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New Jersey freshwater fish identification

Walley, Perch and Darters

Family Percidae, Family Moronidae, Family Aphredoderidae, Family Percopsidae

With at least 153 species, Percidae is one of the most diverse North American families of freshwater

fish. All but 3 species are darters, and 2 of these live in New Jersey. Darters are very small, and can be

seen darting around the bottom of streams and lakes. They eat tiny insects and crustaceans. The yellow

perch and the walleye are part of this family. Walley are an excellent fighting fish that grow very large.

White perch are part of the bass family (Moronidae), and the pirate perch is the one and only species

in its family (Aphredoderidae). Trout-perch are members of the Percopsidae family and they are not a

hybrid between a Trout and a Perch.

Walleye (Stizostedion vitreum) grow as large as 36 inches, and have a large mouth and very large canine

teeth. They have silver eyes, a long slender body, a long pointed snout, and a forked caudal fin. The large

black spot on the first dorsal fin is absent on younger fish, and the body is yellow-olive to brown on top,

and dark green to brassy yellow-blue on the sides. 5 to 12 dusky bars or saddles along the top, and the

fins are usually yellow with wavy dark brown bands. George Fundell caught the NJ state record fish in the

Delaware River in 1993 that weighed in at 13 Lbs. 9 Oz. The minimum length keeper is 18 inches, and the

daily bag limit is 3.

Yellow perch (Perca flavescens) can reach 16 inches in length, and have no canine teeth. They have a

large mouth that extends to under the middle of the eye, and a forked caudal fin. They are green above

with 6 to 9 green-brown saddles that extend down along the yellow side. A black blotch can be found at

the rear and sometimes in the front of the first dorsal fin. The paired fins are yellow to red. In 1989, Gene

Engles caught the NJ State record yellow perch at 2 Lbs. 6 Oz. in Holiday Lake. The daily bag limit is 25

fish, and there is no minimum size.

Shield Darter (Percina peltata) grow to 3 1/2 inches, and have a row of black crescents on the first dorsal

fin. They are olive to tan above, with 6 to 7 horizontal rectangular black splotches along the side. They

have a mostly unscaled opercle and a large black blotch below the center of the caudal fin base.

Tessellated darter (Etheostoma olmstedi) grow to about 4 1/2 inches. They have dark brow Xs and Ws

along the sides with light brown wavy lines. The second dorsal fin is enlarged on breeding males.

Swamp darter (Etheostoma fusiforme) adults reach only 2 1/4 inches. They are green to tan above, with

small dark saddles, with dark green and brown mottling.

White perch (Marone americana) can grow to about 23 inches. Adults have no stripes along the side, but

the young have interrupted dark lines or bars on the sides. They are light olive to green above, and brassy

or silver-green below. The body is deepest under the first dorsal fin. Large adults have a blue cast on the

head. The 3 Lbs. 1 Oz. NJ State record fish was caught at Forest Hill Lake in 1989 by Edward Tango. The

daily bag limit is 25 fish, and there is no minimum size.

Pirate perch (Aphredoderus sayanus) grow to 5 1/2 inches in length. They have a short, deep body, a large

head and mouth, and a protruding lower jaw. They are gray to black above, with black and yellow-white

speckles below. They have 1 squarish dorsal fin with spines and rays. Adults may have a purple sheen. Pirate

perch are very uncommon in NJ. The habitat is slow muddy water.

Trout perch (Percopsis omiscomaycus) grow to about 8 inches, have large eyes, a slender caudal peduncle

and a large forked caudal fin. They are transparent yellow-olive with silver flecks above, and 7 to 12 dusky

spots along the sides. They inhabit deep pools of large rivers, usually over sand. They are very rare in NJ.

questions about fish terminology? GO TO: FISH BODY CHARTS




By Joe M. Cianci. See main page for list of sources. Send E mail to me at Comments welcome!