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The perch family speices, habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.

The perches, family Percidae, are one of the largest families of fishes in North America, outnumbered only by one of the minnow families. The Percidae are a family of perciform fish found in fresh and brackish waters. The family contains about 200 species in ten genera (sub-families). Genus Sander (pike-perches) contains of well known Walleye, Sauger and Zanger, Genus Perca (yellow perches) contains of well known Yellow Perch, European Perch and Balkhash Perch. Also this relatively large family contains many darter species, longperches, ruffe, and their relatives. They found in both North America and northern Europe and Asia. North American yellow perch, walleyes and saugers have Eurasian counterparts, but the darters are found only in North America. The family includes large, sought-after sport and food fishes, as well as some of the most beautifully colored small fishes on this continent. Members of the perch family live in a variety of habitats, from fast-flowing and slow-flowing streams to swamps and lakes.

Perch Family Species A very distinctive characteristic of the family is quite slim, elongated bodies and a large bone on the gill cover which ends in a flat spine. Also the dorsal fins have a definite separation evident between the anterior spiny portion and the soft portion to the posterior. The mouth of walleye and sauger is filled with formidable canine teeth on the jaws, the roof of the mouth and palate, teeth that are absent in the perch and darters.
Their body is covered with ctenoid scales like the Sunfish species , which make the fish feel rough. 70-95 scales in lateral line. In the anal fin 1 - 2 spiny rays and 9 � 11 branched rays. The edges of the bones of the gill covers are usually serrated or provided with spines. Pelvic fins are located under the breast or just behind them. Dorsal fins, 2 or 1, not fused together, divided into 2 parts or very narrowly joined. The first (or front) is supported 6 to 15 spiny rays, the second (or back) - mostly soft-rayed, branched. Pelvic fins with 1 barbed wire (single sharp spine) are close together and placed under the pectorals or just behind them, has only 1 or 2 spines. In the jaws, vomer, palatine bones setaceous teeth, some jaw well developed canines. Stained different, often on the body and fins are dark streaks, spots. Most members of this family inhabit fresh waters. There are 3 types: the common perch, yellow perch and Balkhash perch. They occur in fresh waters of Europe and North America.
    During the reproductive season, some species develop breeding tubercles, raised projections on some part of the body. The males of the darters at breeding time are especially bright and colorful. Walleyes and saugers are duller-colored and camouflage easily in their habitats.
    Smaller fishes in the perch family have developed several unique ways to protect themselves from predation by larger predator fish. The perches have sharp spines in the dorsal fin and gill cover bones, a very durable covering of tough scales and the ability to swim strongly. Some of the darters are capable of burying themselves in the sand bottom with only their snout and eyes protruding. Even with these protective devices, however, they are not entirely immume from predation. Yellow Perch, especially young, serve as important forage for game species such as Northern Pike, Bass and Walleye where they inhabit common waters. Darters are occasionally taken by larger fishes but tend to comprise an insignificant part of the predator`s diet.
    All members of the family are strictly carnivorous. The large species are piscivorous, eating mostly other fishes, while the smaller darter species prey mostly on minute aquatic insects and planktonic crustaceans. Many of the perch family live near the stream or lake bottom. Darters usually rest on the bottom. When disturbed, they dart away quickly to a hiding place, which accounts for their common name. In darters, the swim bladder is small or absent, which explains their characteristic locomotion.
    Most members of the perch family prefer cool, flowing water with a clean, unsilted bottom. Some members of the darter family require such clean, clear water that they are considered indicators of water quality�high-quality water when they are present, degraded when they disappear.
    The spawning behavior of the perch family varies. Some species scatter eggs over bottom rock rubble or sand. Some species deposit eggs in gravel nests. In other species, males guard nests of adhesive eggs fastened to the underside of flat stones. In still other species, eggs are deposited singly or in draped strings over underwater vegetation.

