Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Caught in Lake Mille Lacs: a yellow perch that’s blue

Dan Hanson, of Anoka, caught this 12-inch, 1.12-pound blue perch last Saturday.Isle, Minn. — Dan Hanson caught a peculiar perch while fishing the Johnson’s Portside Perch Extravaganza on Lake Mille Lacs on Saturday.

It was a yellow perch, but it lacked the typical coloring of a yellow perch.

“There was no yellow to this perch at all,” Hanson said. “It’s almost looking like a black and white fish with a blue tinge to it.” 

Hanson, of Anoka, said the 12-inch perch weighed 1.12 pounds at the weigh-in at Nitti’s Hunters Point Resort, which hosted the fishing tournament. The blue yellow perch didn’t place in the tournament, but Hanson said he’d find a place for it on the wall.

He took the fish to Rick Simonson at North Country Taxidermy in Coon Rapids, who mounted a slightly bigger yellow perch for Hanson a few years ago. That fish was attached to a piece of driftwood for decoration, and Hanson, 58, intends to have the blue fish also attached to the same piece of wood.

“You’ll be able to see the contrast between the two fish,” Hanson said, wondering why this fish was blue instead of yellow. “I have fished Mille Lacs for 20 years and have never seen one of these. I’m just trying to find some information on it because it’s such a strange thing for me.”

Simonson said he’s mounted a blue yellow perch for a customer once before.

“It was smaller, but these fish are very rare,” Simonson said.

Rick Bruesewitz, the Minnesota DNR’s Aitkin area fisheries supervisor, said it’s not a distinct subspecies of yellow perch.

“It has a genetic abnormality that creates more blue pigment,” Bruesewitz said, noting that he heard of Hanson’s catch, though he hadn’t seen it. “We have seen them before, including on Mille Lacs. It’s rare, but it does happen.”

He reviewed a photo of Hanson’s perch and remarked, “See how pale it is? It’s missing its green and yellow pigments. Even the fins are lacking that (orange) coloration that you typically see in a perch.”

Bruesewitz suggested contacting DNR research biologist Charles Anderson, who said the question about these blue fish end up in DNR’s central offices every three or four years.

“The blue perch are a color variation of regular yellow perch,” Anderson said, shedding a little bit more light. “There is a mutation, so they don’t produce one of the pigments in the skin and the result is they look rather blueish. Sometimes even their mucus will look blueish.”

Anderson said the fish tend to show up in isolated headwater drainages.

“The people that have studied this have (tended to find) little lakes in the headwaters that are known for their blue perch,” said Anderson, who himself has not conducted any research on these odd-colored perch. “It is unusual, but rare mutations do occur. It doesn’t surprise me too much.”

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