Estuary Perch, Macquaria colonorum (Günther 1863)


Other Names: Brackish Water Perch, Estuarine Perch, Gippsland Perch, Perch

Estuary Perch, Macquaria colonorum. Source: Rudie H. Kuiter / Aquatic Photographics. License: All rights reserved

Summary:

A very popular angling fish usually found in estuaries and in the brackish parts of coastal rivers and streams in southeastern Australia.

Identifying features: Dorsal head profile concave, lower jaw protruding beyond upper. The body is overall dark silvery-greyish to greenish-brown above, becoming paler on the sides and fading to yellowish silvery-white below, sometimes with a purplish or reddish tint on the head. The fins are darker, sometimes with a greenish tinge. Juveniles have a dark spot between the opercular spines and a similar spot on the head just behind the eye.

Estuary Perch are often confused with Australian Bass, Macquaria novemaculeata. Adding to this confusion, the two species hybridise, especially in the Snowy River and Gippslands region in eastern Bass Strait, Victoria (Shaddick et al. 2011).


Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J., 2017, Macquaria colonorum in Fishes of Australia, accessed 18 Oct 2018, http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/4657

Estuary Perch, Macquaria colonorum (Günther 1863)

More Info


Distribution

Endemic to coastal rivers and estuaries of southeastern Australia, from the Richmond River, New South Wales to the Murray River, South Australia, including coastal rivers in Bass Strait, Victoria, and south to the Arthur and Ansons rivers, Tasmania. Reported introductions into Western Australia were unsuccessful.

Adults inhabit brackish water, preferring the upper reaches of estuaries and the lower tidal reaches of coastal lakes, rivers and streams in areas with low salinity. Juveniles occasionally enter freshwater. Adults migrate to the mouths of estuaries to spawn during winter.

In Victoria, Estuary Perch are abundant in coastal stream systems along the entire coast. Although also historically abundant in Port Phillip and Western Port, the species is now less common in these bays.

Features

Dorsal fin VIII-IX, I, 8-11; Anal fin III, 7-9; Pectoral fin 12-16; Pelvic fin I, 5; Lateral line scales 48-55; Vertebrae 25. 

Body elongate-oval, compressed laterally, greatest body depth 2.3-3.0 in SL; dorsal profile evenly arched from nape to tail; dorsal head profile concave; snout tapered, moderately long; eye moderately large, positioned laterally; mouth terminal, large, oblique; gape extending to below middle of eye; lower jaw protruding; teeth in jaws minute, villiform; vomer and palatines with fine teeth; preorbital and suborbital bones finely serrated; preoperculum finely serrated behind, with coarse forwardly-directed spines below; operculum with two spines, lower larger, fairly broad.

Scales mostly ctenoid, moderate sized; scales present on cheeks and opercula; snout without scales; 26-32 scales in horizontal row; lateral line complete, follows dorsal profile and continues on to base of caudal fin.

Single dorsal fin consisting of anterior spinous and posterior soft portions separated by moderate notch, 4th spine longest; anal fin opposite soft part of dorsal fin, with 3 stout spines; pectoral fins somewhat pointed, upper rays longer than lower rays; pelvic fins inserted just behind base of pectoral fins; caudal fin moderately forked.

Size

To 75 cm and 10 kg, commonly to 40 cm and 3 kg.

Colour

Dark grey to olive-green, silvery on back, paler to yellowish-white below; head sometimes with a purplish or reddish tint; fins generally dark greenish.

Juveniles below about 11 cm have a dark spot between opercular spines and similar spot on head just behind eye.

Feeding

Carnivore - feeds on small fishes, shrimps and other crustaceans, bivalve molluscs and worms, mostly taken on or near the bottom. 

Biology

Spawns during in the mouths of estuaries, rivers and streams during winter and spring, in water temperatures of 14-19ºC. In Gippsland, Victoria, Estuary Perch usually begin spawning during July, whereas those in western Victoria do not usually spawn until mid October to early November. Females lay their eggs on submerged rocks and at the base of  aquatic plants.

Males mature at 22 cm SL and females at 28 cm. Fecundity is high, and increases with the length of the females. 

Eggs are 1.3-2.4 mm diameter, round, non-adhesive and semi-buoyant.

Larvae hatch after 2-3 days. Larval development is described in Trnski et al. (2005).

Fisheries

This popular angling fish can be caught year round by recreational anglers in all Australian states. Estuary Perch are most easily caught at or after dusk on worms, live shrimp or prawns, insects such as grasshoppers, small fish, crabs and lures.

