perch, common name for some members of the family Percidae, symmetrical freshwater fishes of N Europe, Asia, and North America. The perches belong to the large order Perciformes (spiny-finned fishes) and are related to the sunfishes and the sea basses. The best-known North American species is the yellow, or lake, perch (Perca flavescens), a popular game and food fish abundant in lakes and large streams, where it feeds on insects, crayfish, and small fish and grows to an average length of 1 ft (30 cm) and weight of 1 lb (.5 kg). The voracious walleye, or walleyed pike (Sander vitreus), another member of the family, is darker and larger (up to 10 lb/4.5 kg). Very similar to the walleye but slenderer and smaller is the sauger, or sand pike (S. canadensis). The native American darters (2–3 in/5–8 cm), found E of the Rockies, are widespread and of many species, most of them brilliantly colored. Of separate families are the pirate perch, a chubby little fish of sluggish streams and bayous (family Aphredoderidae), and the trout perch, a small fish abundant in the Great Lakes (family Percopsidae). See also surfperch. Perches are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Actinopterygii, order Perciformes, family Percidae.

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