White Perch

White Perch
Morone americana


Key Distinguishing Markings:

  • These fish are silvery and frequently have irregular dusky longitudinal lines along its body.
  • They have a slightly projecting lower jaw and small teeth.
  • Their dorsal fins are separate and their anal fin possesses three strong spines.

Size:

  • White perch may reach a mature length of 19 inches but are more commonly found around 7 to 10 inches, weighing from 8 ounces to 1 pound.

Distribution:

  • White perch range from Nova Scotia to South Carolina, but are most abundant from the Hudson River to Chesapeake Bay.
  • White perch are also well established in  Maryland's larger Reservoirs:  Liberty, Loch Raven, Prettyboy, Tridelphia, and Rocky Gorge. 

Habitat:

  • White perch are semi-anadromous members of the family, Moronidae, that migrate to tidal fresh and slightly brackish waters each spring to spawn.

Food Preference:

  • White perch are bottom-oriented fish and predaceous carnivores whose diet consists of crabs, shrimp, and small fishes.
  • Juveniles feed on aquatic insects and small crustaceans.

Spawning:

  • White perch spawn from April through June in fresh to low-salinity waters of large rivers over fine gravel or sand.
  • Males are usually mature by age 2 and females, by age 3.
  • Females produce from 50,000 - 150,000 eggs and do not release them all at once; ovulation may occur over a period of 10-21 days.
  • Individual females are surrounded by several males and eggs and sperm are spread randomly.
  • Eggs are generally demersal and attached in still water, but are pelagic in free-flowing streams and tidal waters.
  • Eggs usually hatch from 1 to 6 days after fertilization.
  • Juveniles use inshore areas of estuaries and creeks downstream of their spawning area during the first summer and fall.
  • Adults tend to inhabit open waters close to shore, but may also frequent quiet streams well up into the tributaries from March - November.
  • During the winter months, they can be found in downstream portions of the tributaries and deeper channel areas throughout the Bay.
  • These fish typically live 9-10 years.

Fishing Tips:

  • White perch are an important recreational species, especially in the upper Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries.
  • White perch are considered a delectable game fish.
  • White perch are taken in nearly all types of fishing gear typically used on the Bay.
  • White perch are available to anglers from shore and from boats because they are widely distributed among a variety of habitats, including inshore waters.
  • Catches are greatest during the spring spawning season and from September through November.
  • For current recreational size and creel limits, see Maryland's updated regulation page.

Fun Fact:

  • They are one of the most abundant fish in Chesapeake Bay and will spend their entire lives here.
  • White perch are closely related to striped bass.
  • The largest white perch caught in Maryland's portion of Chesapeake Bay weighed 2.6 pounds.
  • The oldest white perch in Maryland's portion of Chesapeake Bay was fifteen.

Family: Moronidae (Temperate basses)

Order: Perciformes (perch-likes)

Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)

For information concerning white perch and their management, please contact Paul Piavis or Charlie Gougeon at 410-442-2080.

Illustration courtesy of Duane Raver, USFWS


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