Yellow Perch

Yellow Perch distributed in the lakes of North America. Ordinary perch, freshwater fish inhabit the water with good oxygen regime within Europe and Central Asia. The body is covered with small scales. Their first dorsal fin is higher than second. At the rear end of the first dorsal fin has a dark stain. Body is greenish yellow with 5-9 transverse dark stripes. The stripes are a perch�s most distinctive feature. The pectoral, pelvic and anal fins are pale-yellow, becoming bright-orange on breeding-season males. The tail is slightly forked. The 2 dorsal fins are completely separated into spiny and soft portions. The front dorsal fin has 13 to 15 sharp spines, and 1 or 2 spines can be found on the leading edge of the rear dorsal fin. The rest of the rear dorsal fin has soft rays. The anal fin has 2 spines, and there is a spine on the trailing edge of the gill cover, or opercle. Length of 50 cm, weight 1.5 kg. Yellow perch have a long-looking body, but they are not as slim in appearance as other perch family species. Yellow perch live in a variety of aquatic habitats, including warm or cool lakes, ponds and sluggish streams. A prime yellow perch lake is cool and clear, with a sandy or gravelly bottom and rooted underwater vegetation. They also inhabit lakes with soft bottoms. They feed little or not at all at night. They are active all year long, including under the ice, making them a favorite with ice fishermen, who catch them on jigging rods and tip-ups. Minnows and jigs are popular perch-getters. Yellow perch spawn in spring, April and May, when water temperatures are in the mid-40s to mid-50s, approximately a week after walleyes spawn. Spawning occurs at night and early morning. Yellow perch sometimes travel in schools of from 50 to 200 individuals all of the same size, which are also generally the same age, or year-class. It forms 2 forms: in shallow coastal and large depth.
    Coastal perch is gregarious way of life, holding off in the bush, grows slowly, feeding on zooplankton, insect larvae. The deep bass inhabit the open part of the water; swarms do not form, is growing rapidly, and feeding on fish. Males reach sexual maturity at age 2-3, and females 3-4 years old with a body length 10-16 cm. There are dwarf males, which mature at age 1 year. Nesting is the perch in the spring when the water temperature 8-15 �C. Eggs lay among the vegetation. Coastal perch lay eggs in the form of a gelatinous lace ribbon, length 12-40 cm, at 1 m depth. Productiveness of perch from 10.000 to 900.000 eggs in diameter 2-3.5 mm. Fastest growing perch in the first year of life, reaching a length of 5-10 cm perch has significant local commercial importance.

Balkhash Perch

    Balkhash perch unlike the ordinary given the lower jaw slightly, there is a dark spot on the back end of the first dorsal fin in adult individuals no dark transverse bands on the body. Perch distributed in the system of lakes Balkhash and the Alakul. Usual Length of 50 cm, weight 1.5 kg. They spawn in April-May, fertility 4.000 � 220.000 eggs. Balkhash perch are predators, but rarely eating their own fry. Has a local commercial importance.


    The wide-ranging logperch is one of our biggest darters. The logperch is a long, slim darter that reaches a length of four or five inches. It has distinctive �tiger stripes� along its sides. The thin stripes are dark-olive or black on the pale-yellow or greenish-yellow body, crossing the fish�s back and extending toward its belly. The first dorsal fin is spiny, the second, soft-rayed. The soft dorsal fin and the caudal fin have dark markings on their rays. During the breeding season, the yellowish color of the males becomes more intense, and they also develop small, fleshy projections, called tubercles, on the belly and the underside of the fleshy part of the tail. The logperch�s head is conical and pointed and its mouth is thick-lipped, suited to its rooting way of feeding. Logperch inhabit mud-bottomed, sandy, gravelly and rocky areas in big lakes. They can be found living over those bottom types in large rivers. They tend to stay offshore in water deeper than three or four feet, and have been captured at depths of more than 130 feet in some lakes. Logperch feed on aquatic insects, especially mayfly nymphs, caddis larvae and midge larvae, which they find under rocks. Logperch use their fleshy, hoglike snouts to root under and roll over small stones, leaves and other objects on the bottom, to reach the aquatic insects beneath them. Logperch also eagerly eat logperch eggs that were not buried in the sand during spawning. Logperch spawn in late spring to early summer. They swim from deep water offshore to sandy shallows or gravelly shoals, where a few to several hundred males gather in schools. Logperch also make spawning runs into the mouths of small streams that are tributary to the large rivers and lakes where they spend most of their time. They occasionally hybridize with other darter species.


