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Agricultural Marketing Resource Center

Yellow Perch

By Dan Burden, International and Special Projects, Extension Value-added Agriculture and the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Iowa State University, djburden@iastate.edu.

Revised April 2013.


The yellow perch (Perca flavescens) is a highly valued food fish in the north-central region of the United States. Commercial harvests of yellow perch from the Great Lakes and Canada fail to keep pace with market demands. Fillets have a high retail market value, at times exceeding $12 per pound. High consumer demand continues to drive commercial and research interest. 

The development of the culture methods for yellow perch is of interest to researchers and entrepreneurs throughout the north central United States. Many individuals believe that this species holds tremendous potential for aquaculture in the region, from both production and marketing perspectives. This interest has grown as many have come to realize that an aquaculture industry in this area cannot be successfully built around a single species, such as catfish, for which other regions of the country hold a comparative production advantage. In addition, yellow perch are a traditional regional favorite with consumers, as well as an imported product that could be offset by domestic production.

Commercial Production

According to the 2005 Census of Aquaculture (2006), the total number of U.S. farms rearing yellow perch in 2005 was 99 and their total sales that year was $692 thousand. Wisconsin ranked first in number of farms (29) but not in sales ($204 thousand). Ohio had higher sales ($222 thousand) but fewer farms (25). Of the 99 U.S. farms producing yellow perch in 2005, 46 raised fingerlings and fry, and 40 raised foodsize yellow perch.  

Commercial culture of yellow perch depends on the economical production of fingerlings that accept an artificial diet. University researchers and private sector aquaculturists have developed a variety of methods for producing eggs, fry and fingerlings. These methods range from natural reproduction of adults with pond culture of fry and fingerlings to induced reproduction by light period and hormone manipulation in tank systems.

Currently, yellow perch aquaculture in the United States includes both pond culture and intensive tank-rearing systems. The time required to rapidly rear perch from small fingerlings to harvestable size in approximately 12 to 14 months. Traditionally, commercial operations use the natural reproduction/pond culture method. This is the most economical and requires minimal technology. While this general production method is well understood, it has problems. Anytime eggs and fry are produced in and "outside" relatively uncontrolled environment, disease and predation can become significant concerns. These systems also limit egg and fry production to specific times of the year. 

With pond-produced larvae, they are collected and transferred to nursery ponds at a rate of several hundred thousand fry per pond. Lower stocking densities result in larger fingerlings at harvest. Higher stocking densities may result in greater numbers of smaller fingerlings at harvest. The harvest fingerlings are moved to grow-out ponds after 50-70 days. These fish are then feed-trained and usually treated with antibiotics to prevent bacterial fin-rot that easily can kill 30-40% of the population.

For this and other reasons, the refinement of intensive tank-rearing systems is in an area of ongoing research. Researchers at Ohio State University (2011) overcame a decades-old problem of intensive-culture larval mortality associated with the larvae not being able to inflate their swim bladders. a fatal condition. Adjusting water chemistry and temperature to finely turned parameters has increased survival up to 70% of hatchlings. The second major challenge has been increasing the survivability of the larvae to fry. This meant finding a very specific starter-diet and frequency of feeding, and again fine-tuning water parameters. This has resulted in 50% survival into the first two critical weeks of life; from then on it is relatively easy to rear fish to marketable size.

Indoor tank-rearing systems require considerable investment in rearing equipment and electricity costs for water pumping and in rearing environmental condition control. While technologically possible, the economics of indoor perch rearing involves a high upfront investment in rearing equipment and considerable additional maintenance costs for environment control. However, this system offers a shortened and perhaps continual growing period compared to the seasonal outdoor pond system. Handling of the fish (grading and sorting) is easier and more efficient, easier on the fish, and environmental control may be used to manipulate spawning or other regimens.

A commercial venture in Ohio, Bell Aquaculture, that has helped commercialize much of the Ohio State research, began production in 2008. Bell's operation has stimulated state sales of aquaculture products. In 2011 sales were at $6.6 million, up from only $1.8 million a few years before.

The University of Wisconsin (UW) has a series of research links (see link listed below) that describe key aspects of these systems. Before investing, a viable business plan is necessary. One good resource is Making Plans for Aquaculture in the North Central Region. The UW Sea Grant Advisory Services’ business specialist has produced an Excel program that allows the user to manipulate and simulate interactive data on market price expectations, food conversion ratios and non-operating financing costs. The model demonstrates the anticipated capital expenditures necessary to construct a six-tank, 45,000-gallon re-circulation system. It also calculates the estimated revenues and expenses.

