When anglers are asked which fish species they would rank at the top of their list of fish to catch …. most will tell you, “Walleye of course!” This gamefish is commonly considered to be the “golden prize” of our North American water bodies. They are not only pursued by expert sport anglers, but also recreational anglers.
So why are people in such a tizzy over this fish species? Well for one, walleye are REALLY tasty. Their white meat is often described as sweet and succulent, and because it has little fat and oils … it does not have a pungent “fishy flavor”. Many anglers cannot wait for this tasty fish to be off the hook and on their fork! But these popular gamefish are not only tasty … but are mysterious as well. Walleye are considered to be elusive … like ghosts that haunt our waters because anglers have a difficult time finding these fish. This is because walleyes are picky about where they like to hangout. So the more you research about their habitat and biology, the more success you will have in finding them on your next fishing adventure!
Hmmmm … so where should you start? IDENTIFICATION. Any angler in pursuit of a new fish should know what their target species looks like. That way you can keep your eyes peeled for them and enjoy the overall fishing experience. Walleye are the largest member of the perch family (Percidae) in North America. Their bodies are generally an olive-yellow color that is mixed with black mottling. There are five or more vertical black bands on their backs while their bellies are white. Walleye also have large mouths with sharp teeth and very big eyes that help them find prey in dark waters. It is easy to confuse these fish with their close relatives, the Sauger. So look for a white tipped tail fin to distinguish walleyes from sauger.
Next, you need to know their distribution and habitat so you know where to fish! Walleyes can actually be found in medium to large-sized rivers and lakes almost everywhere in North America. They natively occur in the Midwest and were introduced in other eastern and western states from stocking programs. To figure out which water bodies have walleye in them near you, use Take Me Fishing’s online map as your guide. Walleyes can be found in rivers all-year-round. “Old Marble Eyes” will gather near dams, docks, logjams, weed beds, and other underwater structures in rivers. In both rivers and lakes, their favorite spots to congregate are on gravel and rock piles because that is where their prey fish like to hangout as well.
Don’t forget to pay attention to the season! This can tell you WHEN to find your fish. Spring and Fall are great times to go walleye fishing because they will be on the hunt for baitfish. In the Spring, males and females will be spawning (laying eggs) in shallow waters and will need the extra energy. In the Fall, walleye will be feeding on prey in warm shallows to fatten themselves for the winter. In the summer and winter, you can find walleye deeper in the water column, which can be more challenging to anglers, but just as fun!
Ahh … you are almost set to finding the elusive walleye. But you may have some questions still running through your head:
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