Illustration by Joseph R. Tomelleri ©
Sander vitreus - scientific name
(Native Fish) Two dorsal fins separated into a spiny and a soft-rayed portion, large cloudy eye, white tips on anal and lower caudal fins, canine teeth. Walleye are the largest member of the perch family. They lack the distinctive vertical bar makings of the yellow perch and have fan-like canine teeth.
These battling fish are exciting to catch, delicious to eat and because they feed actively all winter, they provide a fine year-round sport fishery. The average walleye caught by anglers is five years old and weighs from one to three pounds.
Early in the season, fishing bottom with lead-head jigs tipped with minnows or with plastic grub bodies is the top technique, but as the season progresses, trolling with plugs (such as Rapalas and Wiggle Warts) or spoons or with spinners and crawler harnesses becomes the preferred method. Slow trolling baits at a variety of depths is important as, although walleyes are usually associated with the bottom, the most active fish are sometimes suspended in the water column. But walleyes can readily be taken on live bait; nightcrawlers drifted along the bottom, leeches suspended under a slip bobber or minnows fished on a tight line will all produce. In fall, jigging with spoons in deep water is a popular technique.
Walleyes are greedy predators. They eat small bass, trout, pike, perch and sunfishes. Prime feeding times are early morning and evening.
In March, April and even May, walleye spawn over rock shoals in tributaries or lakes. Males mature at age two to four years, females at three to six years.
A close relative and look-alike of the walleye, the sauger shares habitat and, to some extent food sources with this species. Sauger are more adaptable to turbid water than walleye are.
Department of Natural Resources