The walleye is the name of a largely opaque and blind-looking fish. They have a large reflective surface on their body and their eyes. Their eyes give an advantage to them over other fish and allow them to find their prey in the darkness.
Walleyes are freshwater fish from the family of perch. They are very popular among the anglers and are a stocked game fish. Walleyes are thin and long. Usually, they are olive and gold in color with a white belly.
The back is crossed with black bands (five or more). They have a spiny and soft-rayed dorsal fin. They have sharp teeth and a large mouth, and they also have naturally built night vision which allows them to catch their prey at night with ease.
Walleyes are not as long as other fish species but still in their lifetime, they can reach up to 2.5 to 3 feet in length and can weigh up to 5 to 9 kilograms.
Regardless of all this, their most interesting feature is their eyesight. Walleyes are fascinating fish, and to learn about such a fish will be a fantastic thing.
What Is A Walleye Fish?
A walleye is an edible fish that is a member of the perch family. They usually grow more than 30 inches and weigh over 10 pounds. The walleyes typically live up to the age of six to eight years.
They usually eat during the dawn and dusk of every day. Their favorite food is emerald shiners, spot tail shiners, crappie, yellow perch, bluegills, crayfish, bullheads, etc.
These fish are the favorite diet of adult walleyes. But, the juveniles usually survive on marine invertebrates, zooplankton, and other juvenile fish.
The spawning process for walleyes happens in spring. Usually, when the ice has just melted and the water temperature is somewhere from 40 to 50 F, walleyes spawn.
However, the spawning happens on the riffles after the fish have gone up the stream. But it may also occur in the lakes near the reef and dams. They don’t build nests, nor do their parents take care of the fry or the eggs.
Instead, the female walleyes may lay up to 495,000 eggs over the stony shoals, and then two more males come to fertilize the eggs by releasing their milt.
The surface of the eggs is very sticky, so they stick to the surface of the rocks and the gravel. Their hatching takes from five days to two weeks.
Male walleyes mature faster than female walleyes; the male walleyes mature in two to four years but, the female walleyes mature in three to five years.
Walleyes are native to North America and Canada. They are usually found in Missouri River basins, Great lakes, Rocky Mountains, and similar places.
These fish are usually happy in quiet, calm waters and reservoirs. They are usually nocturnal during the morning and are usually found under the shades of trees, roots, and aquatic plants because they like to travel and come out at night.
Where Are Walleye Found?
If you are interested in walleyes, then it is essential to learn about their habitat. Learning about their habitat also helps in successfully fishing the walleyes. The more you know about them, the more you are going to enjoy catching them.
The scientific name of the walleye is Sander Vitreous or Stizostedion vitreum. The walleyes are scattered across the wide strips of North America and from the Arctic to most areas in Canada.
Then from St. Lawrence to the Great Lakes, they are also found in the Mississippi Rivers near the gulf ranges of the Mississippi and Alabama.
Stocking of walleyes happens in the Atlantic Coast near the drainages in Vermont to South Carolina. It is found in almost every area except in California.
Walleyes are found in lakes and medium-large rivers. This is because they live and survive well in shallow places in turbid conditions. Walleyes are very selective of their surroundings.
The way they behave depends on the seasons, water temperature, the time of the day, and food availability. Even though they are cold-water fish, they can survive in temperatures from 32 to 90 F. (but they are happiest when the water is the temperature of their liking.
The lake walleyes spend most of their time at the bottom of the lake in the daytime and stay in the shadows until dusk. Only when the night comes upon them is when they come out to feed.
Similarly, the river walleyes spend the whole day near holes or the drop-offs so they could escape the sunlight, and then they move out of the shadows during the darkness. Unfortunately, these fish also like to stay near the dam and the primary current.
Although walleyes like their surroundings to be sandy, full of gravel, or rocky, regardless of their location, they will also use weed beds or fallen trees to stay undercover during the day. Their choice of habitat is one thing that extinguishes them from most other fish.
