Walleye – The North American Pickerel

December 31, 2019

North American Pickerel - Yellow Walleye

The Walleye (Sander vitreus) is a freshwater perciform fish in the Percidae family. Native to Canada and the Northern United States. Other names for the fish include Yellow Pike and Pickerel. A close relative to the European Zander and the Blue Walleye, now presumed extinct. While, the name is derived from the fact that the fish’s eye point outward, as though looking at a wall. State fish of Minnesota, Vermont and South Dakota. As well as, the official fish of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Description of the Pickerel


Large olive and gold colored fish with olive dorsal sides grading into golden hues on the flanks. Further, has five darker saddles that extend to the upper sides, breaking the olive gold pattern. While, the belly is white.

Their mouths are large and armed with many sharp teeth. Generally, the Wall grows to about 31 inches in length and weighs approximately 20 pounds. However, the maximum recorded size of the Walleye is 42 inches and 29 pounds.

Southern populations of Walleye generally grow faster and larger than populations from the North. While, females are larger than males. Has a spinous first dorsal, anal fins and operculum.

Further, distinguished from the Sauger by the white coloration on the lower lobe of the caudal fin, which is absent in the Sauger. Another distinction from the Sauger is that the Sauger has marked rows of black dots on the dorsal and caudal fins which are absent from the Walleye.


Inhabits freshwater, preferring cool, deep, quiet waters of lakes, rivers and reservoirs. As well as, aquatic vegetation with rocky, sandy or gravel substrates.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Young feed on invertebrates such as fly larvae and zooplankton. While, they age into juveniles where they become piscivorous eating fish such as yellow perch or burbots. As well as, crayfish, minnows and leeches. Generally, feed more extensively at dawn and dusk, on cloudy or overcast days and under choppy conditions when light penetration is disrupted in water columns.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Sexual maturity of the male is between three and four years and that of females four to five years. In late winter or early spring, adults migrate to tributary streams to lay eggs over gravel and rock substrates. While, others may use sand or vegetation substrates for breeding grounds.

Generally, spawning in water temperatures ranging from 43°F to 50°F. While, a large female may lay up to 500 000 eggs. There is no parental care to the fry or eggs, which are slightly adhesive and fall into spaces between the rocks. Generally, incubate for 12 to 30 days, depending on temperature. Free swimming embryos spend a week after hatching absorbing the yolk sac. The maximum recorded age of the Walleye is 29 years.


Occur in Canada and the United States, in various states. Some states where the walleye may occur include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska and Nevada.

As well as, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Fishing for Walleye

Walleye are highly prized for their size, increasing with weight the longer they become. Further, is a very palatable freshwater fish, a good source of omega-3 fatty acids which keep the heart healthy and are good for brain development.

However, due to the nocturnal habits, mostly caught at night using live minnows or lures mimicking small fish. Meanwhile, in some states the walleye is fished in the late afternoon on windy days, which has become known as “walleye chop”.

While, fishing for Walleye is popular, the natural resource agencies regulate and manage the fishing, using quotas and length limits to ensure that populations are not over exploited. In Michigan, no walleye shorter than 15 inches may be kept legally, except in Lake St. Claire and St. Clair River where the size limit is 13 inches.

In spring and fall, walleyes prefer living in shallower areas. As well as, in high winds due to the murkier, higher oxygenated water at around six feet deep. However, on calm days in spring they are in at the deep side of the shoreline drop-off deeper than 10 feet. Further, due to their widespread presence in Canada and northern United States, they are frequently caught while ice fishing. Meanwhile, in summer try the grass and aquatic vegetation like coontail, milfoil, lily pads and cabbage weeds.

Go slow and steady entice the walleye to strike hard. While, the best artificial lures are crankbaits especially in red, orange and yellow, followed by green. Some top artificial lures to use include Cordell Wally Diver, Lindy Fuzz-E Grub Jig, Terminator T1 Spinnerbait, Lindy Slick Jig, Strike King Redeye Shad.

As well as, Rapala Shad Rap, Lindy Watsit Jig, TriggerX Nightcrawler, Rapala Husky Jerk, Storm Hot ‘n Tot Mad Fish, Reef Runner Little Ripper, Koppers Live Target Crawfish, Mepps Black Fury Spinnerbait, Walleye Angler XPS Jig, Northland Fishing Tackle Forage Minnow Jigging Spoon.

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