    The saugeye is a hybrid, the result of mating the Sauger with the Walleye. The crossbreeding can occur in the wild, but is mostly the result of purposeful mixing of the species in fish hatcheries. As a hybrid, the saugeye has the advantage of �hybrid vigor,� growing larger than the sauger parent. Saugeyes have variable body markings and coloration, but generally look like the sauger, with saddles and blotches more subdued. In saugeyes, membranes of the spinous dorsal fin have distinct spots similar to those of a sauger. A black blotch is also usually present at the posterior base of the spinous dorsal fin, like the walleye. In saugeyes, a white spot is usually present at the tip of the lower caudal fin, also similar to walleyes. Like most hybrids, the saugeye�s habitat preferences are similar to its parents, tending to survive best in turbid water. Saugeyes offer anglers an opportunity to catch a walleye-sized fish in habitats suited best for saugers.


    Like the Walleye, the sauger has a long, roundish body, a forked tail, canine teeth and large, glassy eyes. A light-reflective coating behind the retina gives the eye a milky glow. As in the walleye, this is an adaptation to feeding at night and in dim light. On its back and sides the sauger is olive-gray to brown or tan with a brassy tinge. Its back is crossed by 3 or 4 distinct, dark saddle markings, which extend down the sides. Its belly is white. It has 2 separate dorsal fins, the first with 12 or 13 spines, the second with 2 spines on its front end. The dorsal fins have small dark spots that form lengthwise rows. This characteristic is absent in walleyes. The sauger does not have a white tip on its lower tail, as does the walleye. There is no dark blotch at the back corner of the sauger�s first dorsal fin, which the walleye has. The sauger does have a dark blotch at the base of its pectoral fin, which spills onto the fin itself. The sauger is generally a smaller fish than the walleye. Saugers normally inhabit large, often muddy rivers and big, silty reservoirs. For an unknown reason, saugers do well only in the largest lakes and rivers. Also like walleyes, saugers are nighttime feeders. Schooling fish, they seem to need the �wide open spaces� of big, shallow waterways, which are typically turbid. Saugers spawn very early in the spring, when water temperatures riches 45 degrees. Like the walleye, the sauger spawns at night over a two-week period.


    A popular sport fish, Walleye is the biggest, toothiest member of the perch family in North America. They have a long, roundish body, a forked tail and sharp canine teeth on its jaws and the roof of its mouth. The large eye is glassy and reflects light at night. The dorsal fin is separated into two parts, the front portion with 12 to 16 spines, the rear portion with one or two short spines and the rest, soft rays. The first dorsal fin has dark blotches and the lower lobe of the tail fin is white. The anal fin has one or two spines. Walleyes vary in color, ranging from a bluish gray to olive-brown to golden-yellow, with dark-on-light mottling. Side scales may be flecked with gold. Irregular spots on the sides can join to make a vague barred pattern. The belly is light-colored or white. One way to distinguish a walleye from its cousin, the sauger, is to look for the walleye�s dark spot at the rear edge of the front (spiny) section of its dorsal fin. Also, on the walleye, the lower portion of the tail fin is whitish, and so is the bottom margin of its anal fin. Walleyes live in large lakes, big streams and rivers, that have a cool and moderately deep water, with a gravelly, sandy or rocky bottom. Walleyes travel, feed and spawn in schools. They range widely in their home lakes or rivers. Walleyes are one of the first fish to spawn in the spring, sometimes even before the ice has completely melted from the surface or around the shoreline. Walleyes feed at dusk during the cooler months and at night during the summer. In turbid water, walleyes can be active during the day. The light-reflective coating behind the walleye�s retinas, which gives the eye the glowing appearance, is an adaptation to feeding at night and in dim light. Walleyes are often the top predator fish in their habitat, eating other fishes, as well as frogs, crayfish and large insect larvae.

    Even though many anglers are familiar with yellow perch, walleyes and saugers, the darters are less known. The large darter group in the perch family includes 146 North American species. Although many of the smaller members of this family are important as food for other fish, the family also includes predators like the walleye and sauger. The yellow perch is both a food source for larger fish and a fish-eater itself. Walleyes, saugers and saugeyes are artificially propagated for release as juveniles in waters where spawning has been impaired or in manmade reservoirs that do not accommodate successful reproduction of these species.
    The darters are a quite unique group of colorful little fish. Their name undoubtedly originated from the fact that they do not swim in the ordinary fashion but dart from place to place. They start and stop with great speed, often sinking immediately to the bottom, where they hide among rocks. They may remain motionless for extended periods on the bottom of streams, under rocks, or perched on a stone, supported by their pectoral fins. Most species can not suspend themselves in the water since they have only a rudimentary swim bladder.
    Seventeen darter species and subspecies have been reported in Iowa waters, although the status of some is now questionable. Many of the darter species are brilliantly colored, especially during spawning. Others are nearly sand-colored and are difficult to distinguish from rocks on the stream bottom. Although many darters are found in comparatively swift streams, several species are known to prefer the quiet weed beds of lakes or the open bars of the larger interior rivers.
    Darters usually inhabit fairly shallow water and are rather solitary individuals. They are largely carnivorous, feeding upon aquatic insect larvae and other small organisms.

