yellow perch: the species
Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens) is a freshwater fish. They belong to one of the largest families of North American freshwater fish, the Percidae, which contains over 150 species. In the same family as walleye and sauger, yellow perch is sometimes called lake perch.
Where & How They Live
Yellow perch typically inhabit lakes and large rivers. They prefer cool water and are content to “hang out” – mostly hiding among the weeds or other shelter in the wild. True yellow perch can only be found in North America stretching from Nova Scotia soutward along the Atlantic coast to northern South Carolina west to Alabama to Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa to the Dakotas and eastern Montana extending northward to include most of Canada. Due to overfishing, pollution and other environmental factors, the commercial supply of yellow perch has dwindled to a mere 20% of what is was 20 years ago.
Yellow perch have two dorsal fins – one larger near the head and a smaller one near the rear. The backs of yellow perch are an olive green that blends to a golden yellow on the sides, the belly is white. They have 6-8 dark vertical bars on their sides and grow to about 4-10 inches (10-25.5 cm) in length and weigh about 5.29 oz (150 g) on average. The world record size for a yellow perch is 2 lbs.
Yellow perch spawn once a year, so they are considered a seasonal fish in the wild since they are only harvested a few months of the year. Yellow perch must be at least 18 months old to be sexually mature. In order to produce an egg “ribbon” the fish must live in very cold water for a few months. Once the water warms, the yellow perch begin to lay eggs (spawn.) About 30,000 eggs are laid during a typical cycle. Female yellow perch grow significantly faster and larger than males.
yellow perch as food
Yellow perch is one of the most popular of all North American pan fish. Traditionally popular at Friday Night Fish Fries, yellow perch has a mild, sweet flavor with firm white flesh. It is low in fat and high in protein, calcium and Omega 3s. Its versatile and delicious taste make it an option for recipes of all kinds. Though usually served as fillets or in sandwiches, the small fillet size allows for many preparations: in pasta, as nuggets, in salads or wraps, etc.
Some people wonder if there is a difference between the taste of wild-caught yellow perch and farmed yellow perch. Several studies have shown that there is no taste difference. There is, however, a difference in quality; our farm-raised fish are completely free of detectable levels of dangerous heavy metals, PCB’s, and other contaminants. Wild-caught fish (and even some farmed fish that live in an outdoor environment) can’t be assured of that purity because they are not contained and must forage for food. They are also susceptible to disease and other environmental factors.