Perch is a common name for fish of the genus Perca, freshwater gamefish belonging to the family Percidae. The perch, of which there are three species in different geographical areas, lend their name to a large order of vertebrates: the Perciformes, from the Greek perke meaning spotted, and the Latin forma meaning shape. Many species of freshwater gamefish more or less resembling perch, but belonging to different genera, are often given some variation of perch as a common name.
True perch have "rough" or ctenoid scales. On the anterior side of the head are the maxilla and lower mandible for the mouth, a pair of nostrils, and two lidless eyes. On the posterior sides are the opercula, which protect the gills. Also there is the lateral line system which is sensitive to vibrations in the water. They have a pair of pectoral and pelvic fins. There are two dorsal fins, the first one spiny and the second soft. There is also an anal fin, which is also considered spiny, and a caudal fin. The cloaca lies directly behind the anal fin. All perciform fish share this general morphology.
The type species for this genus is the European perch, Perca fluviatilis.
Perch as a food fish
Perch are a popular species of panfish and are considered very good to eat; the commercial catch for them has always been in high demand. This has also led to considerable misuse of the term "perch" in the restaurant business in the United States, such as "ocean perch" (Rosefish) and "rock perch" (a small bass). Many restaurants will strive to correctly advertise the offering as "yellow lake perch", or the slightly more ambiguous "lake perch". "White perch", though similarly popular, is a completely different species common in New England, and not a member of the family Percidae.
They can be caught with a variety of methods, but the two best methods are perhaps float fishing and lure fishing. The best way is to use a small hook and cast into the weeds just before the drop off. When fishing with a float, the angler will want to have a disgorger; Perch are notorious for swallowing the hook, and will need aid of a disgorger or forceps for unhooking. In many parts of the world they are also a favorite species among ice fishermen. They will take a variety of baits, including minnows, worms, maggots, bread and softshell crayfish.
Perch grow to around 5 lb (2.3 kg) or more, but the most common fish to be caught are around 1 lb (0.45 kg) or less, and anything over 2 lb (0.91 kg) is considered a prize catch. The British record perch is 6lb, beating the previous one by 1 oz.
Most authorities recognize three species within the perch genus:
- The European perch (Perca fluviatilis) is found in Europe and Asia. It is usually dark green with red fins. The European perch has been successfully introduced in New Zealand and Australia where it is known as the redfin perch or English perch. In Australia they have bred into larger specimens.
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