Published On: Tue, Jun 21st, 2016

Perch – Perca fluviatilis – introduced freshwater fish

Perch – Perca fluviatilis – introduced freshwater fish

Perch - Perca fluviatilis.

A fine specimen freshwater perch – Perca fluviatilis.

Perch are a European freshwater fish species first introduced into New Zealand waterways in the 1860s. Those early introductions coming from Europe via Tasmania, Australia.

Although they are present throughout New Zealand they are found only in small pockets from Northland down to Southland. They are found from Auckland to the Waikato, and in quite a few waterways in the lower North Island.

In the South Island perch are found in mid-Canterbury in Lake Ellesmere and its tributaries, Lake Forsyth, and Lake Emma. There is a small population near Hokitika, and they are in many waterways in Otago and Southland. They favour still or slow moving waters. Populations are isolated to such an extent that many New Zealand anglers would have never seen a freshwater perch. You are much more likely to encounter them in Southland and many parts of Otago. The lower Clutha River, for example, is known for its population of large perch.

According to the NIWA website perch have been shown to reduce the numbers of common bullies in lakes. They also reduce the numbers of whitebait, smelt (silveries) and crayfish in lakes where they are present.

This species is easily recognised. It is a dark greenish grey on its back. Lighter on the sides, and tending white to silver underneath. The most obvious sign it is a perch are the six of more dark verticle bars on either side. Another tell tail sign of this species is the bright reddish-orange edge to the pelvic and anal fins, along with the lower edge of the tail. There is a noticeable hump on their back starting behind the head. The scales are thick and not easily dislodged. Overall the fish is deep-bodied and solid.

Perch have been known to grow quite large in New Zealand with some specimens exceeding 600mm. Most are much smaller than this typically being less than 400mm and reaching less than 2kg. Some populations are made up of small fish less than 150mm (6 inches) long, most probably as a result of their large numbers, limited range, and food supply. Perch eat many forms of aquatic insects while larger specimens readily eat small fish.

Unlike most course fish species found in New Zealand, this species is an excellent table fish having firm white great tasting fillets.

Baits and Spinners for Freshwater Perch

It is also a good fish to target from an angling perspective as it readily takes spinners and natural baits like worms and maggots. They will also take a feathered lure or nymph. Many believe that red lures are most effective. Popular spinners for perch include small blade spinners like Mepps and Jensen, small Rapalas, and small Zed spinners.

Some anglers regularly target perch. You must have a freshwater fishing license from Fish & Game New Zealand if you want to catch them.

Perch from Lake Emma. Photograph courtesy of Paul Spicer.

Perch from Lake Emma. Photograph courtesy of Paul Spicer.

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