White Perch caught in Sandy Lake

A White Perch caught in Sandy Lake in June 2020. Photo contributed by M.C.

I am familiar with Yellow Perch from fishing days as a kid, but not white perch (Morone americana). A few days ago I received an e-mail with this pic showing a White Perch caught in Sandy Lake in June 2020, apparently the first record (see Species Lists).

Some of what I gleaned about White Perch follows.

From the the Freshwater Fishes of Nova Scotia by DA Livingston (1953):

RANGE: Atlantic coast of America, from the Maritime provinces to South Carolina.

OCCURRENCE  IN NOVA SCOTIA: In lakes throughout the province except in the granite areas and on the plateau of Northern Cape Breton. The White Perch is also found in the sea,.

DESCRIPTION: The White Perch reaches a maximum length of 15 inches, with a weight of about 3 pounds, but most taken by anglers are much smaller than this. Observations by field workers of Nova Scotia inland fishery survey on the La Have River indicate a seaward migration during the summer

White Perch  has spread westwards in North America as a non-indigenous or invasive species. View this USGS page for info on its spread in the US including the Great Lakes.

White Perch (above) is closely related to Smallmouth Bass  (below); sometimes White Perch is mis-identified as Smallmouth Bass

There is an informative article about White Perch in NS on saltwire.com originally published in 2010, updated 2017. From that article:

Spawning normally takes place in late May when water temperatures have warmed up. The perch spawn in lakes and no nest is constructed. Eggs are simply released over the bottom in shallow water. Perch eggs are very small and are adhesive, they stick to plants, rocks and the bottom. When the water is cool the eggs will hatch in five days, in warmer water they can hatch in 30 hours.

Young white perch feed on plankton. They grow rapidly and can reach a length of nearly three inches by the end of the summer. Later growth depends on food availability.

Most anglers know of lakes that have nothing but small or stunted perch. These lakes have large numbers of fish but the competition for food means none get very large.

Other systems, usually the ones with sea run populations, have larger fish. In lakes with adequate food perch will eat aquatic insects, smelt, minnows and other white perch.

White perch are delicious eating and in New England they are often prized over trout.

Sandy Lake is a sea-run lake*  so perhaps we can look forward to fishing for some large, delicious White Perch  in Sandy Lake! (It’s possible White Perch came to Sandy Lake via Sackville River/Bedford Basin; the alternatives are discarded, live bait or deliberate but unauthorized introduction.)
* For recent observations of sea-run species, see  Tales of Gaspereau and Loons in Sandy Lake, and A salmon jumped right out of the water in Sandy Lake!.

However it seems there is a also a possibility that this native species could become very numerous and stunted and reduce abundance of other species.  I guess that is why the NS Anglers Handbook includes them under “Aquatic Invasive Species” even though for NS, they are a native species.

Fishers at Sandy Beach caught 1/2 dozen smallmouth bass in about 45 min

AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES: LIVE BAIT Unwanted fish species can be accidentally spread by releasing unused live bait therefore threatening local fish populations. Do not discard bait unless it was caught from the water body in which you are fishing. It is illegal to use certain species as bait or to possess them for bait (whether alive or dead). These include chain pickerel smallmouth bass, goldfish, yellow perch, brown bullhead, white perch or any fish not taken from provincial waters. From  the NS Anglers Handbook for 2020

On the other hand, the  invasive Smallmouth Bass  are already plentiful in Sandy Lake (and make for good sport fishing) and each may keep the other in check.

Experienced anglers could tell you more. I have attached some comments of anglers on fishing for White Perch.

‘Good fishin’ in Sandy Lake! And thanks to MC for passing the photo on.


Some comments about White Perch in NS by anglers

Source: https://www.novascotiafishing.com/forums/index.php?/topic/208-where-to-fish-for-white-perch/

Posted 15 June 2010 – 06:34 PM There are not many lakes in Nova Scotia without good populations of White Perch. Catching them may be another matter! As they are not heavily fished and are mostly a bycatch and released at any rate the population many be a bit stunted but I find lakes where there are Bass, Pickerel or large Trout you will often catch big ones.

Posted 15 June 2010 – 08:13 PM They offer great sport on ultra-light, micro-light, and fly gear. If you have a boat you can look for schools in the evening. They often come to the surface to feed towards evening, so you can find them on calm summers evenings by looking for fish feeding at the surface.

Posted 16 June 2010 If you are in and around HRM most lakes carry good populations of whites. My favorite lake by far for good size is big indian lake off the 103, mersey road. Little Indain Lake is off the same road and is good fishing as well. Let us know how you make out.

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