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Michigan’s New Record White Perch Is So Big, It Was Initially Misidentified as a White Bass

May 23, 2024 - Blog

Sprawling Lake St. Clair is a hotspot for spring panfishing in southeast Michigan. So, Dr. Steve Smith and his friend and guide Jeremy Ullmann headed there to catch fish for the cooler on April 25. They left a public boat ramp at about 8 a.m. and ran into the lake along the St. Clair River.

“We were out just fishing for groceries,” Smith tells Outdoor Life. “We wanted good-eating panfish to fry. So, we targeted yellow perch and anything else that hit.”

Ullmann and Smith, a 70-year-old dentist from Adrian, Michigan, fished several spots through the day using ultralight spinning tackle and live minnows. They blistered the fish.

“We caught dozens of jumbo yellow perch, a lot up to 13 inches, plus some walleyes, white bass, smallmouth bass and catfish,” says Smith, a long-time local fisherman with wide-ranging fishing experience — including 53 world records (a mix of all-tackle and line-class records). “We released the smallmouths and catfish, and later I filleted 93 fish. It was a haul.”

They’d caught so many fish that by 3 p.m. they were about ready to head in. That’s when Smith hooked something so big and strong, he thought it was a smallmouth.

“I knew it was a good one, and when I pulled it up and swung it aboard the boat, I thought it was maybe a white bass, which we’d already caught that day,” he explains. “But I’ve fished there for decades, and knew it wasn’t the right colors of a white bass. It was much more silver, and I figured it had to be a giant white perch. … So we tossed it in the live well, and quit fishing for the day.”

Smith with plenty of work to do at the cleaning table. Photo courtesy of Steve Smith

The fish died in the live well, however, so the anglers put it on ice. They went fishing for walleyes the next day, but Smith couldn’t stop thinking about how large the white fish was — even as he was still uncertain about a positive species identification.

“I had a fishery biologist friend look at it a couple days later and he said it was a white bass,” Smith reported. “But I just knew it was a white perch. So I got a second opinion a few days later [and took] it to a Michigan DNR office.”

There the fish was positively identified as a whopper white perch by Cleyo Harris, a DNR fisheries biologist.

“The fish was later inspected by a group of state biologists and they all said it was a white perch,” Smith explained. “They weighed the fish, and certified it as a new state record for the species.”

Read Next: How to Catch Smallmouth Bass

Smith’s record white perch weighed 2.592 pounds and was 13.57 inches long. It tops the previous Michigan white perch record caught in 2015 by Cindy Cordo from Muskegon County’s Bear Lake.

The IGFA all-tackle white perch record is 3.5 pounds, from Wachusett Reservoir, Massachusetts, taken by Val Percuoco in Oct. 2016.

Smith left the fish at the DNR office in the event biologists wanted to do any DNA testing, though that hasn’t proved necessary He has no plans to replica mount his whopper white perch, because it’s just one of many records he’s caught over a lifetime of angling.

“I have so many other fish mounts in my house I have no place to put another one like a white perch.”

The post Michigan’s New Record White Perch Is So Big, It Was Initially Misidentified as a White Bass appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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