The white perch is not a true perch but a member of the temperate bass family and a relative of the white bass and the striped bass. It is abundant in some places, rare in others, similar enough to other species to be misidentiﬁed, and underappreciated as table fare.
IdentificationThe white perch has a deep, thin body that slopes up steeply from each eye to the beginning of the dorsal ﬁn and that is deepest under the ﬁrst dorsal ﬁn. A large, older specimen can be nearly humpbacked at that spot. Colors can be olive, gray-green, silvery gray, dark brown, or black on the back, becoming a lighter silvery green on the sides and silvery white on the belly. The pelvic and the anal ﬁns (both on the belly) are sometimes rosy colored, and the pelvic ﬁns sit forward on the body, below the pectoral ﬁns.
Size/AgeThe average white perch caught by anglers weighs about three-quarters of a pound and is 9 inches long. The normal life span is 5 to 7 years, but white perch may live up to 17 years. The largest white perch recorded is a 4-pound, 12-ounce specimen.
Life history/BehaviorWhite perch spawn in the spring, usually when the water temperature is between 57° and 75°F, and in shallow water. They are a schooling species that stays in loose open-water schools through adulthood. They do not orient to cover and structure.
Food and feeding habitsWhite perch are generally more active in low light and nocturnally, moving to surface (or inshore) waters at night, retreating to deeper water during the day. They eat many kinds of small ﬁsh, such as smelt, killifish, and other white perch, and reportedly consume crabs, shrimp, and small alewives and herring.
Other Namessilver bass, silver perch, sea perch, bass, narrow-mouthed bass, bass perch, gray perch, bluenose perch, humpy; French: bar blanc d’Amerique.
DistributionWhite perch are found along the Atlantic coast from the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence to South Carolina and inland along the upper St. Lawrence River to the lower Great Lakes.
HabitatThe adaptable white perch is at home in saltwater, brackish water, and freshwater. In marine environs, it is primarily found in brackish water, estuaries, and coastal rivers and streams, and some of the latter have sea-run populations.
Some white perch remain resident in brackish bays and estuaries, whereas others roam widely in search of food. They are considered demersal and tend to stay deep in their home waters, on or close to the bottom.