Golden Perch (2020)

Macquaria ambigua

  • Jason Earl (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Gavin Butler (New South Wales Department of Primary Industries)
  • Victorian Fisheries Authority (Victorian Fisheries Authority)
  • Steven Brooks (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Jason Thiem (New South Wales Department of Primary Industries)

Date Published: June 2021

You are currently viewing a report filtered by jurisdiction. View the full report.

Toggle content


Golden Perch is an inland species found throughout most of the Murray-Darling Basin, the Lake Eyre and Bulloo drainage systems, and the Dawson-Fitzroy River systems of southern QLD. While available evidence indicates some population structuring at both the drainage system and finer scales, differences in data availability and management arrangements among states and territories mean that this assessment is presented at the jurisdictional level. Golden Perch in QLD and NSW are classified undefined, in VIC as recovering, and in SA as sustainable.

Photo: Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales

Toggle content

Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
Queensland Queensland Undefined

Fishery independent surveys, recreational fishing survey

Toggle content

Stock Structure

Golden Perch occur throughout most of the Murray–Darling system, except at high altitudes, as well as in the Lake Eyre and Bulloo drainage systems of Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia, and the Dawson-Fitzroy river system in southern Queensland [Lintermans 2007]. Translocated fish also occur in numerous other waterways and impoundments throughout south-eastern Australia [Allen et al. 2002]. 

Golden Perch in the Murray-Darling Basin are genetically distinct from Golden Perch in the Lake Eyre, Bulloo and Fitzroy systems [Faulks et al. 2010a,b; Beheregaray et al. 2017]. Murray-Darling Golden Perch form a well-connected metapopulation with low-level basin-wide population structure, reflecting their ability to migrate and disperse long distances [Faulks et al. 2010b; Beheregaray et al. 2017; Attard et al. 2018; Zampatti et al. 2018a]. However, subtle genetic differences and regional differences in population structures driven by unique recruitment sources suggest sub-structuring across some regions. Examples include the Lower Lakes [Earl et al. 2015] and Paroo River [Attard et al. 2018], and potentially the physically disconnected and hydrologically impacted Victorian tributaries of the Murray River and some NSW tributaries of the Barwon-Darling (e.g. Lachlan River [Shams et al. 2020]). Sub-structuring is also evident in the Lake Eyre Basin [Faulks et al. 2010b]. Although genetic studies suggest the existence of several biological stocks, there are differences in management arrangements and available information in the various jurisdictions that access Golden Perch. 

To account for these differences, assessment of stock status is presented here at the jurisdictional level—Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

Toggle content

Stock Status


Golden Perch in Queensland are represented by three separately evolving metapopulation lineages [Beheregaray et al. 2017]. These lineages occur separately in the Murray–Darling Basin, Lake Eyre catchment and Fitzroy–Dawson systems. Queensland has never supported a commercial fishery for Golden Perch. However, Golden Perch are a key target for recreational fishing in Queensland and have been translocated into most south east Queensland drainages to create recreational fisheries.

It is generally accepted that native fish populations in the Murray–Darling Basin’s rivers have declined to an estimated 10 per cent of the levels before European settlement [Murray–Darling Basin Commission 2004]. The decline is thought to have resulted from a combination of flow regulation, habitat degradation, reduced water quality, barriers to movement, introduced species and overexploitation from illegal fishing [Murray–Darling Basin Commission 2004]. Recognising these declines and the importance of recreational fishing in western Queensland, Fisheries Queensland initiated the Recreational Fishing Enhancement Program in the 1980’s and commenced a stocking program. Stocking ceased in the mid 1990’s in the Lake Eyre Basin as most declines were found to be localised events due to overfishing. Monitoring found good populations of Golden Perch away from the few easily accessible locations with strong natural recruitment events. Approximately 500 000 Golden Perch are stocked elsewhere in Queensland annually with the majority being stocked into impoundments. 

Surveys of recreational angler participation and catch within Queensland were conducted in 2000, 2010, 2014 and 2019 [James Webley pers. comm., Webley et al. 2015]. Unfortunately, these surveys don’t differentiate between the three genetically separate populations of Golden Perch found in Queensland nor those stocked in impoundments. However, the estimates may provide an indication of trends. Estimates from these surveys for catch, harvest, and numbers released of Golden Perch have progressively declined over time as has angler targeted effort for this species. It was estimated that anglers harvested 262 000 ± 38 000 fish in 2000 (Henry and Lyle 2003), followed by 87 000 ±1 500 (Taylor et. al 2012) and 78 000 ± 17 000 (Webley et al. 2015) in 2010 and 2013 respectively. Initial results from the 2019 survey suggest that this has declined further to less than 10% of that in 2000 at only 20 000 fish, however this estimate must be used with caution due to a medium relative standard error and changes to sampling areas that may impact on the estimates for Golden Perch [James Webley pers. comm.]. Recent research has further demonstrated the impact anglers have on Golden Perch populations, with a strong relationship found between the mean length of Golden Perch and their proximity to population centres. As the distance from town increased so did the mean length within the population [Michael Hutchison unpub. data].

Extensive drought conditions were experienced throughout 2018, 2019 and 2020. These conditions resulted in widespread localised fish kills throughout western Queensland. Unfortunately, most of these were not well documented or quantified due to the remote locations. The impacts on the Golden Perch populations are not yet known, though Golden Perch are highly mobile enabling them to move between regions and access favourable environmental conditions [Zampatti et al. 2018].

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority Murray-Darling Basin Fish Survey (MDBFS) formerly the Sustainable Rivers Audit, fishery-independent monitoring suggest an increase in numbers in the Condamine–Balonne and Warrego rivers, whilst the population in the Paroo River is recovering after blackwater events during 2018–19. Little recent data is available on the populations in Lake Eyre Basin or the Fitzroy–Dawson river systems. Further water development and mining on the Fitzroy–Dawson may impact on Golden Perch within this catchment in the near future.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Golden Perch in Queensland is classified as an undefined stock.

Toggle content


[Roberts et al. 2008; Forbes et al. 2015; Mallen-Cooper and Stuart 2003]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Golden Perch

27 years; 640 mm TL

~225–371 mm TL; ~2–4.9 years. Variable across geographical regions. 

Toggle content


Distribution of reported commercial catch of Golden Perch.

Toggle content


Fishing methods
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method Queensland
Possession limit
Size limit
Commercial 30.70kg
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 20,000 individuals (2019-20)

Queensland – Indigenous (management methods) for more information see https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/traditional-fishing.

Victoria – Indigenous (Management Methods) A person who identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is exempt from the need to obtain a Victorian recreational fishing licence, provided they comply with all other rules that apply to recreational fishers, including rules on equipment, catch limits, size limits and restricted areas. Traditional (non-commercial) fishing activities that are carried out by members of a traditional owner group entity under an agreement pursuant to Victoria’s Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 are also exempt from the need to hold a recreational fishing licence, subject to any conditions outlined in the agreement. Native title holders are also exempt from the need to obtain a recreational fishing licence under the provisions of the Commonwealth’s Native Title Act 1993.

Toggle content

Catch Chart

Toggle content


  1. Allen, G, Midgley, S and Allen, M 2002, Field guide to the freshwater fishes of Australia. Western Australian Museum, Perth.
  2. Attard, CRM, Brauer, CJ, Sandoval-Castillo, J, Faulks, LK, Unmack, PJ, Gilligan, DM and Beheregaray, LB 2018, Ecological disturbance influences adaptive divergence despite high gene flow in golden perch (Macquaria ambigua): implications for management and resilience to climate change. Molecular Ecology, 27(1): 196–215.
  3. Australian Academy of Science 2019, Investigation of the causes of mass fish kills in the Menindee region NSW over the summer of 2018-2019.
  4. Baumgartner, LJ, Reynoldson, N and Gilligan, DM 2006, Mortality of larval Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii) and golden perch (Macquaria ambigua) associated with passage through two types of low-head weirs. Marine and Freshwater Research 57(2), 187-191.
  5. Beheregaray LB, Pfeiffer LV, Attard CRM, et al. 2017. Genome-wide data delimits multiple climate-determined species ranges in a widespread Australian fish, the golden perch (Macquaria ambigua). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution,111: 65–75.
  6. Cadwallader, PL 1978, Some causes of the decline in range and abundance of native fish in the Murray-Darling river system. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, 90: 211-224.
  7. Conron, SD, Bell, JD, Ingram, BA and Gorfine, HK 2020, Review of key Victorian fish stocks — 2019, Victorian Fisheries Authority Science Report Series No. 15, First Edition, November 2020. VFA: Queenscliff. 176pp.
  8. Crook, DA, O’Mahony, DJ, Gillanders, BM, Munro, AR, Sanger, AC, Thurstan, S and Baumgartner, LJ 2016, Contribution of stocked fish to riverine populations of golden perch (Macquaria ambigua) in the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research, 67: 1401-1409.
  9. Earl, J 2020, Assessment of the South Australian Lakes and Coorong Fishery in 2018/19. Report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2020/000208-01. SARDI Research Report Series No. 1059. 81pp.
  10. Earl, J, Ye, Q and McPhail, J 2015, Golden Perch Macquaria ambigua, in Status of South Australian Fisheries Report. South Australian Fisheries Management Series, Paper number 69. Primary Industries and Regions SA, Adelaide.
  11. Faulks, LK, Gilligan, DM and Beheregaray, LB 2010a, Clarifying an ambiguous evolutionary history: range-wide phylogeography of an Australian freshwater fish, the golden perch (Macquaria ambigua). Journal of Biogeography, 37(7): 1329–1340.
  12. Faulks, LK, Gilligan, DM and Beheregaray, LB 2010b, Islands of water in a sea of dry land: Hydrological regime predicts genetic diversity and dispersal in a widespread fish from Australia’s arid zone, the golden perch (Macquaria ambigua). Molecular Ecology, 19: 4723–4737.
  13. Ferguson, GJ and Ye, Q 2012, Stock Assessment of Golden Perch (Macquaria ambigua). Stock Assessment Report for PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. F2007/01051-1. SARDI Research Report Series No. 656. 55pp.
  14. Forbes, JP, Watts, RJ, Robinson, WA, Baumgartner, LJ, McGuffie, P, Cameron, L and Crook, DA 2016, Assessment of stocking effectiveness for Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii) and golden perch (Macquaria ambigua) in rivers and impoundments of south eastern Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research, 67: 1410-1419.
  15. Forbes, JP, Watts, RJ, Robinson, WA, Baumgartner, LJ, Steffe, AS and Murphy, JJ 2015, Recreational fishing effort, catch, and harvest for Murray cod and golden perch, in the Murrumbidgee River, Australia. North American Journal of Fisheries Management, 35(4): 649-658.
  16. Fredberg, J, Zampatti, BP and Bice, CM 2020, Chowilla Regulator 2018 vertical-slot fishway assessment. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2019/000349-1. SARDI Research Report Series No. 1065. 32pp.
  17. Giri, K and Hall, K 2015, South Australian recreational fishing survey 2013–14, Fisheries Victoria Internal Report Series No. 62, Victoria.
  18. Harris, JH, Kingsford, RT, Peirson, W and Baumgartner, LJ 2017, Mitigating the effects of barriers to freshwater fish migrations: the Australian experience. Marine and Freshwater Research, 68(4): 614-628.
  19. Henry, G and Lyle, J 2003, The National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey. (Henry, G. and Lyle, J., eds.), pp. 188.
  20. Hunt, TL and Jones, P 2018, Informing the Great Fish Stocking Debate: An Australian Case Study. Reviews in Fisheries Science & Aquaculture, 26(3): 275-308.
  21. Ingram, BA, Hunt, TL, Lieschke, J and Douglas, J 2015, Monitoring fish stockings in Victoria: 2014 native fish surveys. Recreational Fishing Grants Program Research Report. Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Queenscliff. 50 pp.
  22. Ingram, BA, Lieschke, J and Warry, F 2019, Native fish report cards - 2019. Pp. 13-40. In: 2019 Murray Codference: Conference Proceedings (Shepparton, 8th December 2019). Victorian Fisheries Authority, Melbourne.
  23. King AJ, McPhan L, Bond N, Thurgate, N 2020, Murray–Darling Basin Long Term Intervention Monitoring Project — 2018–19 Basin-scale evaluation of Commonwealth environmental water – Fish Report. Report prepared for the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Commonwealth Environmental Water Office by La Trobe University, Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems, CFE Publication 250, May 2020, 82pp.
  24. Koster, WM, Dawson, DR, Liu, C, Moloney, PD, Crook, DA and Thomson, JR 2017, Influence of streamflow on spawning‐related movements of golden perch Macquaria ambigua in south‐eastern Australia. Journal of Fish Biology, 90(1): 93-108.
  25. Lake, JS 1967a, Rearing experiments with five species of Australian freshwater fishes. I. Inducement to spawning. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 18: 137-53.
  26. Lake, JS 1967b, Rearing experiments with five species of Australian freshwater fishes. II. Morphogenesis and ontogeny. Marine and Freshwater Research, 18(2): 155-176.
  27. Lintermans, M 2007, Fishes of the Murray-Darling Basin: An introductory guide. Murray-Darling Basin Commission, Canberra.
  28. Mallen-Cooper, M and Stuart, IG 2003, Age, growth and non-flood recruitment of two potamodromous fishes in a large semi-arid/temperate river system. River Research and Applications, 19(7): 697-719.
  29. Mallen‐Cooper, M and Zampatti, BP 2018, History, hydrology and hydraulics: Rethinking the ecological management of large rivers. Ecohydrology, 11: 1965.
  30. Murphy, JJ, Ochwada-Doyle, FA, West, LD, Stark, KE and Hughes, JM 2020, The NSW Recreational Fisheries Monitoring Program - survey of recreational fishing, 2017/18. NSW DPI - Fisheries Final Report Series No. 158.
  31. Murray-Darling Basin Commission (2004) Native fish strategy for the Murray-Darling Basin 2003−2013. Murray-Darling Basin Commission, Canberra. Available at https://www.mdba.gov.au/sites/default/files/pubs/NFS-for-MDB-2003-2013.pdf.
  32. Native fish strategy for the Murray-Darling Basin 2003−2013. Murray-Darling Basin Commission, Canberra.
  33. Reid, DD, Harris, JH and Chapman, DJ 1997, NSW inland commercial fishery data analysis. Fisheries Research & Development Corporation, No. FRDC Project No 94/027, Sydney.
  34. Roberts, DT, Duivenvoorden, LJ and Stuart, IG 2008, Factors influencing recruitment patterns of golden perch (Macquaria ambigua oriens) within a hydrologically variable and regulated Australian tropical river system. Ecology of Freshwater Fish, 17(4): 577-589.
  35. Rowland, SJ 1983, The hormone-induced ovulation and spawning of the Australian freshwater fish golden perch, Macquaria ambigua (Richardson) (Percichthyidae). Aquaculture, 35: 221-238.
  36. Rowland, SJ 1996, Development of techniques for the large-scale rearing of the larvae of the Australian freshwater fish golden perch, Macquaria ambigua (Richardson, 1845). Marine and Freshwater Research, 47(2): 233-242.
