Oneida Lake Education Initiative

"Your gateway to understanding Oneida Lake"

Yellow Perch

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  • Oneida Lake individuals may be as long as 16 inches, as heavy as 1.5 pounds, and be more than 9 years old
  • Important food source for sport fish
  • Favorite catch of ice fishermen


Yellow perch are easily distinguished by five to nine black vertical bars on their yellow sides. They have two separate dorsal fins: the front fin is spiny, and the back fin is soft. When handling the fish, care should be taken to avoid their sharp spines and sharp gill plates. Yellow perch have small teeth, and have no canine teeth.


While yellow perch are found in many habitats, they prefer shallow, weedy, protected sections of rivers, lakes, and ponds. They eat many types of organisms here in Oneida Lake, including aquatic insects (mayflies, caddis flies), invertebrates (crayfish, amphipods), zooplankton, and small fish.  Yellow perch are most active in the morning and early evening, but rest on the bottom at night.


Yellow perch spawn in April or May when the water has warmed up to at least 7ºC (44ºF). Spawning adults travel to shallow weedy areas and release long strings (up to seven feet) of eggs. These egg masses stick to submerged vegetation around Oneida Lake’s shoreline, where they remain until hatching. Each female lays an average of 20,000-30,000 eggs, and the combined Oneida Lake population is estimated to lay 40 to 60 billion eggs annually (fewer than 0.1% will survive to adulthood). Hatching occurs in 7-10 days, and the young perch feed on zooplankton until the end of their first year.  If the population becomes too large, yellow perch growth becomes stunted!


In New York, yellow perch are an important panfish found in all major watersheds.  In Oneida Lake, yellow perch are the most abundant fish, and are one of the first fish caught by youngsters and beginners. Because they continue to swim and feed throughout the winter, yellow perch are also the most popular target of ice anglers.  Oneida Lake’s population of yellow perch was around 6 million in 1980, though the current population is closer to 1 million. Angling and natural causes remove about 1/3 of the adult yellow perch population from Oneida Lake each year.


To learn more about Yellow Perch ...

Yellow Perch Factsheet (pdf - 64kb)

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