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Yellow Perch

Yellow Perch


sides bright yellow to brassy green with 7 dark vertical bars; lighter belly and dark olive green back


Yellow Perch Distribution

statewide, greatest abundance in natural lakes


small fishes, aquatic insects, small crayfish, and snails

State Record

2 pounds, 7 ounces; 16" - Mississippi River, Pool 12, Dubuque County, March 2012 - Travis Peterson, Dubuque, Iowa

Expert Tip

yellow perch are great fun to catch through the ice and tasty too; use ice jigs with plenty of flash


The yellow perch is essentially a lake inhabitant in Iowa and reaches its greatest abundance in the natural lakes. It is rarely found in large numbers in flowing water with the exception of the Mississippi River, where it is common in some localities. They are also found in a number of man-made recreational lakes and river impoundments in southern Iowa but seldom approach the abundance that occurs in natural lakes.

The yellow perch is a beautiful as well as a hardy fish and quickly adapts itself to changes in environments. The sides of the yellow perch are bright yellow to brassy green, with seven dark, vertical bars. The belly is lighter, and the back is a dark olive-green. There are no canine teeth on the jaws or roof of the mouth. The dorsal fin has 12 to 13 soft rays and 7 or 8 rays in the anal fin. Scales in the lateral line range in number from 57 to 62. The cheeks are covered with 8 to 10 rows of extended scales. The somewhat humpbacked appearance of the fish is due to the head being slightly concave above the eyes.

Spawning takes place near shore in early springtime at water temperatures between 45 and 55 degrees F. Large schools may spawn in the shallows of small embayments. They are not nest builders; instead the long, flat, ribbon-like masses of eggs are deposited over sand bars, submerged vegetation or brush, and other extraneous material on the bottom. Each gravid female may be followed by 15 to 25 males fertilizing the eggs as they are released. Females, depending on their body size, may produce from 10,000 to 40,000 eggs. The eggs swell considerably after fertilization, the ribbon-like masses becoming up to 8 feet long. There is no parental care, and many egg masses are eaten by other fishes, washed up on shore or stranded by low water. Depending on water temperature, 12 to 21 days are usually required for incubation.

Young perch school in or near weedy areas where food, such as cladocerns or insect larvae, is abundant. They are rather slow swimmers when young and must depend upon the aquatic plants for cover protection. Heavy predation from most fish-eating fishes and birds is common. They are a valuable forage fish for walleye, northern pike and muskellunge in many Iowa lakes and to a more limited degree largemouth bass in some man-made lakes.

Although the yellow perch is found in ponds, slow moving streams and rivers, especially in holes around the bends, it is primarily a lake fish, preferring clear, cool water. The large fish usually prefer the deeper regions of lakes, leaving the shorelines to smaller individuals.

Natural foods of the yellow perch consist of small fishes, aquatic insects, small crayfish and snails. They feed throughout the daylight hours in deep water but often move into the shallows during evening to feed on schools of minnows. Midgefly larvae and both the immature and adult stages of mayflies often comprise a large part of their diet.

Growth rates and maximum sizes of the yellow perch vary from year-to-year and lake-to-lake, depending primarily on food availability. Average length in Iowa natural lakes for perch from age I through age VII is 2.7, 5.6, 7.7, 8.9, 9.8, 10.5 and 10.6 inches.

The world record yellow perch has proved to be a difficult record to top. It was taken in 1865 from Cross Wicks Creek, New Jersey, and weighed an incredible 4 pounds, 3 ounces. The existing Iowa record stands at 1 pound, 15 ounces, and was taken in Spirit Lake.


Present in these Iowa water bodies:

Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Big Spirit Lake Dickinson 1m N Spirit Lake 5684.00
West Okoboji Lake Dickinson northwest edge of Arnolds Park 3847.00
Storm Lake (incl Little Storm Lake) Buena Vista south edge of Storm Lake 3097.00
Tuttle Lake Emmet 1 mile east, 2 miles north of Dolliver 2268.00
East Okoboji Lake Dickinson east edge of Okoboji 1835.00
Trumbull Lake Clay 4 miles west, 5 miles north of Ruthven 1183.00
Lost Island Lake Palo Alto 3 miles north of Ruthven 1162.00
Silver Lake (Dickinson) Dickinson west edge of Lake Park 1041.00
Rice Lake Winnebago 1 mile south, 1 mile east of Lake Mills 1000.00
Five Island Lake Palo Alto north edge of Emmetsburg 973.00
Three Mile Lake Union 3 miles northwest of Afton 880.00
Iowa Lake Emmet 6 miles north of Armstrong 802.00
Black Hawk Lake Sac east edge of Lake View 729.00
Brushy Creek Lake Webster 5 miles east of Lehigh 690.00
Silver Lake (Palo Alto) Palo Alto 2 miles west of Ayrshire 648.00
Little Spirit Lake Dickinson 4 miles north of Orleans 604.00
High Lake Emmet 6 miles east of Wallingford 467.00
Elm Lake Wright 5 miles Northeast of Clarion 458.00
Pleasant Creek Lake Linn 4 miles North of Palo 401.00
West Swan Lake S.W.M.A. Emmet 3m SE Gruver 379.00
Swan Lake Dickinson 2m N Superior 371.00
Ingham Lake Emmet 6 miles east of Wallingford 357.00
Silver Lake (Worth) Worth 10 miles west, 3 1/2 miles north of Northwood 316.00
Lizard Lake Pocahontas 275.00
Elk Lake Clay 1 mile west, 3 miles south of Ruthven 261.00
Little Wall Lake Hamilton 1 1/2 miles south of Jewell 249.00
Lake Cornelia Wright 3 1/2 miles north, 2 miles east of Clarion 243.00
Virgin Lake Palo Alto 2 miles south of Ruthven 222.00
Center Lake Dickinson 2 miles west, 1/2 miles south of Spirit Lake 220.00
Marble Lake Dickinson 4 miles North of Spirit Lake 173.00
Diamond Lake Dickinson 2 miles east, 2 miles north of Montgomery 143.00
Volga Lake Fayette Located 3 miles north of Fayette. 135.00
Minnewashta Lake Dickinson 1/2 mile south of Arnolds Park 118.00
Iowa Lake Osceola 116.00
Silver Lake Marsh Worth 109.00
Morse Lake Wright 3 1/2 miles west of Belmond 90.00
Lake Pahoja Lyon 4 miles south, 2 miles west of Larchwood 65.00
Crawford Creek Impoundment Ida 3 1/2 miles south of Battle Creek 62.00
Lake Hendricks Howard Located 0.5 miles northeast of Riceville. 40.00
Lake Meyer Winneshiek Located 2.5 miles southwest of Calmar. 40.00
Bluebill Lake Cerro Gordo 4 miles South of Clear Lake 40.00
Casey Lake (aka Hickory Hills Lake) Black Hawk 12 miles south of Waterloo 37.00
Upper Gar Lake Dickinson east of Arnolds Park 36.00
Arrowhead Lake Sac south side of Lake View 31.00
Dog Creek (Lake) O'Brien 2 miles east, 1/2 miles south of Sutherland 28.00
Mill Creek (Lake) O'Brien 1 mile east of Paullina 23.00
Scharnberg Pond Clay 3m E Everly 10.00
Airport Lake Chickasaw Located 2 miles northwest of New Hampton. 9.00
Douma Area Pond O'Brien 2 miles west, 1 mile south of Sanborn 7.00
Ocheyedan Pit #1 Osceola 2 miles south of Ocheydan 4.00
Ashton Park Pond Osceola 2.00