Fish Profile: Walleye

The walleye is one of the premiere fresh water fish abundant across most of Canada as well as the northern United States. Most well known to anglers across the great lake region, particularly Lake Erie, they are an angler favorite for their uncommon attributes. The walleye catch is emerging from a past slump in a big way. After catches of the prized walleye had been declining for more than five years, the catches have soared since 2002, including a record setting pace in 2006.

The Species
The walleye’s name is derived from the fact that its eyes, like those of a cat as well as other animals, reflect light. This condition is created by a light gathering layer and allows the walleye to see in low light conditions. Most walleye feeding typically occurs during the nighttime due to this rather unique ability. The walleye also has the ability to see comparatively well in rough and turbid waters, giving them advantage over prey. On average walleyes grow to be approximately 30 inches in length and weigh about 15 pounds. The largest walleye ever recorded measured in at 42 inches and topped the scales at 25 pounds. Walleyes in more southern regions typically grow faster, as do females. Although walleyes can live to be decades old, fishing makes the average age of walleyes 5 to 6 years old. This fish is known as a cool water species typically residing in deep lakes and rivers. The coloring of walleyes is a mixture of mainly olive and gold. Its mouth is lined with many teeth and the body of the fish has spiked fins, making unhooking the fish a tiresome task for anglers.

Nearly all male walleyes mature between 3 and 4 years old with females of the species maturing a year later. In late winter or early spring, adult walleye migrate from their normal lake habitat into smaller tributaries, although some strains will reproduce on lake reefs. A large female can lay up to 500,000 eggs and no care is given to the eggs or small newborn fish known as fry. Depending on the temperature of the environment the eggs are in, hatching of the eggs can take anywhere from twelve to thirty days. For the initial week following hatching, the walleye fry feed on yolk from the egg. During the following several weeks, the walleye feeds on small microorganisms found in its environment. After approximately 60 total days after hatching, young walleye as well as adults will feed almost exclusively on smaller fish with other creatures such as crawfish, earthworms, leaches, and minnows integrated into their diet.

Interaction with People
Due to the fact that it is considered the best tasting fresh water fish, the walleye is fished in both a recreation and commercial manner. Walleyes are most easily caught at night due to their previously mentioned feeding habits. Commercial fisheries are mot often located in the Canadian waters of the Great Lakes as well as other locales as well. Interest has been expressed in producing walleye in greater quantities due to the smaller number of commercial walleye fisheries as well as the high demand for its quality meat.

Walleye are one of the premiere freshwater catches available throughout the entire United States. Their succulent meat combined with their availability to catch and the fight they put up make them one of the best fishes available to both eat as well as to fish for. The walleye is a true North American classic, satisfying taste buds and anglers alike.

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