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July 21, 2008

White perch delisted as game fish

Legislation removing the white perch (Morone americana) from the list of game fish in South Carolina was enacted in June 2008. Because white perch is no longer protected as a game species, there are no limits on the taking of this fish. Additionally, nongame fish devices may be used to harvest white perch (see DNR’s Rules and Regulations for more information). This species may also be harvested and used as baitfish. The bill removing white perch from the game fish list, H.4497, was developed due to concerns raised during the Striped Bass Stakeholders Working Group, which was convened to identify ways to restore the striped bass fishery in the Santee Cooper system.

The white perch was declared a game fish in South Carolina in 1976.  It is similar in appearance to both striped bass and white bass, but is smaller than either of these two popular game species. White perch is native to coastal areas from Nova Scotia to South Carolina. Although it was historically an estuarine species, white perch has spread to freshwaters of our state’s rivers and into reservoirs. Currently this fish is found in many of South Carolina’s major river drainages in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont. This expansion is a due both to movement through fish migration structures and relocation by fishermen.

White perch has always shared feeding and habitat requirements with both striped and white bass. However, adult white perch were not historically found in the same location as juvenile striped bass, so the two did not compete for food. The expansion in the range of the white perch and the increase in abundance of this fish in our rivers and reservoirs may be impacting striped bass populations through competition.  A decline has also been noticed in white bass populations where white perch populations are increasing.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina's natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state's natural resources and its people.

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