When white perch are mentioned, there are two types of anglers – those that consider them nuisance fish and those who love them. Most people I met growing up in Rochester didn’t think too highly of them. They are commonly referred to as “silver bass,” although white bass are also lumped in under this name. When I was a young angler in the 1970s and 80s, they were super abundant in Irondequoit Bay and Lake Ontario. Even my home stream, Irondequoit Creek, used to get a little run of them in the spring. In the Finger Lakes, they are most commonly found in Otisco Lake. There are also some in Cayuga Lake and in the past they were documented in Seneca Lake, although I’ve never heard of one being caught there. Oneida and Onondaga Lakes are still full of them. Numbers in the Lake Ontario watershed have diminished in recent years since the invasive zebra and quagga mussels became established.
Throughout the rest of the United States – particularly in Maine and Pennsylvania, as well as some coastal areas, they are well-regarded as a sport fish and food fish. They are a good eating fish – they fillet up easily and have a mild flavor, which is what most fish-eaters tend to like. Part of the reason that they had a poor reputation around Lake Ontario was that they were often stunted. They tend to over-populate and often steal or hit bait intended for other species.
I have no idea whether Cayuga Lake has a reproducing population of them. The Seneca River (Cayuga Lake’s outlet) is full of them and my guess is that most of the ones that find their way into Cayuga Lake swim in via the locks. They school up a lot and aggressively hit lures like bladebaits and tail-spinners (like Mann’s Little George.) I’ve had fun with them in Cross Lake in the past.