  37. Shams, F, Dyer, F, Thompson, R, Duncan, RP, Thiem, JD, Enge TG and Ezaz, T 2020, Multiple lines of evidence indicate limited natural recruitment of Golden Perch (Macquaria ambigua) in the highly regulated Lachlan River. Water, 12(6): 1636.
  38. Taylor, SJ, Webley and McInnes, K 2012, 2010 Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey, Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
  39. Thiem, JD, Wooden, IJ, Baumgartner, LJ, Butler, GL, Forbes, JP and Conallin, J 2017, Recovery from a fish kill in a semi-arid Australian river: Can stocking augment natural recruitment processes? Austral Ecology, 42(2): 218-226.
  40. Thiem, JD, Wooden, IJ, Baumgartner, LJ, Butler, GL, Taylor, MD and Watts, RJ 2020, Hypoxic conditions interrupt flood-response movements of three lowland river fish species: Implications for flow restoration in modified landscapes. Ecohydrology, 13(3): 2197.
  41. Tonkin, Z, Kitchingman, A, Ingram, B, Lieschke, J. Koster, W, Lyon, J, Lutz, M and Pavlova, A 2019, Smarter stocking: a synthesis of existing data to assess native fish stocking success in Victorian rivers. . Unpublished Client Report for the Victorian Fisheries Authority. Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Heidelberg, Victoria.
  42. Walker, KF and Thoms, MC 1993, Environmental effects of flow regulation on the lower river Murray, Australia. Regulated Rivers: Research & Management, 8(1-2): 103-119.
  43. Webley, J, McInnes, K, Teixeira D, Lawson, A and Quinn, R 2015, Statewide Recreational Fishing Survey 2013–14, Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
  44. Wright, DW, Zampatti, BP, Baumgartner, LJ, Brooks, S, Butler, GL, Crook, DA, Fanson, BG, Koster, W, Lyon, J, Strawbridge, A, Tonkin, Z and Thiem, JD 2020, Size, growth and mortality of riverine golden perch (Macquaria ambigua) across a latitudinal gradient. Marine and Freshwater Research, 71(12) 1651-1661.
  45. Ye, Q, Giatas, G, Brookes, J, Furst, D, Gibbs, M, Oliver, R, Shiel, R, Zampatti, B, Aldridge, K, Bucater, L, Busch, B, Hipsey, M, Lorenz, Z, Maas, R and Woodhead, J 2020, Commonwealth Environmental Water Office Long-Term Intervention Monitoring Project 2014–2019: Lower Murray River Technical Report. A report prepared for the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office by the South Australian Research and Development Institute, Aquatic Sciences.
  46. Zampatti, B, Fanson, B, Strawbridge, A, Tonkin, Z, Thiem, J, Butler, G, Balcombe, S, Koster, W, King, A, Crook, D, Woods, R, Brooks, S, Lyon, J, Baumgartner, L and Doyle, K 2019, Basin-scale population dynamics of Golden Perch and Murray Cod: relating flow to provenance, movement and recruitment in the Murray–Darling Basin. In Murray‒Darling Basin Environmental Water Knowledge and Research Project — Fish Theme Research Report. (Eds. A Price, S Balcombe, P Humphries, A King and B Zampatti). (Centre for Freshwater Ecology, La Trobe University: Wodonga, Victoria)
  47. Zampatti, BP and Leigh SJ 2013, Effects of flooding on recruitment and abundance of golden perch (Macquaria ambigua ambigua) in the lower River Murray. Ecological Management and Restoration, 14: 135-143.
  48. Zampatti, BP, Leigh, SJ, Bice, CM and Rogers, PJ 2018, Multiscale movements of golden perch (Percichthyidae: Macquaria ambigua) in the River Murray, Australia. Austral Ecology, 43(7): 763–774.
  49. Zampatti, BP, Strawbridge, A, Thiem, JD, Tonkin, Z, Mass, R, Woodhead, J, and Fredberg, J 2018, Golden perch (Macquaria ambigua) and silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus) age demographics, natal origin and migration history in the River Murray, Australia. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide, SA.
  50. Zampatti, BP, Wilson, PJ, Baumgartner, L, Koster, W, Livore, JP, McCasker, N, Thiem, JD, Tonkin, Z and Ye, Q 2015, Reproduction and recruitment of golden perch (Macquaria ambigua ambigua) in the southern Murray–Darling Basin in 2013–2014: an exploration of river-scale response, connectivity and population dynamics. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide, SA.

Downloadable reports

Click the links below to view reports from other years for this fish.