DALS WILDLIFE SITE { WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND}

WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND

Perch Perca fluviatilis

The perch belongs to the family Percidae and the Order Perciformes and placed in the Genus Perca. they are known as the European perch, English perch or river perch, and in many countries red fin.

The species can vary greatly in size between water bodies. they can live up to 20 years old and some older specimens are often much larger than the average perch. As far as I am aware the British record is 2.8kg {6lb.2oz}, but these are small in comparison to those that inhabit the waters of mainland Europe. In Australia perch can weigh as much as 20lbs {9kg}.

In his book, A New System of the Natural History of Quadrupeds, Birds {Fishes and Insects} published in 1791/92, Austin Clark wrote---" The Ancients were acquainted with this species and among them it was deemed as one of the first delicacies of the table. Rondeletius, and after him Cefner, blames the physicians in his time for ordering river perch to their patients in febrile disorders, after a prescription of Galenwho meant the sea perch, a fish much lighter, as he alledges and easier to digest."

" Experience, however, has shown that the distinction is made without difference; both the sea and the river perch being equally palatable and salubrious. In the time of Willoughby, the ill thoughts about the river perch had been forgotten. He approves the taste of Aufonius {English perch} in deeming the flesh of the animal a great delicacy."

" The river perch is easily caught with common earth worms or {small frogs {now illegal}, for bait, and is so voracious, that the angler, who falls in with a school of them , will some times catch the whole. The species seldom grows to a large size, being found at 5 or 6 pounds"

The Complete Angler  Published in 1897 states---- " The perch is a very good and very bold biting fish; He is one of the fishes of prey that, like the Pike, and Trout, carries his teeth in his mouth, which is very large; and he dares venture to kill and devour several other kinds of fish. He spawns but once a year, and is , by physicians  held very nutritive, yet by many , to be hard to digest."

" The perch grows slowly, yet will grow , as I have been credibly informed, to almost 2 feet long.   For an honest informer told me such a one had been taken by Sir Abraham Williams, a  gentleman of worth, and a brother of the angle { that yet he lives, and I wish he may}  this was deep bodied fish, and doubtless durst have devoured a pike of half its own length; for I have told you he is a bold fish. Except for extreme hunger, the pike will not devour a large perch, for if a Pike goes near him the fish will raise its sharp spines to valiantly defend himself."

 

                        " When thou wilt swim in that live bath,

                         Each fish, which every channel hath,

                         Most amorously to thee will swim,

                         Gladder to catch thee, than thou him" 

                          

Description of the perch.

Illustration of the perch courtesy of Duane Raver.

In the Complete Angler 1897--- The perch is described thus-- " He has a hooked or hog back, which is armed with sharp stiff bristles, and all his skin armed or covered with thick, dry hard scales and hath { which few other fish have} two fins on his back. It is found in lowland lakes and ponds and in slow running rivers"

Modern day description-------- The perch is a deep bodied fish, the perch has a green-brown back and a white cream belly. It sides are more golden in colour with 4-6 vertical dark bands. The orange red pelvic and anal fins add to its colourful appearance. The upper body may be olive brown in colour.

Two dorsal fins are sepperated from each other by a smooth space the first having spinous rays which are, the front of the v sharp and flexible.. Both jaws, the front vomer and palatal bones are armed with teeth; the tongue is smooth, and the gill "lid" is bony and terminates in a flattened point. The under gill flap is toothed behind, and as a notch below. There are seven rays in the gills and the scales are rough and hard and not easily detached from the skin. 

It feels rough to touch because the body scales are covered with small tubercles. . The perch is not a particularly active fish, it swims in schools. They may grow up to 50cm long.

Diet----Juveniles feed on invertebrates, but as adults they also feed on smaller fish and sticklebacks. .

They breed from March to June {peaking in April and May } in shallow water. They lay their eggs in a gelatinous string among aquatic plants, on submerged logs or other vegetable debris. This egg mass is generally unpalatable to other fish and hence, is generally protected from predation.The eggs develop and hatch in about a week and the young fish swim in schools in an attempt to avoid predation. It usually takes 2-6 years before they reach sexual maturity, however, some have been found to be sexually mature at one year of age. 

Perch with spiny fins at" rest"

Photograph courtesy of Tom Tetzner

For the Angler.

There follows another insight into the perception of an educated 18th Century Angler,again from the book The Complete Angler.--

" The perch is a bold biting fish, yet he  will not bite at all times of the year; he is very abstemious in winter, yet will bite then in the midst of a warm winters day, and hath been observed by some, not to bite till the mulberry tree buds, that is to say till extreme frosts be past the spring., for when the mulberry tree blossoms, many gardeners observe their forward fruit to be past danger of frosts, and some have made the like observations on the perch's biting." 

" But bite the perch will, and that very boldly, and as one has willingly observed; if there be twenty or forty in a hole; they may be at one standing all catched ,one after another, they being, as he says,like the wicked of the world, not afraid, though their fellows and companions perish in their sight. And you may observe they are not like solitary pike, but love to accompany one another, and march together in troops."

" The baits for this bold fish are not many; I mean he will ,as well as some or at any of these three, as at any or all others whatsoever, a worm, a minnow or { a little frog {now illegal} of which you may find many at hay time.; and of worm, the dung worm, called a brambling.; I take to be the best, being well scoured in moss or fennel; or he will bite at a worm that lies under a cow turd { now known more appropriately as cow pat } with a bluish head."

" And if you rove for a perch with a minnow, then it is best top be alive,you sticking the hook in his upper lip { again live bait is not allowed at many waters } and letting it swim up and down, about mid water, or a little lower, and you still keeping him to the depth by a cork which ought not to be a little one ; and the like way you are to fish for a perch, with a small frog, your hook being fastened towards the upper part of it; and lastly, I will give you but this advise; that you give the perch time enough when he bites, for there was scarce ever any angler that has given him too much"