Life history: Yellow perch spawn in spring, April and May, when water temperatures are in the mid-40s to mid-50s. This is usually about a week after walleyes spawn. Yellow perch males, which are smaller than females, move into the spawning areas first. Selected spawning sites are five to 10 feet deep in inland lakes, and over aquatic vegetation, submerged brush or along sand or gravelly shorelines. Big female perch can produce up to 100,000 eggs, but most produce 15,000 to 25,000 eggs. Spawning occurs at night and early morning. The females are accompanied by several males, which swim alongside or behind them. The eggs are deposited in a unique formâ€“a long, sticky gelatinous mass that drapes over underwater objects. The accordionlike transparent egg mass absorbs water rapidly after it is emitted and swells, sometimes reaching seven feet long and weighing up to two pounds. The egg mass is semi-buoyant and moves gently with water currents and waves. Bad weather may cause the egg mass to be torn up and washed onto land. Unlike the sunfishes, yellow perch parents do not remain to guard the nest, eggs or young.
Yellow perch eggs take eight to 25 days to hatch, or longer. The hatching time of these and other fish eggs depends on water temperature. Hatching takes longer in cool water, a shorter time in warmer water. Newly hatched yellow perch head for deep water, where they form free-swimming schools. After about a month, they return to shallower water, and like the adults, live near the bottom. Young perch feed on zooplankton and small aquatic insects, and in turn are food for larger predator fish. Small fish, including small perch, are mainstays of the adult perchâ€™s diet. Adult perch also eat aquatic insects and crustaceans.
Yellow perch typically forage during daylight hours. They feed little or not at all at night. They are active all year long, including under the ice, making them a favorite with ice fishermen, who catch them on jigging rods and tip-ups. Minnows and jigs are popular perch-getters.