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How Big Do Yellow Perch Get? (Average and Record Sizes)

How Big Do Yellow Perch Get? (Average and Record Sizes)

Featured image courtesy of Gregory Wallace

The yellow perch is one of America’s most popular panfish. While it makes for terrific table fare, it’s also a much sought-after gamefish, as plenty of anglers try to catch themselves a trophy-sized perch. 

But exactly how big do yellow perch actually get?

While most yellow perch will have an average size of 7 to 12 inches and 3 to 12 ounces, this panfish species can reach a maximum size of about 18 to 20 inches and 4 pounds. A trophy perch is a fish of at least 14 inches and 1.5lb in most waters. 

Continue reading this article if you want to know more about the biggest perch ever caught in the US and Canada and what the current world record for perch caught through the ice is. 

What is the Maximum Size of Yellow Perch?

The yellow perch (Perca flavescens) is one of North America’s smaller freshwater predatory fish species. 

It can reach an approximate maximum length of 18 to 20 inches and a maximum weight of around 4 pounds.

However, fish weighing in at around 4lb are extremely rare in the US and Canada and almost never get caught by sport anglers. 

Even 3lb+ fish are a very rare catch, and the vast majority of really big yellow perch caught by anglers usually weigh between 2 and 2.5lb. 

What Is the Average Size of Yellow Perch?

a happy angler on a boat with a pari of small yellow perch
Courtesy of Jon Bowlus

Despite being able to reach a length of close to 20 inches and a weight of around 4lb, the average size of yellow perch is much smaller. 

Most fish will have a length of 7 to 12 inches and a weight of around 3 to 12 ounces.

Of course, the average size of this fish species will vary quite a lot between different water bodies, especially since the yellow perch is so widely distributed all over the North American continent. 

In one lake, there might be a huge population of smaller perch, resulting in an average size of just 3 to 8 ounces. 

On the contrary, a completely different lake with a smaller population of yellow perch consisting of larger specimens might hold perch with an average size of 10 ounces to 1lb.  

How Big Is a Trophy Yellow Perch?

a trophy-sized yellow perch caught through the ice
Courtesy of Shawn Cheng

This is both an exciting and tricky question, as the answer, once again, depends on what water you’re fishing.

Generally speaking, I’ve heard from most perch anglers that they’d consider a perch of at least 14 inches and 1.5lb to be a trophy-sized fish.

On the other hand, not all waters can produce such sizes, making it impossible to catch a fish of 1.5lb! In those waters, a perch weighing 1lb or more might be called a trophy.

And then there are also waters that produce a ton of big perch! In those waters, anglers might have to catch a perch of 2lb or more to be able to tell their buddies that what they’ve caught was a trophy yellow!

But no matter how high the official ribbon is set, if you catch a perch that’s considered really big in your local lake or river, you’ve earned the right to call that catch a trophy, at least in my book!

What Is the Biggest Yellow Perch Ever Caught?

Did you know that the world record yellow perch is the longest-standing record for a freshwater species in North America? 

The biggest yellow perch ever recorded was caught on May 1st, 1865, making this record more than 150 years old. 

An angler named Dr. C. Abbot caught it in Bordentown, New Jersey, and his magnificent catch weighed an incredible 4lb 3oz. 

Given that the weight is accurate (which, of course, cannot be said for sure after such a long time), this is an almost impossible record to break! 

So far, I haven’t seen a reported catch that would even come close to weighing 4 pounds. 

Of course, this would also explain why the record is so ancient. 

What Is the Biggest Yellow Perch Ever Caught Through the Ice?

I also wanted to mention the biggest-ever yellow perch caught while ice fishing, as I find it very interesting.

In 2014, 12-year-old ice angler Tia Wiese caught a massive yellow perch on a tip-up. 

Her fish weighed in at an astounding 2lb 11.68 ounces, shattering both the Idaho and world record for a perch caught on a tip-up. 

The behemoth measured 15.5 inches in length and had a girth of 12.75 inches!

Tia may have been targeting walleye or pike with her tip-up, but imagine the surprise when a fat perch like that comes up instead! What a catch!

How Big Do Yellow Perch Get in Canada?

Canada is known for its big yellow perch, and there are plenty of lakes that can produce fish between 1 and 2lb, with quite a few of them holding perch that go beyond 2 pounds. 

Although it must be said that they don’t seem to be able to reach the same massive sizes as their relatives down in the US.

On February 19th, 2020, Canadian angler Dominic Touchette was ice fishing on the St. Lawrence River near Summerstown (Ontario) when he suddenly hooked up to an enormous yellow perch.

He caught a fish of 15.75 inches and 2lb 8.32 ounces, making it a new Ontario state record.

From all I could find out online, this fish is also the current Canadian record yellow perch. 

How Fast Do Yellow Perch Grow?

a panfish angler on a river with a bunch of smaller yellow perch
Courtesy of Tyler Berthold

Yellow perch are a relatively fast-growing fish species that can already measure 2 to 3 inches at age 1.

At age 2, the average size of yellow perch is 4 to 5 inches.

At age 4 to 5, their approximate length is 8 or 10 inches. After year five, however, their growth rate slows drastically to about an inch or so per year.

Consequently, a 10-year-old yellow perch will have a length of about 13 to 15 inches, and a 12-year-old fish has an approximate size of 15 to 17 inches.

What Is the Average Lifespan of Yellow Perch?

a female angler at a lake holding a big old yellow perch
Courtesy of Sonia Lien

The average lifespan of a yellow perch is between 8 and 10 years.

While quite a few specimens can get as old as 12 years, the recorded maximum age of yellow perch is 13 years

Those fish of 12 or 13 years would have an approximate weight of around 4lb. But, as mentioned above, such age and weight are extremely rare.  

What Size Yellow Perch Is Best to Eat?

Many anglers also wonder what the best eating size of yellow perch is, which is why I wanted to include this topic in the article as well.

Most perch anglers in the US would agree that fish of 8 to 10 inches are the most delicious.

Smaller ones really don’t make that much sense to take home, as there is very little meat on them.

Bigger ones, on the other hand, can be pretty boney and, given their age, often don’t taste as good anymore.

From a sustainability point of view, releasing the older and bigger females is also a logical choice, as the big perch females carry the most eggs.

Releasing them ensures a sustainable fishery for both present and future anglers.

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