White Perch (Morone americana)


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.

Identification

The 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/Age

The 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/Behavior

White 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 habits

White 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 Names

silver bass, silver perch, sea perch, bass, narrow-mouthed bass, bass perch, gray perch, bluenose perch, humpy; French: bar blanc d’Amerique.

Distribution

White 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.

Habitat

The 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.
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