While many anglers pursue striped bass, white bass, and their hybrids, smaller members of the genus Morones - temperate bass - often go unnoticed despite offering outstanding angling opportunities as well as excellent table fare.
Yellow bass (Morone mississippiensis) are similar in appearance to white bass, but they have a brassy yellow tinge along with differences in the pattern of stripes, which is often useful in distinguishing between these species. Yellow bass occur across much of the Central U.S. and have been introduced in many places outside their native range. They are typically viewed as a large-river fish and are abundant in portions of the Mississippi River and its tributaries; but expansive populations also exist in many lake and reservoir settings.
In the Upper Midwest, yellow bass typically spawn during April and May, when water temperatures are between 65°F and 75°F. In many populations, yellows rarely exceed 7 inches in length and weigh less than a pound, but certain waters consistently produce fish exceeding a pound. A schooling species, yellows feed heavily on small baitfish. Much like their larger cousins, schools of yellow bass can often be easily located while they attack schools of minnows or small shad near the surface.
Don't let their subordinate stature fool you. Yellow bass are a wild ride on light tackle and they readily take small jigs, crankbaits, and spinners that would also be effective for crappies and white bass. Casting small topwaters over a pack of feeding fish is an exciting approach. Fifty- to 100-fish days aren't uncommon when schools of yellows corral baitfish near the surface.
Some anglers also target suspended schools of yellow bass through the ice. Traditional ice-fishing panfish gear is effective. Locate yellows and more often than not they're ready to rumble. If you savor the flavor of white and striped bass, yellow bass are a welcome addition to the table. The reddish meat found on portions of the fillets can be fishy in taste but easily removed before cooking.
White perch (Morone americana) are native to the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. but have been widely introduced outside their native range. Their numbers have become excessively abundant in certain portions of the Great Lakes and other waters outside their native range. In some situations, their abundance and small size have become problematic to native fishes and anglers alike. They can outcompete native fishes for resources and, in some instances, have been associated with declines in native gamefishes like walleyes. White perch also can cause problems by hybridizing with their larger cousin, the white bass.
The average size of white perch is too small to attract a following from anglers in many introduced populations, but they are highly edible. Commercial fisheries for them exist on portions of the Great Lakes. White perch are often listed as "lake perch" on restaurant menus.
White perch rarely exceed 10 inches in length, and in many populations, individuals longer than 7 inches are rare. The species has the same general body form and spiny demeanor of their nearest relatives, but generally lack the distinctive stripes along their flanks that are typical of the Morone genus. White perch often make large-scale spawning migrations during April and May and are often considered semi-anadromous in their native waters, where spawning can occur in both fresh and brackish waters. They are schooling fish that often prey on small fishes.
Like yellow bass, white perch are readily caught on small jigs and lures that might typically be used for crappies or white bass. In certain lakes and reservoirs, they seem less disposed to surface feeding (although this behavior can still be common) and they often are suspended around large schools of baitfish. In these situations, fishing small panfish-sized crankbaits, or vertical jigging with 2- to 3-inch curlytails or tubes, can be effective for connecting with numbers of fish.
Despite their agreeable attitude and tasty fillets, populations of yellow bass and white perch remain largely unexploited, probably due to their smaller size. Harvest regulations often are liberal. In many introduced populations, harvest is encouraged, but live transport of these species often is illegal in an effort to prevent their spread to new waters. These species offer an exceptional opportunity to introduce someone to sport of fishing, as the action can be fast and furious, and the table fare outstanding.
Daniel Isermann, assistant professor of fisheries at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, has handled legions of yellow bass and white perch as both angler and scientist.