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


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 29 Jan 2020,

Estuary Perch, Macquaria colonorum (Günther 1863)

More Info


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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).


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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

Estuary Perch, Macquaria colonorum (Günther 1863)


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37311033

Depth:0-15 m

Fishing:Recreational fish


Max Size:75 cm; 10 kg


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