The flesh is reportedly good eating.

Historically, Estuary Perch were targeted commercially with seine nets during their winter spawning migrations. The species is now protected from commercial fishing.

Sometimes there are limits on the number and size of Estuary Perch that can be caught. Please consult the websites of the relevant State government departments for the latest information.

Conservation

Estuary Perch are now protected from commercial fishing.

The recent decline in numbers of Estuary Perch is likely due to a combination of factors such as overfishing, habitat change, flood mitigation work and water pollution.

Remarks

Molecular studies have shown that the Estuary perch does not belong in the genus Macquaria. The species also hybridizes with  the Australian Bass, M. novemaculeata (Shaddick et al. 2011a)

Similar Species

Similar to the Australian Bass, Macquaria novemaculeata, differing in having a concave head profile, a lighter and more silvery body, and white anterior dorsal fin rays. 

Etymology

Macquaria is named for the Macquarie River in New South Wales. The species name colonorum means 'from the mountains', possibly in reference to the winter spawning migrations.

Species Citation

Lates colonorum Gnther, 1863, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (3)11(17): 114. Type locality: Victoria.

Author

Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J., 2017

Estuary Perch, Macquaria colonorum (Günther 1863)

References


Allen, G.R. 1989. Freshwater fishes of Australia. T.F.H. Publications, Inc., Neptune City, New Jersey.

Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. and Allen, M. 2002. Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Western Australian Museum, Perth, Western Australia.

Beckman, D.C. 1999. Effect of salinity on hatchability and early development of estuary perch (Macquaria colonorum). B.Sc. Honours Thesis, Deakin University, Warrnambool, Victoria.

Brown, P. & Neira, F.J. 1998. Percichthyidae: basses, perches, cods (pp 259-265). In Larvae of temperate Australian fishes: laboratory guide for larval fish identification. Neira, F.J., Miskiewicz, A.G. & Trnski, T. (eds) University of Western Australia Press, Perth.

Cadwallader, P.L. & Backhouse, G.N. 1983. A Guide to the Freshwater Fish of Victoria. Melbourne: F.D. Atkinson Government Printer 249 pp.

Grant, E.M. 2002. Guide to Fishes. Redcliffe: E.M. Grant Pty. Limited 9th ed 880 pp. (p. 815, in part).

Günther, A. 1863. On new species of fishes from Victoria, South Australia. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (3)11(17): 114

Harris, J.H. & Rowland, S.J. 1996. Family Percichthyidae: Australian freshwater cods and basses (pp 150-163). In McDowall, R.M. (ed.) Freshwater fishes of south-eastern Australia. Reed Books, Chatswood, New South Wales.

Howell, T. 1999. Diet and growth of estuary perch (Macquaria colonorum) in the Hopkins River. Honours Thesis, Deakin University, Australia

Howell, T., Laurenson, L.J., Myers, J.H. and Jones, P.L. 2004. Spatial, temporal and size-class variation in the diet of estuary perch (Macquaria colonorum) in the Hopkins River, Victoria, Australia. Hydrobiologia 515(1-3): 29-37.

Jerry, D.R., M.S. Elphinstone & P.B. Baverstock. 2001. Phylogenetic relationships of Australian members of the family Percichthyidae inferred from mitochondrial 12s rRNA sequence data. Mol. Phylog. Evol. 18: 335−347.

Jerry, D.R., Raadik, T.A., Cairns, S.C. & Baverstock, P.R. 1999. Evidence for natural interspecific hybridization between the Australian bass (Macquaria novemaculeata) and estuary perch (M. colonorum). Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 50: 661–666.

Kirwin, M.L. 2000. Age and growth of estuary perch, Macquaria colonorum (Perciformes: Percichthyidae) in the Bemm River, Eastern Victoria. Marine and Freshwater Resources Institute Internal Report No. 16.

MacDonald, C.M. 1978. Morphological and biochemical systematics of Australian freshwater and estuarine percichthyid fishes. Aust. J. Mar. Freshwat. Res. 29(5): 667-698 figs 1-11

McCarraher, D.B. & J.A. McKenzie. 1986. Observations on the distribution, growth, spawning and diet of estuary perch (Macquaria colonorum) in Victorian waters. Arthur Rylah Inst. Environ. Res. Tech. Rep. Ser. 42.

