Yellow perch are what we call panfish because their mild, flakey filets taste so good coming out of a frying pan. They’re not quite big enough to be considered game fish and not really part of the sunfish family like most other panfish.
So, what are they? They’re members of the Percidae family, commonly known as true perch; walleyes and saugers are also in this family.
There are no minimum size regulations for yellow perch in the listed states, and yellow perch bag limits vary from state to state. On the low end is Ohio, allowing only 10 perch on parts of lake Erie.
Conversely, New York state allows 50 perch per day. Walleye and sauger have separate size and bag regulations.
What Makes a Yellow Perch a Perch?
The yellow perch is often incorrectly lumped in with panfish. The name panfish describes many species popular with anglers as food fish.
The majority of fish in this group are part of the sunfish or Centrarchidae family, including species such as crappies, rock bass, and bluegill. They are distinguished by their pan-shaped bodies, spined front dorsal fin, and coarse scales.
However, yellow perch are members of the Percidae family, which also includes the walleye and the sauger.
Compared to members of the sunfish family, they have longer bodies that average 7-10 inches and are rounder than crappie, for example. Their backs are golden in color with 5-6 black stripes, and their bellies are white.
Unlike their cousins, walleye and sauger, yellow perch do not have canine teeth. They can grow to sixteen inches and weigh around two pounds on average. The largest yellow perch on record was caught in 1865 in New Jersey and weighed in at more than four pounds.
They have toothed or ctenoid scales. Yellow perch are able to survive low oxygen levels, which allows them to remain active under the ice when other fish are sluggish.
Spawning, Distribution, and Diet
A unique feature of the yellow perch is how they spawn. Rather than building a nest for their eggs, they lay their eggs in lengthy connected ribbons and provide zero parental care for the eggs or hatchlings.
Yellow perch are native to the upper midwest and Canada. They have a strong presence in the Great Lakes, where they face heavy commercial fishing pressure. Their diet includes smaller fish like minnows and larvae such as mayflies.
Michigan Perch Size and Daily Catch Regulations
The fishing season for yellow perch in Michigan is open year-round, and there is no minimum size limit. Good fishing practice is to release anything not destined for the frying pan.
The daily bag limit is 25 per day; however, on Lake Erie, you can take 50 per day. On Lake Gogebic and Ontonagon, fish must be 12 inches or more with a limit of 25 per day.
Lines and Baits
- No more than three lines per angler, including tip-ups, and no more than 6 hooks or lures, may be used.
- With perch rigs, each hook is counted as part of the total allowed.
- All tip-ups must be marked with the name and address of the owner in English.
- All lines must be monitored and under the control of an angler.
- All legally taken baits, including frogs and fish, may be used except lampreys, live carp, goldfish, or live gobies.
- To help reduce invasive species, anglers are encouraged to dispose of all bait containers such as worms or minnows in trash receptacles.
New York State Perch Size and Bag Regulations
In the state of New York, the fishing season for yellow perch is open year round. There are no size limits, and you may take 50 per day.
Lines and Baits
- Ice fishing is allowed throughout New York except in the following counties: Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Warren, and Washington.
- Ice fishing may be allowed on certain trout waters; see inland trout stream regulations.
- Only 7 ice-fishing lines of any type may be used, and then with no more than 5 lures or baits, or a sum total of 15 points.
- All lines must be attended to.
- Ice shanties have to be clearly marked in three-inch letters with the owner’s name and address. They must be marked on the outside. Shanties should be removed by March 15th.
Wisconsin Perch Size Regulations and Catch Limits
No size requirements for yellow perch apply on any lakes in Wisconsin. Yellow perch regulations are lumped in with panfish.
There is a daily bag limit of 25 perch per day. Special regulations on Big Round Lake, Loretta lake, portions of Chippewa lake, and Cranberry lake limit you to 10 perch a day. Durphee lake limits you to 15 per day.
No angler may use more than three poles or handheld lines in Wisconsin waters. Careful; each hook or lure counts as a line. If you use more than one hook or bait on a line, you must use one less pole or line.
Minnows from Wisconsin’s waters may be used but should not be transported to other lakes or streams.
Ohio Perch Size and Bag Regulations
There are no size requirements for yellow perch in Ohio. However, fishing pressure on lake Erie has resulted in a reduction in the bag limits on lake Erie from Huron to Fairport Harbor. The number was reduced from 30 to 10 a day.
Bag limits remain at 30 per day west of Huron and east of Fairport Harbor out to Conneaut. Anglers can use two lines while fishing in Ohio. Ice anglers can use up to six tip-ups at one time in Ohio. Each tip-up must be clearly labeled with the owner’s name and address.
Wrapping It All Up
Yellow perch are a popular sport fish. Anglers and fishery agencies consider them panfish. Most members of the panfish group are part of the sunfish family, but yellow perch are part of the true perch or Percidae family.
Distinguished by a golden back and black stripes, yellow perch are longer and rounder than sunfish.
Michigan, New York, Wisconsin, and Ohio have no minimum size requirements, and most have generous daily catch limits. New York allows 50 per day, and Ohio allows only a low 10 per day on Lake Erie’s central and eastern zones.
Perch are schooling fish with the ability to thrive in low oxygen levels under the ice, making them popular with ice anglers. The next time you’re on the ice, bring along some minnows to tip a jig or put your night crawler within a few feet of the bottom, and you’re ready to start catching a tasty dinner.