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|Yellow perch (Perca flavescens)|
Perch is a common name for fish of the genus Perca, freshwater gamefish belonging to the family Percidae. The perch, of which there are three species in different geographical areas, lend their name to a large order of vertebrates: the Perciformes, from the Greek perke meaning spotted, and the Latin forma meaning shape. Many species of freshwater gamefish more or less resemble perch, but belong to different genera. In fact, the exclusively saltwater dwelling red drum is often referred to as a red perch, though by definition perch are freshwater fish. Though many fish are referred to as perch as a common name, to be considered a true perch, the fish must be of the family Percidae.
The general body type of a perch is somewhat long and rounded. True perch have "rough" or ctenoid scales. On the anterior side of the head are the maxilla and lower mandible for the mouth, a pair of nostrils, and two lidless eyes. On the posterior sides are the opercula, which protect the gills, and the lateral line system, which is sensitive to vibrations in the water. They have paired pectoral and pelvic fins, and two dorsal fins, the first one spiny and the second soft. These two fins can be separate or joined.
Perch are carnivorous fish that are most commonly found in small ponds, lakes, streams, or rivers. These fish feed on smaller fish, shellfish, or insect larvae, but can be caught with nearly any bait. They commonly spawn during the spring, when the females lay strings of eggs in covered areas such as near branches or underwater plants. Even though Perch can be found all over the world, they are most likely found in the Great Lakes, Particularly in Lake Erie.
Perch are sought-after by fishermen both for sport and for food. They can be caught with a variety of methods, but the two best methods are perhaps float fishing and lure fishing. The best way is to use a small hook and cast into the weeds just before the drop off. When fishing with a float, the angler will want to have a disgorger; perch are notorious for swallowing the hook, and will need aid of a disgorger or forceps for unhooking. In many parts of the world, they are also a favorite species among ice fishermen. They will take a variety of baits, including minnows, worms, maggots, goldfish, pieces of raw bacon, and softshell crayfish, but seem to prefer small fish, lobworms, red maggots, and lures. You can also fly fish for perch and many good perch have been caught this way by using patterns that imitate small fry or invertebrates. The record weight for this fish in Britain is 5 lb, 15 oz, and in America 6 lb 4 oz.
Perch grow to around 5 lb (2.3 kg) or more, but the most common fish to be caught are around 1 lb (0.45 kg) or less, and anything over 2 lb (0.91 kg) is considered a prize catch.
In the aquarium
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Most authorities recognize three species within the perch genus:
- The European perch (Perca fluviatilis) is found in Europe and Asia. This species is typically greenish in color with dark vertical bars on its sides with a red or orange coloring in the tips of its fins. The European perch has been successfully introduced in New Zealand and Australia, where it is known as the redfin perch or English perch. In Australia, larger specimens have been bred, but the species rarely grows larger than about six pounds.
- The Balkhash perch (Perca schrenkii) is found in Kazakhstan, (in Lake Balkhash and Lake Alakol), Uzbekistan, and China. It is very similar to the European perch, and grows to a comparable size.
- The yellow perch (Perca flavescens), smaller and paler than the European perch, is found in the United States and Canada. In northern areas, it is sometimes referred to as the lake perch. This species is prized for its food quality and has often been raised in hatcheries and introduced into areas in which it is not native. Yellow perch are almost identical in appearance to European perch, but have a more yellow coloring. These fish typically only reach a size of about 15 in and 2.2 lb (1 kg).
- For other perch not in the Perca genus, see Perch (disambiguation).