Yellow Perch in Florida

FWRI biologists studied the life history of Florida’s yellow perch populations

  • The yellow perch population in the Dead Lakes is the southern-most known population in the United States.
  • Limited populations of yellow perch exist in Florida and no studies have explored life history characteristics of these fish in Florida.
  • Biologist sampled and collected (via electrofishing) yellow perch in the Dead Lakes, Florida.
  • The Dead Lakes yellow perch population showed extremely fast growth likely due to limited abundance and a long Florida growing season.  


Yellow Perch

FWRI biologist holding yellow perch.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists recently conducted the first study of the life history of yellow perch populations in Florida. Throughout the United States yellow perch are an important recreational and commercial sportfish. However, in Florida, these fish only exist in limited populations in the Apalachicola River watershed and are mostly unknown to anglers throughout the rest of the state.

In 2015, biologists collected yellow perch during the fall (September and October) in the Dead Lakes – located in the Panhandle (Calhoun and Gulf Counties). The Dead Lakes are part of the Chipola River­­, which is the largest tributary of the Apalachicola River. Using an electrofishing boat, biologist collected yellow perch in the West Arm Creek area of the Dead Lakes. All yellow perch collected were measured and weighted. Biologists sacrificed a few individuals to examine stomach contents and otoliths were removed for aging purposes.

Dead Lakes Map

Figure. Aerial outline of Dead Lakes located in the panhandle of Florida. Sampling was conducted in the West Arm of Dead Lakes and Stone Mill Creek (shaded in grey). The marker in Stone Mill Creek represents the northern most point yellow perch were collected.


Yellow Perch Food

Yellow perch stomach contents.

Biologists collected a total 271 yellow perch ranging from 3 to 13.5 inches and ranged in age from 0 to 6 years old. Most of the Dead Lakes sample consisted of Age-0 (48.3%) and Age-2 (32.8%) fish.  

A majority of their stomachs (71%) had invertebrates present and around a quarter (28%) of the stomachs were empty. Crayfish (Procambarus spp.), Grass shrimp (Palaemonetes spp.), and insect larvae were the primary invertebrate food sources.

The yellow perch population in the Dead Lakes showed extremely fast growth compared to other populations across the United States. Biologists found some fish reached 12 inches in length in less than three years. Researchers attribute the fast growth to limited abundance and a long Florida growing season. Due to Florida’s warm climate, fish species are able to grow faster than northern fish populations.

The yellow perch population in the Dead Lakes is the southern-most known population in the United States. Florida summers produce high water temperatures that can reach or exceed the lethal thermal tolerance of these fish. Biologists also found that yellow perch in the Dead Lakes are highly concentrated in the West Arm and Stone Mill creek regions. They believe that the spring-fed water from Stone Mill creek may provide a cool water refuge to help alleviate stressful thermal conditions. Researcher are currently recording temperatures (via temperature loggers) throughout the Stone Mill creek and West Arm regions to examine the thermal conditions. Hopefully this will provide more insight into the life history of Florida’s lesser known sport fish.  

FWC Facts:
Otoliths, commonly known as "ear stones," are hard, bone-like structures located directly behind the brain of bony fishes. These structures aid fish in balance and hearing.

Learn More at AskFWC