Rainbow Darter
    The rainbow darter grows to an average length of 2 1/2 inches. The body is deeper than most darters and has dark bars on the sides. The bars are blue on the male and brown on the female. The typical rainbow darter has a brown back; a yellow, green, or red belly; and dorsal, tail, and anal fins that are red with a blue edge. The lateral line (sensory organ on the side of the fish) is incomplete. Like other darters, the dorsal fin is completely separated into two parts and a bone in the gill cover ends in a flat spine. They are common in the upper Mississippi River basin, found in creeks and upper reaches of rivers in northeast Iowa in moderate abundance. Main food is aquatic insect larvae, small snails and tiny crayfish. The rainbow darter lives in creeks and rivers, selecting areas with a gravel or rock bottom. It lives near the bottom. It eats crustaceans, snails, and insects. It spawns from March through May. Eggs are buried in gravel. Large males defend a territory.

Fantail Darter
    The fantail darter is a slender fish that grows to about two inches long. The dorsal fin is completely separated into a spiny and soft portion. The spiny portion is low and the tips of the spines form fleshy knobs in adult males. The body is sandy to brown in color with a small dark spot on each scale. The tail fin is rounded with several dark vertical bands.
    The fantail darter is found in riffles with gravel bottoms. It may be found in shallow areas away from the main current in large streams. It has the ability to survive very low oxygen levels for short periods of time. It eats primarily midge fly larvae and other aquatic insects. Fantails spawn in spring when males establish and defend territories around rocks that are slightly raised above the stream bottom. They use their spiny dorsal fins to clean the underside of the rock and a female swims under the rock and lays about 40 eggs. A female will spawn several times, laying about 450 eggs total.

Johnny Darter
    The johnny darter is one of the smaller members of the perch family, belonging to the large sub-group of darters. Johnny darters are among the most widespread and abundant of the darters, but they lack the brilliant coloration that many other darters have. The johnny darter's body is slender, the head bluntly rounded. The background color is olive tan or straw-yellow, with brown markings. Brown bars across the back form six evenly spaced �saddles,� and there is some dark spotting on the upper portion of the sides. Midway down the sides, and running from head to tail, are dark scales that seem to form up to a 12 �W,� �M� or �X� patterns along the sides of the body. Two dorsal fins are present, the first with spines and a black spot. The dorsal, caudal, pectoral and pelvic fins may be speckled. The anal fin has one spine. In breeding males, the overall color darkens, with the head looking almost black, and a very dark color on the dorsal, pelvic and anal fins. The Johnny darter attains a maximum length of about 2 1/2 inches. A black teardrop-shaped mark is present under each eye. The breeding male has a black head and black anal and pelvic fins.
    Johnny darters tolerate a wide variety of lake and stream habitats. They are not as specific about where they live as most other darters. Johnny darters are found mostly in areas with little stream current, over a bottom that is gravel or sand, and in lakes along firm shorelines. They have also been found in weedy areas and rocky riffles. The similar tessellated darter is found on gravelly shoals with some water current and vegetation. Although usually considered a fish of inshore waters, johnny darters can be at depths of over 130 feet in some large lakes. Johnny darters show the bottom-dwelling and darting movement typical of other darters. They are sight-feeders, as are other darters. Johnny darters eat zooplankton, midge larvae, mayflies, caddis larvae and other small insects, worms and small snails. The males grow faster than females after the first year. Where they are present, they are a food source for other fishes.
    Johnny darters spawn in spring, April to May. Although the fish normally has a small home range, for spawning it will travel to find a suitable site. The males move into the spawning areas before the females and establish and defend a territory. The johnny darter creates a sort of nest, clearing a spot of silt and debris under an underwater object, like a rock. In a twist different from most other spawning fish, the male and female johnny darter turn upside down to spawn. The adhesive eggs, from 40 to 200 per female, stick to the underside of the rock in a single layer. Other females add to the male�s nest, until the eggs there may number as many as 1,000. The male stays and maintains the site after spawning, fanning its fins to keep the eggs clean and aerated. The tiny eggs hatch in about two weeks, depending on water temperature.

