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What Yellow Perch Bring to the Table

Let’s talk about Yellow Perch, one of Michigan’s most popular fish! These fish are native to the northern United States and a large portion of Canada. They have a massive population in the Great Lakes, and have actually been listed as invasive in some areas, spreading all the way to Washington State.


Yellow perch are piscivores, meaning they prey on other fish mostly, but their diet includes insects and invertebrates as well. They can even be cannibalistic in their eating habits. These tendencies depend on the perch population and the availability of other food sources and predators. If you are just starting a pond, don’t worry, they can be trained to accept pellet fish food. You should easily be able to maintain a small population with fish feed if you feel your pond is lacking in natural prey/food.


Yellow Perch gravitate to shallower water, especially during the spring and fall, and spawn in the spring among underwater vegetation. They hang out near the shorelines in the weeds and trees, docks, and other structures. When the weather warms, yellow perch will retreat to slightly deeper waters, and will go even deeper in the winter. The dark, cooler water can give their fishy biology cues to help them mature. They will maintain an active lifestyle throughout the year (yes, even in winter!). Yellow perch seem to be an all-around durable fish: they can survive in slow moving waters, brackish waters, and water with low dissolved oxygen levels, but prefer cool, clear water with plenty of vegetation.

Life Cycle

As already mentioned, perch spawn in the spring and lay their eggs in shallow water. They aren’t model guardians by human standards as perch parents lay their eggs, fertilize them, then leave the eggs without adult supervision! Thankfully, yellow perch eggs are really ugly as a defense mechanism. The eggs are rarely eaten by other organisms because of their jelly-like sheath.  Yellow perch egg masses consist of very high numbers of individual eggs, to assure survival of some to maturity.  But they still need good habitat to thrive: brush, sand, and gravel work well, but you can also buy a variety of artificial habitats. It’s good to have habitat if you’re looking to keep any fish population going. 

The lifespan of yellow perch depends on the condition of the lake. They seem to live longer in cooler waters, but don’t grow as big. If you’re wanting them for fishing and eating, you might want warmer water so they grow bigger. Though they may not live as long as a result. 

All that said, they are a fairly adaptable fish and their size and lifespan can vary widely depending on a number of factors: food availability, predators, water conditions, etc. 


They have quite a few predators: bass, trout, sunfish, crappie, northern pike, muskellunge, and even other yellow perch, but especially walleye. Walleye consume over 50% of perch in many northern waters. Largemouth bass are also a top predator, being the primary population control of these poor swimmers. Both predators are often dependent on yellow perch in order to survive.

Many birds, especially cormorants, also use yellow perch as a primary food source, most likely because they like to hang out near the surface. These are things you need to consider when trying to keep your perch population healthy if that’s your goal.

Yellow perch are fairly easy fish for anglers to catch, as they are slow swimmers and prefer to travel in schools. They are active all year ‘round, so you can find them in the winter as well as warmer months. You will most likely catch one when you’re fishing for something else! Sport fishing for yellow perch is most common in the Great Lakes, as they have been a sought after species for many years. They’re popular for their ease of catching and great taste. But perch can also be a valuable addition to your lake or pond to keep other fish populations thriving.


Yellow perch are a great fish for aquaculture, fishing, and eating, and are most popular around the Great Lakes. Whether wild or domestic, their flavor is similar. Their characteristics seem impractical for survival: they are slow swimmers that hang out in shallow waters, they are easy to catch because they go after lures meant for many other fish, and they’re prey for many fish AND birds. But they make up for it with a high reproductive rate and HEY, they taste great!

Crispy Fried Yellow Perch Fillets Recipe

  • 32 oz Yellow Perch Fillets
  • 1/2 Cup White Corn Meal
  • 1 Tsp. Granulated Garlic
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 1 Tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1/4 Cup Cooking Oil

Preheat Cooking Oil in a large, heavy skillet. Combine White Corn Meal, Granulated Garlic, Salt and Pepper in a plastic bag. Add Fresh Perch Fillets and shake the bag to cover the Pe rchwith the Corn Meal mixture. Place Perch Fillets in the skillet with the meat side down and fry for about 4 minutes until this side is crispy. Turn the Fillets and fry until crispy and Perch flakes with a fork. Remove from pan, drain excess oil and serve immediately.

Serves 4