Commercial Fishing

The National Marine Fisheries Service indicates that the total quantity and total value of yellow perch caught commercially in 2005 was over 110 thousand pounds and about $338 thousand, respectively. Both figures reflect a decline from the previous year when over 1.6 million pounds of yellow perch were caught commercially at a total value of $2.5 million. [Census of Aquaculture (2005) 2006].


  • Aquaculture, Economic Research Service, USDA.
  • Aquaculture, University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute - Overview of various programs and initiatives of the Great Lakes Sea Grant Program. Sea Grant researchers are studying several fish species suitable for aquaculture in the Midwest, including walleye, sturgeon, hybrid striped bass, sunfish, bait fish, yellow perch, tilapia, bluegill, crappie, bullhead, crayfish and a variety of salmonids. A variety of techniques are being examined, including pond culture, cage culture and indoor contained systems. The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network also has developed a regional resource list of aquaculture publications and audiovisuals for current and potential aquaculturists.
  • Aquaculture Certification Council - A nongovernmental body established to certify social, environmental and food safety standards at aquaculture facilities throughout the world. This Missouri nonprofit, nonmember public benefit corporation builds on elements of the voluntary Global Aquaculture Alliance Responsible Aquaculture Program system that combines site inspections and effluent sampling with sanitary controls, therapeutic controls and product traceability.
  • Aquaculture in Hawaii, State Aquaculture Development Program, State Department of Agriculture - Hawaii Aquaculture web page, an information source and guide to getting started in aquaculture in Hawaii.
  • Aquaculture Network Information Center (AquaNIC) - The AquaNIC is a gateway to the world's electronic aquaculture resources.
  • Aquaculture Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - Fisheries market news and statistic summaries (aquaculture results by catch, available grants, new marine product food safety guidelines, endangered natural stocks, export guidelines for shipments to the European Union, links and addresses of many National Marine Fisheries Support Offices, and other information). Site includes information on Department of Commerce Aquaculture Policy, the National Aquaculture Act of 1980, recent NOAA Aquaculture Policy and breaking research and legislative news.
  • Aquatic Network - Aquaculture topics, educational information, publications and products and services listing.
  • Bell Aquaculture, Fish Farmer magazine - This article describes the world's "largest" yellow perch farm at production facilities located in Albany, Indiana, northeast of Indianapolis.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2005), USDA, 2006.
  • Enterprise Budgets for Yellow Perch Production, Purdue University, 1997 - In cooperation with USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, these enterprise budgets were developed for yellow perch production in cages and ponds in the North Central Region.
  • Fishery Products (Domestic Production and International Trade Information), FSAonline, USDA.
  • Aquamedia - An Internet information and resource for aquaculture and fisheries. Contains directories, news, statistics and other related information.
  • Fisheries Statistics Division, National Marine Fisheries Service - Contains leads, current and historical trade statistics, import requirements, news and regulatory information. This mission of the Trade and Commercial Service staff is to promote and facilitate trade for the U.S. seafood and aquaculture industries by expanding existing markets and opening new ones for the U.S. producers and processors.
  • Mariculture and Aquatic Farming, Alaska Department of Fish and Game - Alaska state mariculture site includes razor clam restoration information, permit information, overviews of state production and related information.
  • Opposing Flows Technology - Example of large-scale aquaculture closed-system production tanks.
  • Permaculture: Aquaculture - Huge bibliography of written resources and links from CrescentMeadow.com, Crescent Meadow Systems, a pemaculture reference site.
  • Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture, Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture Collaborative Research Support Program (PD/A CRSP) - Represents an international, multi-disciplinary effort to improve human nutrition through pond aquaculture research. The work of the PD/A CRSP benefits both domestic and international aquaculture.
  • World Aquaculture Society - International society of aquaculturalists working to improve education and communication within the industry.
  • Yellow Perch, North Carolina State University Aquaculture Extension.
  • Yellow Perch, Perca flavescens, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.
  • Yellow Perch, Kentucky State University - A good pond-production background paper.
  • Yellow Perch Production; Modified in parts from class notes by Dr. Doug Holland, Aquaculture Program, Brunswick Community College - The best culture method for yellow perch is widely debated. The material presented here is based on the extensive experiences of staff at Brunswick Community College and yellow perch farmers in Brunswick County, North Carolina.

Links checked August 2013.


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