The Perch family is a large and varied group that is distributed throughout much of Asia, Europe, and North America. Over 100 species are native to North America, including the Yellow Perch, the Walleye and Sauger, and the tiny Darters. The Darters are endemic to North America, but a close relative to the Yellow Perch is found in Europe, as are the Zander (or pike-perch) and the Berschick, the European equivalents of the Sauger and Walleye.
When the United States was settled by Europeans, they began calling our most common and observable species in North America, the Sunfishes, “Perch” They of coarse are not Perch but that misnaming is believed to be the reason that so many people call the true Sunfishes “Perch”. The Perches are allied to the temperate Basses, the Sunfishes, and the Drums but are not likely to be confused with them by anyone with even a passing interest in Ichthyology. The long, streamlined body, one or two spines in the anal fin, and the separate dorsal fins all help to differentiate the Perches from their relatives.
The Perch family encompasses an array of habitats and a wide range of sizes. The Walleye, being mostly a fish of lakes, is the largest of our Perches, growing on occasion to 20 pounds. The Sauger, which is mostly inhabits rivers, is a little less pretentious than its lake dwelling cousin and rarely exceeds a weight of 3 pounds. The Darters, which comprise over 100 species, are most unusual of all. Bearing a resemblance to miniature Sauger and Walleye, most Darters have a maximum length of 3 inches.