White Perch

White perch.

White perch Morone americana is native to the estuaries and freshwater systems of the Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia to South Carolina. White perch provide an important recreational and commercial fishery in the Chesapeake Bay area. The fish frequent areas with level bottoms of compact silt, mud, sand or clay and show little preference for vegetation, structures, or other shelters. White perch move up large rivers to spawn (much like the white bass) at water temperatures between 52B and 61B. White perch are predacious carnivores with juveniles feeding on aquatic insects, small crustaceans, and small fish. White perch have been shown to prey on fish eggs of valuable sport fishes such as walleye, white bass, and yellow perch when introduced outside their native range. The collapse of the walleye fishery in part of Lake Ontario has been blamed, in part, on egg predation by white perch. The Chesapeake Bay sport catch record is 2.6 pounds but white perch rarely reach 0.5 pounds in inland reservoirs. White perch have been reported to live up to 17 years.

The distribution of white perch has expanded well beyond their native range due to both accidental introductions and intentional stockings intended to create a sport fishery. White perch invaded Lake Ontario in the 1940s and has spread throughout the Great Lakes. White perch entered the Mississippi River system through a canal connecting Lake Michigan with the Illinois River near Chicago. From there, white perch are expected to invade up and down the Mississippi River in coming years. White perch were introduced into Nebraska by Nebraska Game Fish and Parks to provide an additional sport fishery. For the most part, white perch populations in Nebraska have been slow growing, if not stunted, and have provided only a marginal fishery. In addition, walleye and white bass eggs have been reported to make up 100% of the diet of white perch during the spring spawning period. White perch were introduced into Kansas accidentally being mixed in with a stocking of striped bass that originated from Virginia. These fish were stocked into Cheney and Wilson reservoirs. White perch moved downstream from Cheney Reservoir, entering the Arkansas River, and continued moving downstream into Kaw Reservoir. White perch were first found in Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) routine sampling in 2000. ODWC began a research/monitoring program in 2001 intended to follow white perch population trends and to look at competitive effects on white crappie and white bass.

To date,  populations of white perch in Kaw, Sooner, and Keystone remain strong.  The continued potential downstream expansion into other reservoirs of the Arkansas River system remains likely. ODWC is asking anglers to destroy any white perch caught from Kaw and report any catches of white perch outside of Kaw, Keystone, and Sooner Lakes to (405) 521-3721. We would also ask anglers to freeze any specimens for confirmation by an agency biologist. The following diagrams will help distinguish white perch from white bass.

Is it a white bass or a white perch?

White bass markings.

WHITE BASS (Morone chrysops)

  1. The body is deepest below the dorsal fin and the depth remains fairly uniform below the entire spin dorsal fin
  2. From 6 to 10 dark lines run horizontally down the back and sides.
  3. When the spiny dorsal fin is pulled erect, the soft dorsal fin remains relaxed.
  4. Each of 3 bony anal fin spines are of different lengths and are arranged in ascending order.
  5. The anal fin usually has 11 or 12 soft rays behind the 3 bony spines.
White perch markings.

WHITE PERCH (Morone americana)

  1. The body is deepest just ahead of, or at the beginning of, the dorsal fin.
  2. There are no lines or stripes on the back or sides.
  3. When the spiny dorsal fin is pulled erect, the soft dorsal fin also becomes erect.
  4. The second and third bony anal spines are almost exactly the same length.
  5. The anal fin usually has 8 or 9 soft rays behind the 3 bony spines.