Yellow Perch
Typical Size
6-8" (2-4 oz.)
Decent Size
8-10" (5-10 oz.)
Nice Size
12-14" (1.0-1.5 lbs.)
17.6" (4 lbs. 3 oz.)
Awards Program
Qualifying Size

1-1/2 lbs.
Genus/Species Perca flavescens
Common Names banded perch, American perch, redfin trout, lake perch, jack perch, pike
Hot Spots Furnace Pond, Stetson Pond, Monponsett Pond
Best Time Year Round
Best Baits earthworms, spinners, jigs, small minnows
Best Method spinning
Yellow perch belong to the perch family Percidae which includes the highly popular walleye and the hundreds of different species of darter. This family contains some of the most colorful of all freshwater species of fish. The back of yellow perch are dark olive-green but quickly change to a shiny green to yellow along the sides to a brilliant bright yellow underside. Stamped on this beautiful color dithering are six to eight distinctive dark vertical bars that run from the top to the bottom, but not the underside of the fish. Stunning red ventral fins add to the color and help make this fish the easiest to recognize of all the fishes. Although they may appear to be similar to white perch in terms of body shape, habitat, and habits; the soft and spiny dorsal fins are separated, unlike the white perch and sunfish.

Yellow Perch
Yellow perch are one of the most plentiful species in our waters.
Yellow perch can live in a wide variety of habitats from crystal clear large deep water lakes to small shallow farm ponds, rivers, streams, and creeks. They can also tolerate extreme fluctuations in temperature, oxygen level, and pollution. A schooling fish, yellow perch of like size tend to stay together in close groups. Occupying nearly all levels of the water column, yellow perch are active day and night and bite as well in mid-winter as they do in mid-summer. Highly aggressive, yellow perch have voracious appetites and will literally strike at anything that moves. Their diet includes aquatic insects, flying insects, grubs, worms, frogs, crayfish, snails, tadpoles, fish eggs, salamanders, and any fish small enough to consume.

Indigineous to Massachusetts, the south shore and cape boasts greater populations of these fish than anywhere else in eastern Massachusetts. Because yellow perch are so abundant here, they play an important role in the aquatic food web, being prey to larger perch, bass, and pickerel. Their natural range is the eastern half of the United States, including the midwest, from Canada to Alabama, however they have been widely transplanted throughout the US and Canada.

Spawning takes place in late April near shore. Similar to white perch, they do not build nests, they don't pair off, and they do not protect the eggs or young. Instead, the females will randomly release a long, flat, ribbon-like mass of eggs over sand bars, submerged vegetation, and other areas of structure. The gooey mass adheres itself to the first thing it touches. Males in the area release milt around the eggs to fertilize them. Each ribbon contains thousands of eggs, many of which are eaten, but many survive. In fact, spawning tends to be so successful that yellow perch can reach such high densities that they deplete their own food resources and become stunted.

Yellow perch have ravenous appetities. They'll eat literally anything that moves, making it one of the easiest fish to catch on live or artificial baits. The most popular live bait is the worm, however mealworms, crickets, and grass shrimp hooked on a simple worm and bobber rig or a perch bait rig work well. However, if you want to target larger yellow perch, small live minnows on a shiner bait rig designed for bass will work well. All baits are just as successful whether fished suspended or off the bottom.

Artificial lures also work just as well as bait, and personally, I find that they are more fun. Jigs, small spinners, and swimming minnow plugs all work equally well. You can employ a fairly fast retrieve, as these fish will swim fast and strike hard. Yellow perch are very tenacious and will follow a lure right up to the boat or shoreline if the retrieve is a bit too fast. If you are not getting hits, look for fish trailing just behind your offering and adjust your retrieve speed accordingly. If there are yellow perch in the vicinity, they will hit it. If you go any length of time without a strike, move - the fish are not where you are. You can also have great success trolling spinners or swimming plugs from a boat.

Fishing for yellow perch is only part of the recreational fishery here, and is not nearly as important as it is in other places like the Great Lakes, where yellow perch actually help support a charter boat fleet. Here on the south shore of Massachusetts, they are mainly sought by younger fishermen or are incidental catch when targeting other species. Grouped together with sunfish, yellow perch are considered panfish, more of a forage fish than a gamefish. Rarely eaten here, they are actually part of the commercial fishery in the upper midwest, where they are sold and marketed as "pike." Due to the mercury levels in most our freshwater fish, I would not recommend consuming them. This species is not stocked and is self-sustaining throughout the south shore.