Merrick, J.R. & Schmida, G.E. 1984.Australian Freshwater Fishes Biology and Management. Sydney: J.R. Merrick 409 pp.

Near, T.J., Sandel, M., Kuhn, K.L., Unmack, P.J., Wainwright, P.C. & Smith, W.L. 2012. Nuclear gene-inferred phylogenies resolve the relationships of the enigmatic pygmy sunfishes, Elassoma (Teleostei: Percomorpha). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 63: 388–395.

Schwartz, T.S. & Beheregaray, L.B. 2008. Using genotype simulations and Bayesian analyses to identify individuals of hybrid origin in Australian bass: lessons for fisheries management. Journal of Fish Biology 72: 435–450.

Schwartz, T.S., Jenkins, F. & Beheregaray, L.B. 2005. Microsatellite DNA markers developed for the Australian bass (Macquaria novemaculeata) and their cross amplification in estuary perch (Macquaria colonorum). Molecular Ecology Notes 5: 519–520.

Shaddick, K., Burridge, C.B., Jerry, D.R., Schwartz, T.S., Truong, K., Gilligan, D.M. & Beheregaray, L.B. 2011. A hybrid zone and bidirectional introgression between two catadromous species: Australian bass Macquaria novemaculeata and estuary perch Macquaria colonorum. Journal of Fish Biology 79: 1214-1235.

Shaddick, K., Gilligan, D.M., Burridge, C.P., Jerry, D.R., Truong, K. & Beheregaray, L.B. 2011. Historic divergence with contemporary connectivity in a catadromous fish, the estuary perch (Macquaria colonorum). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 68: 304-318.

Trnski, T. 2002. Behaviour of settlement-stage larvae of fishes with an estuarine juvenile phase: in situ observations in a warm-temperate estuary. Marine Ecology Progress Series 242: 205−214.

Trnski, T., Hay, A.C. & Fielder, D.S. 2005. Larval development of estuary perch (Macquaria colonorum) and Australian bass (M. novemaculeata) (Perciformes: Percichthyidae), and comments on their life history. Fishery Bulletin 103: 183-194. http://fishbull.noaa.gov/1031/trns.pdf

van der Meulen, D.E., C.T. Walsh, M.D. Taylor & C.A. Gray. 2014. Habitat requirements and spawning strategy of an estuarine-dependent fish, Percalates colonorum. Marine and Freshwater Research 65: 218–227. Abstract

Walsh, C.T. 2012. Ecology and movement behaviour of two co-occurring estuary-dependent fishes, Macquaria colonorum and M. novemaculeata. Ph.D. thesis, School of Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong. http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/3650/  

Walsh, C.T., C.A. Gray, R.J. West, D.E. van der Meulen & L.F.G. Williams. 2010. Growth, episodic recruitment and age truncation in populations of a catadromous percichthyid, Macquaria colonorum. Marine and Freshwater Research 61: 397–407.  

Walsh, C.T., C.A. Gray, R.J. West & L.F.G. Williams. 2011. Reproductive biology and spawning strategy of the catadromous percichthyid, Macquaria colonorum (Günther, 1863). Environmental Biology of Fishes 91(4): 471-486. 

Walsh, C.T., Reinfelds, I.V., Gray, C.A., West, R.J., van der Meulen, D.E. & Craig, J.R. 2012. Seasonal residency and movement patterns of two co-occurring catadromous percichthyids within a south-eastern Australian river. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 21: 145–159.  

Walsh, C.T., Reinfelds, I.V., Ives, M.C., Gray, C.A., West, R.J. & van der Meulen, D.E. 2013. Environmental influences on the spatial ecology and spawning behaviour of an estuarine-resident fish, Macquaria colonorum. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 118: 60–71.

Williams, J., Hindell, J.S., Jenkins, G.P. Tracey, S., Hartmann, K. & Swearer, S.E. 2017. The influence of freshwater flows on two estuarine resident fish species show differential sensitivity to the impacts of drought, flood and climate change. Environmental Biology of Fish. doi:10.1007/s10641-017-0632-z Abstract

Williams, N.R. 1970. A comparison of two species of the genus Percalates Ramsey and Ogilby (Percomorphi : Macquariidae), and their taxonomy. NSW State Fisheries Bulletin 11: 1–61.

Quick Facts


CAAB Code:37311033

Depth:0-15 m

Fishing:Recreational fish

Habitat:Estuarine

Max Size:75 cm; 10 kg

Native:Endemic

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map