Tesselated Darter
    The tesselated darter can be found from southern Canada�s St. Lawrence River drainage to Georgia. In Pennsylvania, it is found in the Delaware, Potomac and Susquehanna River watersheds. The tesselated darter greatly resembles the johnny darter, and it was formerly considered a subspecies of the johnny darter.
    �Tesselated� refers to the fish�s having a mosaic-like or checkered pattern. The tesselated darter�s coloration is pale-sandy, fading to white on the bottom. The back and upper sides of the tesselated darter have nine to 11 pronounced, small X-shaped or W-shaped marks. This species, like the johnny darter, has a single anal fin spine. Other darters in Pennsylvania have two anal fin spines. The mouth is positioned low and is horizontal. The mouth ends below the front of the eye. Tesselated darter breeding adults develop 12 or 13 vertical bars on the sides, while losing the X-shaped and W-shaped markings. The upper side scales become wholly outlined in a dark color. The fin membranes, except those of the pectoral fins, grow dark with lighter tips on the pelvic and pectoral fins. In this phase, tesselated darters are sometimes mistaken for small yellow perch. Tesselated darters reach a length of about 3 1/2 inches.
    The tesselated darter prefers the quieter portions of sandy or mud-bottomed flowing water or still water, except in the breeding season. Tesselated darters spawn in the spring, around May.

Similarities And Differences Among Perch Speices

Yellow Perch

Description - 6-12" long; Yellow to yellow green with 5-9 vertical black bars on sides; No distinct canine teeth.
Habitat - Clearer waters of ponds, lakes and reservoirs with muck, sand or gravel. Most abundant in open water with moderate vegetation, but sometimes found in streams.
Feeding - Eats aquatic insects, crayfish and fish. Feeds mostly in morning and evening.
Reproduction - Spawns in early spring (April-May). Migrate into shallow, weedy areas. Deposit long (up to 7") strings of eggs over vegetation during the night and early morning.
Fishing Information - Popular year-round sportfish. Most popular for ice-fishermen. Fish along weedbeds and drop-offs with minnows, worms, grubs and a variety of small lures.


Description - Largest member of the perch family, 10-25" long. Brownish yellow to greyish yellow (blue-grey) - no cark vertical bars on sides. Large canine teeth. Resembles sauger, but has dark spot on bottom rear of first dorsal (back) fin.
Habitat - Prefers large, shallow turbid lakes but also present in large streams and rivers. Found near bottom in deeper water Will move into shallow water at night.
Feeding - Young eat aquatic insects and crayfish. Adults prefer fish.
Reproduction - Spawns at night in early spring (March-April) just after ice-out. Scatters eggs over gravel bars in streams and shoals in lakes.
Fishing Information - Popular sportfish in smaller waters - stillfish with worms, minnows, leeches, jibs, spinners, spoons and plugs. For larger waters - try drifting or trolling. Also, in spring and fall cast minnow imitating plugs along rocky points, shoals and weedbeds after dark.


Description - 10-18" long. Brownish grey with yellow and 3-4 saddle shaped blotches. Large canine teeth. Resembles walleye, but no dark spot on dorsal fin.
Habitat - Deeper waters of lakes, reservoirs and large rivers.
Feeding - Young eat aquatic insects and crayfish. Adults prefer fish. Same as walleye.
Reproduction - Spawns late spring (May-early June) - later than walleye. Scatters eggs over rocky bottom.
Fishing Information - Popular sportfish in smaller waters - stillfish with worms, minnows, leeches, jibs, spinners, spoons and plugs. For larger waters - try drifting or trolling. Also, in spring and fall cast minnow imitating plugs along rocky points, shoals and weedbeds after dark. Same as walleye.


Description - 2-5" long. Color highly variable. Small teeth. Air bladder reduced or absent (well defined in other perch).
Habitat - Variety of habitats including lakes, ponds and streams. Most species adapted for stream life and prefer good quality water with low turbidity and some current.
Feeding - Feed on bottom. Eat aquatic insects and crustaceans.
Reproduction - Each species have their own specific ritual. All species have elaborate spawning behaviors with breeding males displaying bright colors. Eggs are individually placed. Male guards eggs and young.

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