White Perch vs. Yellow Perch: A Quick Guide
Sep 3, 2019 | 4 minute read
Reading Time: 4 minutes

White Perch and Yellow Perch are two of the most delicious Panfish you’ll find. Delicious as they are, the two species are often a topic of hot discussion among anglers and foodies alike. “Which tastes better? Which should you fish for?” The White Perch vs. Yellow Perch debate is only intensified by to the fact that a lot of people have trouble telling the two apart. But not anymore! Let’s take a look at how these tasty fish stack up.

Did you know that White Perch are actually not Perch at all? These guys are a type of Temperate Bass, and a close relative to Stripers. Yellow Perch, on the other hand, are “true Perch”, and are genetically similar to Walleye.

White Perch vs. Yellow Perch, a visual representation of the differences between the two species

Distribution and Habitat 

You can find Yellow Perch throughout the northeastern US and Canada. They are native to the drainages of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, the Great Lakes, and the St. Lawrence and Mississippi River basins. Nowadays, these guys have been introduced all over the US, and you can find them in many ponds, lakes, and slow flowing rivers. They prefer clear and brackish waters, and tend to keep close to the shoreline.

a yellow perch in an angler's hand with a river in the background

Similarly to Yellows, White Perch are native to coastal estuaries and rivers draining into the Atlantic. You can find them from Nova Scotia all the way down to South Carolina. Whites like to swim in brackish waters, but are commonly found in small to medium-sized lakes, too. Unlike Yellows, these guys tend to keep to the bottom, and that’s where you should look if you want to catch them.

White Perch often compete for food and their habitat with Walleye and White Bass. They even feed on the eggs of other fish, which is why some states consider them to be an invasive species. For instance, in Kansas, it is illegal to possess a live White Perch.

When it comes to fishing for White Perch vs. Yellow Perch, there’s pretty much no contest. White Perch have proven to be pretty feisty for their size. Yellows, however, rarely give up a decent fight, and tend to gobble up most baits, too. But hey, that means you can catch enough for a feast!

Appearance

White and Yellow Perch are Panfish, meaning that they are among the smallest fish you can catch. White Perch are slightly bigger on average, ranging from 8 to 10 inches and up to a pound in weight. Yellow Perch, on the other hand, range from 4 to 10 inches, but mostly average out in the 6-inch range. They rarely weigh over 12 ounces.

In terms of coloration, White Perch are lightly colored, with silvery bodies and fins, and a dash of darker shades on their top side. They boast no distinguishable stripes or dots on their bodies. Yellow Perch, however, are brownish-yellow in color, and boast distinct dark vertical bars.

An angler standing on a boat holding a fishing rod and a White Perch which he has just caught.
A good-sized White Perch

Another difference between the two species are the pelvic fins. On a White Perch, the pelvic fin faces downwards, and widens from the root out. Yellow Perch have a triangular pelvic fin, which points out in a 45-degree angle.

Taste

This is where the White Perch vs. Yellow Perch debate really kicks off. Where some folks prefer the stronger taste of White Perch, others like the sweeter, milder tasting Yellows better. In truth, Whites can taste a little “fishy,” depending on the location, but generally yield a lot more meat per single fish. According to popular belief, White Perch caught around Chesapeake Bay tend to have the best taste. But we’ll let you be the judge of that.

Yellows, on the other hand, can occasionally be plagued by grubs, which are a nuisance to pull out. Still, you’ll find many foodies who contend that they prefer Yellows, even if it means pulling a handful of grubs out of them! These fish also boast firmer meat, which makes handling and grilling a lot easier.

Seeing as both species are relatively small, you’ll need to catch at least a few of them to make a meal. Thankfully, White and Yellow Perch are abundant, and the bag limits for both of them are pretty lenient.

White and Yellow Perch can seem similar at first glance, but are actually two very different fish. If you want the final answer to which one’s better, there’s just one thing you’ve got to do. Go out and catch a bucketful for dinner!

Where do you stand in the White Perch vs. Yellow Perch debate? Which one tastes better in your opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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