Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Catch of the day: Yellow perch that isn’t yellow

By Joe Albert Staff Writer

Malmo, Minn. – Dick Bassing had caught two nice perch in the
short time he had been fishing Lake Mille Lacs one morning in
December. When the third fish hit, he assumed he had another jumbo
perch.

Then it came out of the hole, and didn’t look like any perch –
or fish, for that matter – that he had caught before.

The 10-inch fish was silverish, with an iridescent blue about
it, too, said Bassing, who lives in Andover and has a cabin near
Mille Lacs. At first, he thought it might be a new species, and
that he might have a new state record.

That wasn’t to be. On the Tuesday before Christmas, Bassing
brought it to the DNR headquarters in St. Paul, where Charles
Anderson, DNR fisheries research supervisor, explained the fish was
a perch that was ‘albino for the yellow pigment and that the mucus
may contain a blue protein.’

Anderson hadn’t seen a so-called ‘blue perch,’ but the
phenomenon occurs in both walleyes and perch. At one time, there
was a blue subspecies of walleyes in Lake Erie – and people who
catch a blue perch or walleye often hope the fish they catch is
from that subspecies – but studies have shown those blue-colored
fish are the same species as regular walleyes, Anderson said.

Before Bassing headed onto the lake, a conservation officer was
at the resort from which he left. Since he caught the fish so
quickly, Bassing figured the CO still would be at the resort and
might be able to help him identify his fish.

‘He said something about a blue perch, but he had never heard of
or seen one,’ Bassing said.

Bassing said he then called the Little Falls DNR office, but
didn’t get any more information on what his fish might be. Then he
called another DNR Fisheries office and was told it might be an
exotic species, but that he should check with Anderson.

Between the Sunday he caught the fish and the Tuesday he showed
it to Anderson, Bassing figured out his catch on his own. His
secretary went on the Internet and searched for ‘blue perch’ and
came up with one caught near Madison, Wis. The story included a
photo.

‘That’s when I realized what I had caught,’ said Bassing, who,
at that point, still thought he might have a different species than
a yellow perch. ‘If that game warden hadn’t heard something
somewhere about a blue perch, I never would have known where to
start.’

Though Anderson the next day informed Bassing it wasn’t a new
species – and therefore wouldn’t be a record – he’s nonetheless
excited about his catch.

He’s having the blue perch mounted and put into a glass case
next to a regular-colored yellow perch to show the color difference
between the two.

Incidentally, the son of one of Bassing’s friend – Mitch Stone –
was fishing on Mille Lacs in February and he, too, caught a blue
perch.

Rick Bruesewitz, DNR 1837 Treaty biologist at Mille Lacs, has
seen such perch on the lake, but isn’t sure how often they
occur.

‘It hasn’t been a huge question in my mind,’ he said. ‘I have
seen batches of perch before and among them were all the
yellow-green tinted fish and occasionally you have one without that
yellow-green pigment.’

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