Among New York's popular sport fish are three members of the perch family-yellow perch, walleye, and sauger. The colorful little darters are members of this family, but these small, nongame fish are not often encountered. Walleye are currently managed with specific regulations on size, creel limits, and seasons; in some waters, sauger have a season concurrent with walleye. Because these fish are similar in appearance, anglers must identify their catch correctly to apply the proper regulations and to avoid unintentional violations of fish and wildlife laws.
Fishes within the perch family have fins with both soft rays and stiff spines. The dorsal fin, located in the middle of the back, is divided into two sections; the front section is spiny and the rear section is soft rayed. The anal fin has two spines in front.
Perch family members are readily distinguished from trout and salmon because perch lack an adipose fin, the small fatty fin located on the back of trout and salmon between the dorsal and tail fins. Further, they have a two-part dorsal fin, the first of which is spiny, unlike trout and salmon (Salmonidae) or pike and pickerel (Esocidae), both of which have single, soft-rayed dorsal fins. Fishes within the Percidae can be distinguished from members of the sunfish family (Centrarchidae) by two characters: (1) the two sections of the dorsal fin are distinctly separated in Percid fishes, not continuous, and (2) Percids have two or fewer anal fin spines, not three or more as occurs in sunfish.