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Walleye

a man holds a big walleye with a lure in its mouth over a fishing net

Scientific Name

Stizostedion vitreum

Common Names

Walleye, Pickerel, Yellow Pickerel, and Walleye Pike

General Information

Most fishermen consider the walleye one of the best tasting of all the freshwater fish. The flesh is mild, white and flaky when cooked up, and tastes much like yellow perch.

Walleye are on top of the predator list in our waters, and one can easily see why by their wickedly sharp teeth. These fish inhabit much of North America, but don’t do well in really warm water. 70°F/21°C is about as warm as they like it. They will seek cooler water if the temperature rises much higher. They also don’t like water that is extremely cold all year. This is why they do so well in our waters. In addition, light penetration affects their habits. Look for them mid day when the light doesn’t penetrate as much.

Walleye are very migratory, and will travel great distances to find the right conditions – temperature, food, and spawning grounds.

Description

a man wearing sunglasses holds a large walleyeThe walleye has two dorsal fins, the first back of the fish’s head is full of incredibly sharp spines. There are usually between 12 to 16 spines. The second dorsal has mainly soft rays, with usually one or maybe two ridged rays in the front. The tail fin of the walleye has a unique distinguishing feature true only to walleye. The bottom tip of the tail has a white, elongated spot, which can be white to creamy white. The only portion of its body that is not covered with scales is the tender cheeks. This is the only fresh water fish that is not covered, nose to tail, with scales.

Walleye have two very large eyes, from which the fish derives its name. The walleye can see many colours but is colour blind to some. The walleye has a light reflecting membrane called a tapetum lucidum. This special feature helps the walleye see quite remarkably at night and during low light times.

Reproduction

Walleye spawn in the early spring, right after ice out, and are very prolific at spawning. The walleye lays more eggs per pound of body weight than any other fish. They lay their eggs on gravel shoals or rock beds of lakes and streams and the males are usually found at the spawning beds before the females. After spawning, walleye have a short rest period. After three to tens days they will start feeding with a vengeance. This will last up to a month in our lakes.

Eating Habits

In addition to phenomenal sight, they also make use of superb hearing, both from ears in its head and it’s remarkable radial line. A walleye can hear a single minnow up to 20 feet (6m) away, and tell if it’s acting normally, crippled, or sick. Its great sense of smell also helps him find and capture food.

The walleye is also an opportunist and will eat voraciously during the warm summer months. As a young fish, it eats primarily insects but will switch to minnows and smaller fish as it gets bigger.