European Perch vs Yellow Perch: What’s the Difference?

European and yellow perch belong to the same genus, Perca, along with Balkhash perch from Kazakhstan and China.

Up to recently, yellow perch was considered a subspecies of European perch, and some people still refer to it as such.

Although they are closely related, the European perch and yellow perch live on two different continents and do not cross paths

There are significant similarities and differences between these two species.

What’s the Difference Between European and Yellow Perch

Size and age

European perch grows to around 10 inches long but often exceeds it. The biggest caught specimen was 24 inches long. 

The average weight of adult European perch is around 2 lbs, but depending on habitat and abundance of food, they can very easily grow much bigger. The record is set at 10.5 lbs. 

The European perch can live up to 22 years old.

Yellow perch usually reaches 4 – 10 inches in length but can grow up to 18 inches in good quality waters. The biggest yellow perch caught was 20 inches.

The average weight of yellow perch is 1 lb, but there are specimens frequently caught at 2.7lbs or more. The biggest caught yellow perch was 4.2lbs. 

Yellow perch live between 9 – 10 years, very rarely past 11.

Body shape 

European perch has a laterally compressed body covered by small scales. 

Two dorsal fins are clearly separated. The front dorsal fin has 14 – 20 spines and the second dorsal has 13- 16 soft rays. The first dorsal fin grows significantly higher than the second.

European perch has between 56 – 77 scales on the lateral line.

When European perch matures, it grows a slight hump between its head and dorsal fin.

European perch has a large number of small but sharp teeth.

Yellow perch also has two separate dorsal fins. But has fewer spines and soft rays. 

The first dorsal fin has 12-14 spines, and the second has 2 – 3 spines and 12 – 13 soft rays.

The body shape of the yellow perch is very similar to that of the European perch. It’s laterally compressed and oval.

Just like its cousin, yellow perch also sports a handful of small, sharp teeth.


European perch vs yellow perch

European perch has distinguished colored pelvic, caudal, and anal fins. Their color varies from yellow to red.

The first dorsal fin is usually gray, and the second is greenish-yellow.

The back part of the first dorsal fin often has dark spots.

The body color of European perch varies between olive green and greenish-yellow on the dorsal side, with a silvery-white belly.

The flank is adorned by recognizable y-shaped bars. Their number is usually between 5-8.

The dorsal and caudal fins of yellow perch are usually yellow or green. Its anal and pelvic fins are between yellow and silvery-white. The pectoral fins are transparent with an amber hue.

Yellow perch, like the European perch, sometimes has black spots on the back part of the first dorsal fin.

The body of yellow perch is from bright green through olive to golden-yellow or golden-brown on its sides. The intensity of the color depends on the clarity of the water. The belly is white.

And the same as European perch, yellow perch has black bars on its flanks. Usually between 6 – 8.

Habitat and diet

European perch is native throughout Europe and northern Asia but introduced to Africa, Australia, New Zealand, China, Ireland, and the UK.

It lives in a wide range of habitats, from lagoons, lakes, medium-size streams to slow-flowing rivers. It prefers clear water with good light.

European perch is a very hardy fish, easy to adapt. It can inhabit fresh waters or brackish waters with the maximum salinity it can stand varies between 10 – 17.5 ppt, and it can tolerate a big range of acidity in water, between 3.9 – 7.5 pH.

The average depth for European perch is 10 – 13ft, but on rare occasions, it can be found on depths up to 98ft. The temperature range for European perch is between 32 – 88F, but it prefers 50 – 72F.

European perch is an opportunistic feeder. It is a voracious predator that preys mainly during sunrise and sunset. Their diet usually changes with the season. They prey on fish, often their own species, and invertebrates. Juvenile European perch feed on planktonic invertebrates and benthic prey.

European perch is a very social fish and always swims in schools. This perch sometimes migrates short distances for spawning, which occurs between February and July.

European Perch vs Yellow Perch

Yellow perch is native to North America. Its native range spreads from the Atlantic Ocean in Nova Scotia through Great Lakes to Alberta, south to Ohio and South Carolina, and north to the Arctic Ocean. It was also introduced to western parts of North America.

Yellow perch prefers shallow waters near the shore, usually not deeper than 30 ft except in cold months, where they can be found on depths between 20 – 50 ft. 

Yellow perch can be as tough as its European cousin. It can withstand low oxygen and brackish waters. The optimal water pH is 7 – 8, but 3.9 – 9.5 pH also doesn’t cause many problems.

The best temperature for yellow perch is between 66 – 70F, but, if needed, it can survive and actively feed under the ice cover or up to 78.8F. 

Yellow perch feeds primarily on insects, invertebrates like crayfish, fish eggs, and small fish, and it tends to feed near the bottom. Yellow perch feeds by the shore in the morning and evening in summer, and in colder months, it eats the whole day. It can be found near drop-offs as well.

Like European perch, yellow perch travels in schools.

European Perch vs Yellow Perch

Fishing for Perch

European perch vs yellow perch

European perch is a popular sport fish and has good fighting qualities.

The best baits for European perch are minnows, raw squid or fish, red or marsh worms, maggots, or shrimp. You can effectively try spinners, soft lures, spoons, or hard lures like crankbait and jerkbait. 

Fly fishing for European perch is also possible with very colorful streamers or bait-fish imitations. European perch are often caught during ice fishing as well.

Yellow perch are relatively easy to catch sport fish, great for family fishing.

You can catch it year-round, but the best time is usually after spawning, in April and May.

You can successfully fish for yellow perch from shore or boat. The best fishing is in large lakes, where they have space to grow bigger. 

Your bait to go for yellow perch is a worm, small jig, maggot, wax worm, shrimp, and pieces of fish. It would be best if you used light tackle. 

Ice fishing for yellow perch is also possible. 

Can You Eat Perch?

You can eat both types of perch

European perch has excellent flesh, and it’s not too bony. The best way to cook it is to pan-fry or bake it. 

It can be eaten frozen or fresh. It has white meat and a firm and flaky texture.

Nutrition facts:

 European perch vs yellow perch

Yellow perch has a pretty sweet flavor and firm, deep pink-colored meat. when raw, that turns white after cooking. 

Nutrition Facts:

European perch vs yellow perch

White Perch

It is not a real perch. It belongs to the bass family but is considered a good sport fish, and it’s a great source of food in North America. Sometimes referred to as Silver Bass. 

White perch is usually silvery-white in color, and it can grow up to 19 inches long and 5 lbs in weight.

The best place to catch it is in brackish waters but can be found in freshwaters of the inlet rivers from South Carolina up to Nova Scotia. 

They feed primarily on fish eggs but won’t say no to small minnows, grass shrimp, and blood worms. 

The raw meat resembles yellow perch in color, but it’s white when cooked. 

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