Fish identification is just the start. Learning the biological aspects helps us catch and preserve this amazing natural creature. Please bear with me and my poindexter excerpts of “Let’s get to know…”.
Let’s get to know The Yellow Perch
Perch can be one of my favorite fish to catch as we roll into winter. Some of my warm water fisheries have a substantial population of perch and they will offer some decent action when the bass scene gets too cold.
Perch are mainly identified by their black vertical stripes over a green body. Their dorsal fin is large and spiny. Pelvic, anal and pectoral fins are orange and brighter in males during the spawn cycle. The body is elongated and typically 6 to 8-inches is the standard size for Colorado. However they can reach upwards to 14-inches when conditions are prime.
The pectoral fin appears to be oversized for the fish’s body but it actually helps the fish defend itself from aggressive predators such as pike, muskie and many others.
Yellow Perch basics:
Perch are a member of the walleye family and just as tasty. The yellow perch is often overlooked as a table fish in Colorado compared to the walleye due to its relatively small size. Responsible harvest is needed to support health perch populations in Colorado waters. Removing a full limit of the most common size (even if only 6 to 8-inches) and releasing the larger sized perch is key to producing larger fish down the road.
My guess is that perch were introduced in Colorado roughly around the 1850-1890 range similar to other states in the west (I looked for the actual date reference but gave up after a few tries. I should be pretty close here).
Adult female perch (2-3 years olds) can produce anywhere from 4,000 to 50,000 eggs. Males reach adulthood at 1 to 3 years old.
Eggs are laid in long connected ribbons preferably over vegetation when water temperatures reach 45 to 55 degrees. (early/mid-Spring).
Depending on water temperatures, hatching occurs 10 to 20 days after fertilization.
Adults do little in regards to building nests, guarding or raising the young. Adult perch will actually eat the young if given the chance.
More about perch (Matt’s rant warning!)
Some waters do better than others with the species as it can have a tendency to overpopulate quickly. The yellow perch eats just about anything in the lower spectrum of the food chain from smaller fish to aquatic larvae. This can have a devastating impact on prime game fish habitat. Yellow perch are more of a nuisance in Colorado waters than an actual sport fish. So many natural factors play in this species’ favor that it only takes a few years for perch to seriously impact even a large reservoir if left unchecked.
What would help the perch situation in Colorado greatly is a better understanding of the species and more focus to be placed on them in every body of water where they exist. Some lakes should be managed with perch success in mind and some lakes would benefit from substantial harvesting of perch. Complete removal of perch is extremely difficult. However the system becomes healthier when perch are removed as that aggressive pressure is removed. The Colorado Division of Wildlife has done this very thing in a few reservoirs but overall the yellow perch is a low priority. Anglers could really make a difference here. Anglers that appreciate and respect a responsible harvest might focus on perch a few days of the year and suffer with a lot of small perch at first as that is what will be in multitude. The biggest perch need to go back for best possible DNA in the first few years. Each year the fish will get bigger and bigger until the norm reaches a 10-15 fish harvest in the 10 to 12-inch range. This is some of the tastiest fish in Colorado. Why are people taking out the bass? The reason you are catching 4 to 6 inch fish in multitudes and not a single 8 or even 10 is because the large fish are only being taken out and the entire population is overcrowded. This causes stunting and I see this more often than not.
Where to find yellow perch:
Yellow perch are all over Colorado lakes. If there are bass and sunfish placed in your local waters there is a good chance that yellow perch are placed there as well. A few places noted for Colorado perch are Blue Mesa, Harvey Gap and Rifle Gap. But other local haunts such as Loveland Lake, Chatfield Ponds, and Aurora Reservoir are great perch opportunities in open and even hard water. Check with your local managing agency for more perch locations as well as specific regulations.
Good Luck and Good Fishing.
Informational resource and other useful links listed below: