Morone americana (Gmelin, 1789)

Common Name: White Perch

Synonyms and Other Names:


Jonathan FreedmanCopyright Info


Jonathan FreedmanCopyright Info


Douglas FaceyCopyright Info

Identification: White Perch are a small silvery, greenish-gray fish with a dark, highly domed back. The belley is whitish, and the lower jaw projects slightly.  It has three spines in its anal fin and a deep notch in the dorsal fin. The tail is also mildly forked. Woolcott (1962); Mansueti (1964); Smith (1985); Page and Burr (1991); Jenkins and Burkhead (1994).

White Perch are visually quite similar to White Bass (Morone chrysops). The following distinguishing features can be used to identify White Perch from White Bass. White Perch: anal ray count of 9–10, body depth is greatest before the spinous dorsal fin, and the side of the body lacks distinct longitudinal lines. White Bass: anal ray count is >10, body depth is greatest under the spinous dorsal fin, and the side of body has distinct longitunal lines.


Size: 58 cm


Native Range: Atlantic Slope drainages from St. Lawrence-Lake Ontario drainage, Quebec, south to Pee Dee River, South Carolina (Page and Burr 1991). Populations in the Lake Ontario drainage probably became established following construction of the Erie Canal.


Table 1. Great Lakes region nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state/province, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Morone americana are found here.

Full list of USGS occurrences

State/ProvinceFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
IL198820182Lake Michigan; Little Calumet-Galien
IN199819992Lake Michigan; Little Calumet-Galien
MI1977202111Black-Macatawa; Clinton; Detroit; Lake Erie; Lake Huron; Lake St. Clair; Lower Grand; Ottawa-Stony; Saginaw; St. Clair; St. Marys
MN198620174Beartrap-Nemadji; Beaver-Lester; Lake Superior; St. Louis
NY194620157Lake Champlain; Lake Erie; Lake Ontario; Oak Orchard-Twelvemile; Oneida; Salmon-Sandy; Seneca
OH195320179Ashtabula-Chagrin; Black-Rocky; Cedar-Portage; Cuyahoga; Grand; Huron-Vermilion; Lake Erie; Lower Maumee; Sandusky
ONT19522015*
PA195320122Chautauqua-Conneaut; Lake Erie
VT199820204Lake Champlain; Mettawee River; Richelieu River; St. Francois River
WI198420159Beartrap-Nemadji; Door-Kewaunee; Duck-Pensaukee; Lake Michigan; Lake Superior; Lower Fox; Manitowoc-Sheboygan; Milwaukee; St. Louis

Table last updated 6/24/2022

† Populations may not be currently present.

* HUCs are not listed for areas where the observation(s) cannot be approximated to a HUC (e.g. state centroids or Canadian provinces).


Ecology: White Perch is a euryhaline species, inhabiting fresh, brackish and coastal waters. It is commonly found in estuaries, rivers, and inland lakes. Adults prefer habitats with little cover and muddy/silty/sandy substrate. White Perch in estuaries are semi-anadromous, migrating from saltier bays and coastal areas into the fresher areas of streams and rivers to spawn in spring. Landlocked populations can spawn in freshwater rivers and lakes and typically migrate from deep to shallow waters to spawn. Males and females mature after 1–4 years (Bur 1986). Females are oviparous and broadcast adhesive eggs onto sandy substrate to eventually be fertilized externally by the males. Fecundity ranges from 20,000–457,000 eggs per female (Bur 1986; Jenkins and Burkhead 1994; Okoye et al. 2008).

White Perch is a highly opportunistic forager with a generalist diet, including macroinvertebrates, crustaceans and fish (Couture and Watzin 2008; Jones et al. 2015). Fish eggs (including its own) are also an important part of its diet particularly in the spring (Schaeffer and Margraf 1987). This species is consumed by piscivores including Walleye (Sander vitreus), Striped Bass (M. saxatilis), Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy), and Catfish (Icturlidae) (Hoyle et al. 2017; Andrews et al. 2018; Schmitt et al. 2019).


Means of Introduction: The first report of White Perch in the Great Lakes drainage was from Cross Lake, central New York, in 1950 (Dence 1952). The species apparently gained access to the lake via movement through the Erie Barge Canal in the 1930s and 1950s (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Johnson and Evans 1990; Mills et al. 1993). Scott and Christie (1963) stated that the White Perch most likely gained access to Lake Ontario via the Oswego River, as a result of the spread of Hudson River populations northward and westward through the Mohawk River Valley and Erie Barge Canal. Once in Lake Ontario, it gained access to Lake Erie through the Welland Canal in 1953 and continued to spread to the upper Great Lakes (Johnson and Evans 1990; Mills et al. 1993). The first reports of westward movement through the Great Lakes are as follows: Lake Erie in 1953 (Larsen 1954), Lake St. Clair in 1977, Lake Huron in 1987 (Johnson and Evans 1990), Lake Michigan at Green Bay-Fox River, Wisconsin in May 1988 (Cochran and Hesse 1994), and Illinois waters of Lake Michigan off Chicago in September 1988 (Savitz et al. 1989). One oddity is that the first record from Lake Superior was in 1986 from Duluth Harbor-one year before the fish was found in Lake Huron, and two years before it was seen in Lake Michigan. The  Duluth Harbor population may be restricted to that location because  it is the warmest part of the lake. This population likely represents a separate introduction because it does not fit the pattern of western dispersal (Johnson and Evans 1990). In this case it is possible that the introduction occurred via ships' ballast water.

White Perch was brought from New Jersey to Nebraska in 1964, and fry produced that year in a hatchery were accidentally introduced into a reservoir that provided access to the Missouri River (Hergenrader and Bliss 1971). White Perch has been stocked intentionally in other areas for sportfishing. In Kansas, fish found at Browning Oxbow on the Missouri River are believed to have come from Nebraska. The species was not recorded from the Missouri River in Missouri until the 1990s (Pflieger 1997). The source of the fish in the two Kansas reservoirs is a result of stock contamination from a Striped Bass stocking (Mosher, personal communication). White Perch were stocked in West Virginia in the early 1900s (Cincotta, personal communication) and are being illegally stocked by individuals in inland lakes in Indiana (R. Robertson and D. Keller, personal communication).


Status: Established in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Current status in Colorado and Kansas is unknown.

Great Lakes: Widespread, with populations reproducing and overwintering at self-sustaining levels in all five Great Lakes.


Great Lakes Impacts: Morone americana has a high environmental impact in the Great Lakes.

Realized:

Fish eggs are an important component of the diet of White Perch, especially in the spring months. White Perch generally preys on eggs of Walleye, White Bass, other species, and can cannibalize its own eggs (Schaeffer and Margraf 1987). Walleye or White Bass eggs can make up 100% of White Perch diet depending on which fish is spawning. During a three-year study, this diet was found to be unique in that: 1) eggs were eaten for a comparatively long time; 2) they were the only significant food item eaten by adults during two of the three years; 3) large volumes were eaten per individual; and, 4) most fish were feeding. White Perch also feeds heavily on Minnows (Notropis spp.) (Schaeffer and Margraf 1987). Madenjian et al. (2000) hypothesized that egg predation by White Perch was the most significant contributor to the large decline in white bass recruitment in Lake Erie in the 1980s.

White Perch were dominant in the open water habitat of Lake Erie relative to areas with submerged aquatic vegetation (Miller et al. 2018). Bur and Klarer (1991) found that a large portion of the White Perch diet in the central basin of Lake Erie consisted of zooplankton. It has been speculated that a White Perch diet of Daphnia in Lake Champlain contributed to the decline of the species in this locality since White Perch became established (Couture and Watzin 2008). Parrish and Margraf (1990) hypothesized that White Perch compete with native Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens) for zooplankton. They determined that growth rates of Yellow Perch had declined since the invasion of White Perch in Lake Erie, especially in the western basin. They also determined that the two species had considerable diet overlap and found one sample in which White Perch consumed 27% more food than Yellow Perch. In contrast, a recent study in Lake Erie found that the below-average population levels of White Perch and Yellow Perch allowed them to coexist under a wide range of trophic conditions (Kraus et al. 2021). Similarly, Pothoven and Höök (2015) found overlap in standard diet assemblages of age-0 White Perch and White Bass in Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron, indicating that complete trophic separation was not a requirement for long-term stable coexistence.

It has been speculated that competition between White Perch and forage fishes, such as Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides) and Spottail Shiner (N. hudsonius), as well as Freshwater Drum (Aplodinotus grunniens), is complex and may be responsible for the declines of the latter species (Parrish and Margraf 1994; Stapanian et al. 2007). Decline of these species could also affect Walleye, the top predator in Lake Erie (Parrish and Margraf 1994).

Invasion of the Great Lakes brought White Perch into sympatric distribution with a closely related but previously allopatric species, native White Bass, allowing hybridization to occur (Todd 1986). White Perch are known to hybridize with M. chrysops in western Lake Erie and in Ohio and Michigan waters (Todd 1986). Hybrids have also been reported from the Detroit River and the St. Clair River in Michigan (Todd 1986). These hybrids were first noted in western Lake Erie in the early 1980s, the same period during which White Perch were increasing in this area (Todd 1986). These hybrids probably occur in other Great Lakes because the two species are sympatric in all of the lakes. However, Todd was not aware of any other locations with these hybrids, and his extensive surveys around Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron, and Lake Ontario in the mid-1980s failed to find any (Todd, personal communication). Todd (1986) provided photographs of both parent species and the hybrid and gave characteristics of each. Because these hybrids are capable of backcrossing with the parental species, and possibly producing F2 hybrids by crossing amongst themselves (Todd 1986), they dilute the gene pool of each parent species. The White Perch/White Bass hybrid is the first naturally occurring Morone hybrid known (Todd 1986).

Potential:

Hybrids of White Perch and Yellow Bass (M. mississippiensis) were first found in 2000 in the middle Illinois River (Irons et al. 2002). Hybridization and competition may represent another threat to the already dwindling Yellow Bass of that region.

Within three years of being introduced into a Nebraska reservoir, White Perch had completely replaced the previously dominant Black Bullhead (Ameiurus melas). Species composition changed from 74% Black Bullhead to 70% White Perch over that timeframe (Hergenrader and Bliss 1971). In North Carolina reservoirs, introduced White Perch have a high diet and trophic niche overlap with Black Crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) and are significant competition for invertebrate resources and could reduce growth rates and survival of young Black Crappie (Feiner et al. 2019). Black Crappie are also native in the Great Lakes, but similar impacts have yet to be studied.

White Perch may pose a health threat to animals that consume it. It can accumulate the cyanotoxin microcystin in concentrations exceeding the WHO guidelines for human consumption (Wituszynski et al. 2017). In the Chesapeake Bay, White Perch is host to the novel coccidia parasite Goussia bayae (Matsche et al. 2019).

Morone americana has a moderate socio-economic impact in the Great Lakes.

Realized:

The collapse of the Walleye fishery in the Bay of Quinte (on the north shore of Lake Ontario) coincided with an increase in the White Perch population and may have been a result of egg predation and lack of recruitment (Schaeffer and Margraf 1987). Other recreationally/commercially important species, such as White Bass, Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens), and species of forage fish are likely negatively affected by White Perch through competition, egg predation, or hybridization (see above).

Potential:

White Perch may pose a health threat to humans that consume it. It can accumulate the cyanotoxin microcystin in concentrations exceeding the WHO guidelines for human consumption (Wituszynski et al. 2017). Of fish tested for microcystin, White Perch accumulated the second highest concentration (37 ng MC/g wet weight) relative to Walleye (71 ng MC/g) and Yellow Perch (8.1 ng MC/g). Resource competition from invasive White Perch reduced the abundance of stocked Hybrid Striped Bass in the recreational fishery located in Branched Oak Reservoir, Nebraska (Perrion et al. 2020).

Morone americana has a high beneficial effect in the Great Lakes.

Realized:

As of 2003, it was estimated that over 500,000 lbs. of White Perch are caught commercially in the U.S. and Canada each year (188,000+ lbs. in the U.S. alone), particularly in lakes Erie and Ontario (Brown et al. 1999; Dann and Schroeder 2003). This provides an estimated value of approximately $107,000 yr-1 in the U.S. and $260,000 yr-1 overall (Dann and Schroeder 2003).

White Perch is one of the most frequently found prey items in the diet of the Double-Crested Cormorant in the southern basin of Lake Michigan (Madura and Jones 2016).

Potential:

While White Perch is a good food fish and could potentially be pursued recreationally, it is not as commonly exploited as a game fish (Scott and Crossman 1973). In some Great Lakes states, White Perch is allowed to be caught but is largely prohibited otherwise.

One study found that relative to available zooplankton, a disproportionately large amount of White Perch diet consisted of the invasive Bythotrephes cederstroemi (Bur and Klarer 1991). White Perch may play a role in the life cycle of some mussels species. White Perch is a host for the freshwater mussel Roanoke Slabshell (Elliptio roanokensis) in South Carolina (Eads et al. 2015). This species is not native to the Great Lakes, but the congenerics E. complanata and E. dilatata are native and present in the region. However, it is unknown whether White Perch will play a similar role in the life cycle of these two species.


Management: Regulations (pertaining to the Great Lakes region)

It is prohibited in Indiana, making it illegal to import, possess, propagate, buy, sell, barter, trade, transfer, loan, or release this species into public or private waters (312 IAC 9-6-7). This species is prohibited in Minnesota and is unlawful (a misdemeanor) to possess, import, purchase, transport, or introduce this species except under a permit for disposal, control, research, or education (Statute 84D.07). In Ohio, it shall be unlawful for any person to possess, import or sell live individuals of this species (Ohio Administrative Code 1501:31-19-27). This species is listed as invasive in Pennsylvania, however, no specific regulations are defined. It is a restricted species in Wisconsin, where there is a ban on the transport, transfer and introduction of this species, but possession is allowed (Chapter NR 40, Wis. Adm. Code).

Note: Check federal, state/provincial, and local regulations for the most up-to-date information.

Control
For most waters, the only management recommendation for White Perch is unlimited harvest (Smith 2002).

Biological
Bottom-up control (reduction in food supply) of White Perch usually results in stunting accompanied by an increase in population so that the population consists of many small fish (Smith 2002).

Physical
There are no known physical control methods for this species.

Chemical

The IJC (2011) recommends rotenone for control of White Perch in rapid response scenarios.
Of the four chemical piscicides registered for use in the United States, antimycin A and rotenone are considered “general” piscicides, but no studies have been found of their effects on Morone americana (GLMRIS 2012).

Increasing CO2 concentrations, either by bubbling pressurized gas directly into water or by the addition of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) has been used to sedate fish with minimal residual toxicity, and is a potential method of harvesting fish for removal, though maintaining adequate CO2 concentrations may be difficult in large/natural water bodies (Clearwater et al. 2008). CO2 is approved only for use as an anesthetic for cold, cool, and warm water fishes the US, not for use as euthanasia, and exposure to NaHCO3 concentration of 142–642 mg/L for 5 min. is sufficient to anaesthetize most fish (Clearwater et al. 2008).

It should be noted that chemical treatment will often lead to non-target kills, and so all options for management of a species should be adequately studied before a decision is made to use piscicides or other chemicals. Potential effects on non-target plants and organisms, including macroinvertebrates and other fishes, should always be deliberately evaluated and analyzed. The effects of combinations of management chemicals and other toxicants, whether intentional or unintentional, should be understood prior to chemical treatment.  Other non-selective alterations of water quality, such as reducing dissolved oxygen levels or altering pH, could also have a deleterious impact on native fish, invertebrates, and other fauna or flora, and their potential harmful effects should therefore be evaluated thoroughly.

Note: Check state/provincial and local regulations for the most up-to-date information regarding permits for control methods. Follow all label instructions.


Remarks: Although the White Perch was found in the Missouri River in Missouri almost to the Missouri/Iowa state border (Pflieger 1997), as of March 1998, there are no known collections in the state of Iowa (M. Konrad, personal communication).

Feiner et al. (2012) found life history differences (e.g., growth rate, reproductive investment) across introduced populations within three large reservoirs in North Carolina representing different stages of invasion, and suggest that this plasticity allows for increased success during establishment. Feiner et al. (2013a) found that populations in the North Carolina reservoirs occupied a wide trophic niche, and suggested that niche breadth likely also aided establishment success. Pothoven and Höök (2015) found overlap in standard diet assemblages of age-0 White Perch and White Bass in Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron, indicating that complete trophic separation was not a requirement for long-term stable coexistence.


References: (click for full references)

Andrews, S.N., K. Zelman, T. Ellis, T. Linnansaari, and R.A. Curry. 2018. Diet of Striped Bass and Muskellunge downstream of a large hydroelectric dam: A preliminary investigation into suspected Atlantic Salmon smolt predation. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 38(3):734–746. https://doi.org/10.1002/nafm.10074.

Brown, R.W., M. Ebener, and T. Gorenflo. 1999. Great Lakes commercial fisheries: historical overview and prognosis for the future. In Great Lakes Fisheries Policy and Management: A Binational Perspective. Taylor, W.W., and C.P. Ferreri (Eds.). Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, MI, pp. 307-354.

Bur, M.T. 1986. Maturity and fecundity of the White Perch, Morone americana, in Western Lake Erie. Ohio Journal of Science 86(5):205–207. https://kb.osu.edu/handle/1811/23163.

Bur, M.T., and D.M. Klarer. 1991. Prey selection for the exotic cladoceran Bythotrephes cederstroemi by selected Lake Erie fishes. Journal of Great Lakes Research 17(1):85-93.

Cincotta, D. – West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Elkville.

Clearwater, S.J., C.W. Hickey, and M.L. Martin. 2008. Overview of potential piscicides and molluscicides for controlling aquatic pest species in New Zealand. Science & Technical Publishing, New Zealand Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand.

Cochran, P.A., and P.J. Hesse. 1994. Observations on the White Perch (Morone americana) early in its invasion of Wisconsin. Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts and Letters 82:23-58.

Couture, S. C. and M. C. Watzin. 2008. Diet of invasive adult White Perch (Morone americana) and their effects on the zooplankton community in Missisquoi Bay, Lake Champlain. Journal of Great Lakes Research 34(3):485-494.

Dann, S.L., and B.C. Schroeder. 2003. The Life of the Lakes: A Guide to the Great Lakes Fishery. Michigan Sea Grant, 56 pp.

Dence, W.A. 1952. Establishment of White Perch, Morone americana, in central New York. Copeia 1952(3):200-201.

Eads, C.B., J.E. Price, and J.F. Levine. 2015. Fish hosts of four freshwater mussel species in the Broad River, South Carolina. Southeastern Naturalist 14(1):85–97. https://doi.org/10.1656/058.014.0120.

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Feiner, Z.S., M.K. Brey, and C. Burgett. 2019. Consistently high trophic overlap between invasive White Perch and native Black Crappies in southeastern reservoirs. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 39(1):135-149. https://afspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/nafm.10256.

Feiner, Z.S., J.A. Rice, and D.D. Aday. 2013. Trophic niche of invasive White Perch and potential interactions with representative reservoir species. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 142(3):628-641. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00028487.2013.763854

Feiner, Z.S., J.A. Rice, A.J. Bunch, and D.D. Aday. 2013. Trophic niche and diet overlap between invasive White Perch and resident White Bass in a southeastern reservoir. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 142(4):912-919. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00028487.2013.788563.

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Author: Fuller, P., E. Maynard, D. Raikow, J. Larson, A. Fusaro, M. Neilson, and A. Bartos


Contributing Agencies:
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Revision Date: 3/24/2022


Peer Review Date: 3/24/2022


Citation for this information:
Fuller, P., E. Maynard, D. Raikow, J. Larson, A. Fusaro, M. Neilson, and A. Bartos, 2022, Morone americana (Gmelin, 1789): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, and NOAA Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System, Ann Arbor, MI, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/greatlakes/FactSheet.aspx?Species_ID=777&Potential=N&Type=0&HUCNumber=DGreatLakes, Revision Date: 3/24/2022, Peer Review Date: 3/24/2022, Access Date: 6/25/2022

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.