Perch vs Bluegill – What Is The Difference

By Get Fishing •  Published: 03/17/23 •  8 min read

Chances are, if you’re in Bluegill territory, you’re also in Perch territory. Bluegill and Perch are some of the most popular game fish in North America across anglers of all ages and expertise levels. These fish aren’t just fun to catch; they’re unique. We’re here to focus on what makes them special. Find out how to tell the difference between perch vs bluegill.

Perch vs Bluegill

Is a Perch the Same as a Bluegill?

The short answer is, no. Perch and Bluegill are not the same fish.

In this post we’re referring to the Yellow Perch, Perca flavescens, and the Bluegill, Lepomis machrochirus. Both are freshwater fish that have native territory in the United States. However, they are different species and belong to different families.  

What’s the Difference Between Yellow Perch vs Bluegill?

For starters, these fish are from two different families. The Yellow Perch belongs to the Percidae family whereas the Bluegill belongs to the Sunfish family. This division makes them completely different species.

Perch and Bluegill both have unique coloration and distinct features, making it easy to tell them apart if you happen to come across a pair. While their habitats do overlap, they also have unique preferences that we’ll touch upon below. 

What is a Yellow Perch?

yellow perch

Yellow Perch are also referred to simply as perch, preachers, or striped perch. They’re a popular game fish in North America. Perch are also known to be bony fish, but still considered good eating. The Yellow Perch in particular stands out due to its noticeable coloration.

Yellow Perch can be caught in pretty much any North American season, and are popular in ice fishing. 

What is a Bluegill? 


Bluegill belong to the Sunfish family, and are also known as an awesome panfish. That means they’re the perfect size for frying up. Being a potential item on the menu makes them a favorite of fishermen all throughout North America, as they have a wide range. 

Other factors playing into their popularity include heavy populations, hard hits, and enthusiasm no matter what bait you have on the line. Bluegill are a great starter fish for new anglers of all ages and can be fun to track down, as they’re not too picky about habitat. 

How to Tell the Difference Between Bluegill vs Yellow Perch

how to tell the difference between yellow perch and bluegill

The most obvious way to tell these two fish apart is their appearance. Here are some of the key things to pay attention to if you’re trying to figure out what fish is on your line:

Short and sweet. Let’s dig into each item more to outline what exactly you want to look for when comparing these two species. 

Yellow Perch vs Bluegill Size Differences

The average size of a Yellow Perch is anywhere from 7-8 inches, but depending on the habitat, they can reach up to 20 inches.

Bluegill, on the other hand, are often on the smaller side compared to the Perch. Most Bluegill will range on the smaller side of 4-12 inches, but it isn’t uncommon to find larger fish in stocked ponds where conditions let them practically double in size.    

Yellow Perch vs Bluegill Shape Differences

What does shape have to do with anything? A quick glance at a Perch and Bluegill side by side will give it away. 

Perch have more elongated, streamlined bodies that are thicker. They also have a blunt nose and long lower jaw. Bluegill, on the other hand, are closer to a disc-shape and have thinner bodies. Their mouths are small. 

Yellow Perch vs Bluegill Dorsal Spines

Yellow Perch have two dorsal fins, the first being much larger than the second. The first dorsal fin, which looks like a fan, has 12-14 spines. The second has only 2-3 spines.

The Bluegill has fewer spines and only one long dorsal fin with a rounded tip. Their dorsal fine has anywhere from 9-11 spines, but on average has only 10.

Yellow Perch vs Bluegill Anal Fin Spines

Perch have 2 spines on their anal fins and Bluegill have 3. 

Yellow Perch vs Bluegill Coloration Differences

Now the fun part! These two fish have such distinct coloration. 

At first glance the Yellow Perch might not seem like much to look at, however, on closer inspection you’ll notice the vertical barred pattern over their body. This pattern is a darker color than the yellow/yellow-green base color. Fins can vary from yellow to a silvery white. 

Bluegill have really earned their name. This fish is a beautiful blue-purple color, darker along the dorsal side and lighter at the belly. They have bright orange or yellow breasts and green/blue-green gills. 

Where Can You Find Bluegill? 

Bluegill are known for being incredibly prolific. This species is one of the most widespread Sunfish species in the United States. They can be found down the east coast, west into Texas, into northern Mexico, northwest into Minnesota and back east to New York. These fish are so popular that they’ve been introduced in countries such as South Africa and Asia. 

Bluegill Fishing Tips

What Is A Bluegill

Look for Bluegill in highly vegetated areas. They love shallow water in lakes and ponds, but can also be found in streams and rivers. You can fish for Bluegill from the shore or in a boat; just stick to the shallows. Bluegill will hide near underwater structures such as submerged logs. They prefer temperate water, but will stay out of direct sunlight.

When it comes to bait, Bluegill aren’t picky. However, keep in mind that they have small mouths. In their natural habitat these fish go after mayflies, dragonflies, crayfish, worms, snails, and other small fish. They go after live bait just as eagerly as they’ll go after lures, so there’s truly no limit to the imagination! Give a few different soft plastics or life-like lures a try in your neighborhood and see what they respond best to. 

Where Can You Find Yellow Perch? 

The only place in the US that Perch aren’t native is in the northwest and west. However, they’ve been introduced out that way thanks to their popularity, so you still have a good chance of finding them in north/northwest water sources.

Perch naturally inhabit lakes, but can also be found in rivers, streams, and ponds. Unlike the Bluegill, these fish prefer marshy areas close to the shore. They don’t mind a wide variety of water temperatures and are active in any season, making them a fun fish to try ice fishing with!

Yellow Perch Fishing Tips

What is a yellow perch

Once you’ve found the ideal Yellow Perch habitat in your area, you’ll want to focus on gear and bait. Yellow Perch are enthusiastic fish with small, sharp teeth, so you’ll need line that can hold up to their bite. Keep in mind that they can also get quite large.

In terms of bait, Yellow Perch have a diverse diet. They’ll respond to live bait but will also go after soft plastic worms, minnows, curl tail grubs, hard lures that resemble crayfish, and any lure used for Bass is sure to attract them! 

Do Yellow Perch Eat Bluegill? 

There’s not really a clear, ‘for sure’ answer for this question, but it’s likely a yes. Perch are predatory fish and will happily eat other, smaller fish. If they come across Bluegill fry or juveniles, it’s almost a guarantee that they’d swallow a few down. However, many anglers stock their ponds with Perch and Bluegill, insisting that as long as there’s other food around, the two species leave each other alone. 

Do Bluegill Eat Yellow Perch? 

It’s unlikely that Bluegill will eat Yellow Perch, but if they come across fry, they may give them a try. Bluegill aren’t picky eaters and love minnows in particular–so juvenile fish of any species and that small size may end up a snack. 


Hopefully by now you’re enraptured with both the Bluegill and Yellow Perch! As we’ve shown, though not related, both are very special fish. They often cross territories and habitats, and catching one of each out on a trip would be a treat. Happy fishing!

Keep Reading