Walleye Fun Facts
Walleyes are potamodromous creatures and hence different from other species. Here are some interesting walleye facts which will help you in identifying and catching them quickly.
- Walleyes are one of the fish which can live the longest; they can live up to 20 years because they grow at a slow rate. They usually live in the northern areas where the temperature is cold.
- They have more than thousands of taste buds in their lips, giving them the correct taste of what they eat.
- Canyon Ferry has the most walleyes in it. This is because the walleyes of Canyon Ferry eat more perch every year than humans.
- Walleyes eat about 750,000 pounds of perch each year, which means that the ratio of perch to walleye is four pounds per perch.
- Some people think that walleyes have a soft mouth. This is not true, walleye’s mouth has such a hard and brittle shell that hooks and lures easily break out of their mouth, which gives the impression that their mouth is soft.
- Walleyes don’t like to go into deep waters. Their limit is usually 60 feet and won’t go deeper than that.
- Most of the time, walleyes are found 20 to 60 feet deep. They depend on the bait, temperature of the water, time of the day, and oxygen in the water. If all the conditions are suitable, then they stay near water’s surface.
- Many reservoirs have a very less ideal situation for walleye spawning. That is why the government stocks and rears more than 40 million walleyes every year.
- Most of those walleyes are fry of the size of mosquitos (almost 90%). But, the biologists also have to take care that they don’t overstock the walleyes because it can stunt the growth of the fish.
- Walleyes are very fertile. The female walleye can lay more than 600,000 eggs per year.
- Walleyes are hardy fish, they can travel more than 50 miles in a single night, and they are fast and versatile. They would even travel several miles in search of food and their favorite water temperatures.
- Walleyes got their name because of their large glossy eyes. The opaque quality of their eyes comes from a pigment that is reflective and is called Tapetum Lucidum. This pigment is in their inner eye.
- The remarkable thing about this pigment is that it allows the walleyes to see their prey in murky waters and at night.
- The best walleye fishing season is usually summers because of the prey which walleye likes to eat spawn in summers (like perch and other fish).
- The young perch is an ideal food for walleyes, and they enjoy eating them until midsummer. This is what causes the walleyes to attract any lure and bait they see aggressively.
- Another ideal time to catch walleye is winter because by then, the fish numbers have declined, and walleyes roam freely in the waters; this increases the chance of walleyes getting caught.
- The amazing thing about walleyes is that even though they themselves belong to the perch family (Percidae), they still love to eat perch.
Diet For Walleye
Walleyes are popular for being predatory game fish. They eat a variety of marine creatures and organisms. This includes crayfish, various fish, snails, insects, and salamanders.
When the food they like to eat is scarce, these fish will compromise and expand on their food options. In case of scarcity, the walleyes would go for any fish they could hunt like small sea mammals.
They would hunt for small fry fish, bugs, zooplankton, and other microorganisms.
When the walleyes are young, they are the food of pike, bass, and other large fish. However, once they grow up, then they become predators.
They hunt the fishes smaller than them, like small pike, salmon, crayfish, etc. No fish eats a full-sized, grown-up walleye, and their only predator is the humans.
Walleyes can eat any fish that lives in the same habitat, but their favorite prey is the yellow perch and the drums. Along with having excellent eyesight, walleyes also have a great sense of smell and hearing which greatly aids them in locating prey.
Their eyesight also allows them to avoid bright light, and they usually lurk in the dark waters during daytime and near the surface of the water during the night.
Walleyes usually feed during the hours of dawn and dusk when the waters are dark. Because of their eyesight can easily spot their prey like emerald shiners, spot tail shiners, bullhead, bluegills, crayfish, and crappies (the adult walleyes eat these).
The young walleyes, however, like to feed on juvenile fish, invertebrates, and zooplankton.
Because of the diverse diet of walleyes, there are many baits and lures which can easily attract them. There are minnow plugs that can be up to 5 inches long, and they work perfectly in luring the walleyes.
Then there are deep-diving crankbait and spoons, which triggers walleyes to attack them. Apart from this, earthworms and live minnows also prove to be a successful lure to catch them, especially after sunset when they come out in search of food.
How To Identify A Walleye
Walleye is the largest member of the perch family as they can reach up to 25 lbs. there is one other fish that looks exactly like walleyes, the sauger.
At a glance, sauger and walleye look exactly alike, and that is why you need to know how to identify a walleye so that you confuse one for another.
Both fish not only look similar, but their specifications are also similar: both walleye and sauger have glassy eyes, both hunt at night because of their eyesight. However, there are a few things that separate walleyes from saugers.
The dorsal fins of walleyes usually have blotched marks, steaks, or are plain, but they never have clear spots. Instead, they have prominent blotches at the posterior edge.
Apart from this, the lower lobe of the walleye’s tail is tipped with white and white patches. Walleyes have a dark golden color on the upper side of their body, but the sauger is a brassy color.
Walleye’s spine is dark black, but saugers have dark spots on the fins. The final thing that makes a walleye different from a sauger is that even the most mature and adult sauger is smaller than walleyes. Walleyes are very large fish!
Another thing that can help you identify walleye is that they live in a deep, large, cold water reservoir. They like gravel and rocky bottoms with clear water, and that is how they get their name ‘gravel lizards.’
They don’t like murky waters, but if the need arises, then they can survive in those waters until they find clear waters again.
Where To Catch Walleye
Catching walleyes is not very difficult if you remember the specifications that we discussed above. The first thing that you need to consider is the depth of water where you will find the walleyes.
Walleyes are usually roaming around 10 to 40 feet below the water. But the depth also varies according to the seasons. In spring and fall, walleyes are not deeper than 15-25 ft. in summers, they are no deeper than 25 to 40 ft.
However, these depths also depend on the location of the water bodies. But, the only thing you should remember is that walleyes are in shallow waters in spring and fall and are in deep waters during summer (this is where you can catch them).
The temperature of the water is another factor when you ask the question of where you can catch the walleyes. 65 to 75 degrees is the ideal temperature of water for the activity of walleyes.
This temperature usually happens from spring to summer and when the walleyes are super hungry after spawning. The water near the points starts to heat up.
That is where you will find the most walleyes. 46 to 64 degrees are the ideal temperatures in spring; this is when you should take your boat to the warmest part of the lake.
The lakes heat up first from the northern side and then the rest of the lake. You will find the walleyes in the bays of the north and coves on the north side of the lake. The best time to fish for walleyes is in the situation I have mentioned above.
But, another thing to remember is that even if you chose everything (season and place) correctly but mess up the timing, then your fishing trip might be a failure because walleyes come out to the opening only during the dark hours.
Meaning after the sun has set and before the sun has risen. So, early and late hours are the best time for anglers to catch some walleyes.
Walleye Fishing Tips
Catching walleyes can be very difficult for people who don’t have a few tricks up their sleeves to catch them. But being a challenging target is what makes walleyes such an interesting catch.
Their aggressive fighting ability and their delicious flesh are what make most fishers go after them. Undoubtedly, fishing for walleye is difficult, but a few useful tips can change that. That is why we are going to mention a few walleye fishing tips.
- The primary thing to take care of before you decide to go for walleye fishing is your reel and rod with which you will hunt your walleyes.
- The best rod for catching walleye is a medium rod which is 6 to 7ft long, and a medium-sized 35 to 36 reel. With this rod and reel, you can easily rig and jig the live bait like minnows in the water.
- You can also buy a medium-light rod along with your medium rod (if you can afford both).
- In the beginning, we suggest you spool for walleyes with 8lb. monofilament line because it is stretchable, easily available, and affordable. Additionally, it’s convenient to use a monoline because it allows you to fish easily with artificial and live baits.
- For baits, I strongly suggest that you choose live baits like leeches, minnows, and worms because walleyes like to eat live minnows and other insects, so they would attack the bait as soon as they notice it.
- Locate the areas where there would be the most walleyes. You can do so with the help of local anglers who know where to find walleyes. Once you find the perfect spot, you will have to work carefully to catch some fish.
- Make sure that you visit the place when the time and water temperatures are right. The time should be around when there is no sun, i.e., during dawn or dusk (late hours), and the temperature of the water should be warm (during summers or spring)
These were a few walleye fishing tips that would definitely help you in catching a big load of walleyes.
This concludes our article about the walleye fish. If you enjoy learning more about walleye or if you want to know about ways to fish then, then this brief guide can help you.
Unfortunately, there is a threat that walleyes are facing; anglers and fishers are rapidly overfishing walleyes. That is why there are restrictions regarding fishing walleyes.
Frequently Asked Questions
#1 – Is walleye a good fish to eat?
Yes, walleyes are perfectly safe to consume. They are one of the healthiest fish there is to eat. The benefits of eating walleyes are far greater than their disadvantages.
They are full of nature’s goodness, and if you eat them in a calculated portion and cook it properly, then it would never harm your body. Their flesh is mildly sweet and has a firm texture with a buttery aftertaste.
#2 – What kind of fish is a walleye?
Walleyes are freshwater fish from the perch family (the Percidae). They are popular stocked game fish. Most walleyes are thin and long, with olive or gold-colored bodies and a white gut.
They have five or more bands crossed on their back and two dorsal fins, one of which is super spiny and one is super soft rayed.
#3 – Are walleye and pickerel the same fish?
Walleyes are often called pickerel (even though they are not pickerel), especially in the English-speaking parts of Canada. However, in America, the same species are called walleye (or Sander Vitus).
But, pickerel are small and green in color, while walleyes are big and golden/olive in color. The walleyes got their name because of their glassy and beady eyes. Their eyes help them to see perfectly at night and even hunt for their prey in murky waters.
#4 – Is walleye pike healthy?
If the walleye is healthy to eat, then definitely walleye pike is also beneficial to eat. They are a great source of protein which helps in repairing the damaged parts of our body.
They are also a great source of omega-three fatty acids, which keep our heart and brain healthy. It is also great for our hair. Walleye pike also tastes fantastic and is less fishy (smelly).
#5 – Is walleye fish high in mercury?
Walleyes, just like many other fish (especially catfish), have some percentage of mercury. Mercury is a very heavy metal, and if eaten in large quantities, it can contaminate our bodies. But, overall, walleyes are good for our bodies.
If you eat fish twice a week, then they are not going to harm our bodies. Instead, they provide a great quantity of protein to us.
#6 – Why is walleye so expensive?
Walleye is one of the species which is difficult to farm, and that is one reason why they are so expensive in the market.
They are mostly caught in the wild, which makes their mortality rate low and production costs higher. Even when farming happens, then it is only done to stock the fish for anglers.
Yes, walleyes are usually bottom feeders. This means that they hunt and feed near the bottom of the lake or other water bodies.
However, they are not strictly restricted to feeding at the bottom. They also eat the fish they find suspended in the water, and some of their favorite food is suspended in the water.
#8 – Will a walleye bite you?
Every fish can bite you if you don’t handle it with care. However, there are no recorded cases of walleyes deliberately attacking humans.
But, it will bite you if you put your hand inside its mouth when it is alive (especially when you try to remove the hook from its jaws).
#9 – Is walleye a Whitefish?
The walleyes are a breed of the perch family, and they are mostly found in Canada and the USA. They are known by their many names, one of which is whitefish. They are also known as pike and yellow pickerel.
#10 – Do you eat walleye skin?
Sometimes when you cook walleye, its skin stays attached to its fillet because it is very delicate and thin. You can easily eat its skin as it has its own set of benefits.
If the skin is attached to the walleye’s fillet, you can cut it with a fork (after cooking) and enjoy eating it.