Yellow Perch (Perca flavscens) belong to the largest order of fish: the Perciformes which include 9,200 species, 80% of which are marine, however, the family Percidae they belong to consists entirely of freshwater species of the temperate and subarctic climates of the northern hemisphere. Walleye and Sauger are also members of the same family.
Yellow perch are long and slender with gold to brassy green color on the top and sides with six to eight vertical black bars coming down the sides. The first dorsal fin has 12 to 14 sharp spines and the second dorsal fin has 12 to 13 soft rays plus two to three spines. The pectoral, pelvic and anal fins have one to three spines and a number of soft rays. They often weigh between five and six ounces and are four to ten inches long, but the record is over four pounds and 21 inches long. They may live up to ten or eleven years.
Spawning usually takes place during March and April when longer days and warmer temperatures arrive. The females release their eggs in a gelatinous strand with accordion-like folds and as many as five males may fertilize these eggs. These ribbons can be over six feet long and have 120 to 250 eggs per mm of length. That ends up being anywhere between 10,000 and 40,000 eggs. The ribbons are draped over the substrate or vegetation.
Neither adult cares for the eggs or larvae. The eggs hatch after eleven to 27 days incubation depending upon the temperature. The larvae feed on small zooplankton and then start including insect larvae, (particularly mayflies) and eventually small fish including other Yellow Perch.
Yellow Perch were originally native to southern Canada from Nova Scotia to Alberta and south possibly through Montana, Kansas and back east to South Carolina. It did not include any drainages of the Pacific or Bering Sea. Because they are considered good tasting though, the species has since been introduced through nearly the whole country.
Since they travel in schools, sometimes they end up being caught in bunches. They feed not only the anglers but are important forage fish for Walleye, Sauger and Smallmouth Bass. While the Yellow Perch are not one of the more commonly caught fish in Bighorn Lake, anglers should not be surprised to find one on the end of their line.