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Sander vitreus, formerly Stizostedion vitreum
Often incorrectly called pickerel, this is the most popular freshwater game fish in Canada. Not only does the walleye put up a terrific fight, but we consider them one of the best tasting. Walleye typically hunt at in low light conditions.The dim light gives the walleye an advantage over their prey, because of their unusual eyes. They have a membrane behind the retina, similar to cats. Its sole purpose is to reflect and gather light, and it is what makes the walleye such a strong predator. They can see in light conditions other fish, and prey, cannot.
So, walleye anglers will commonly look for days and locations where there is good ‘walleye chop’ (i.e. rough water which reduces visibility), or fish at dawn and dusk and on cloudy or overcast days. Walleye’s excellent vision also allows them to populate the deeper regions in a lake so they can be fished for in deeper water, particularly during the warmest part of the summer.
Walleye have sensitive nerve endings that run down the side of their bodies that enable them to detect the smallest vibrations in the water, giving them another advantage on their prey. They primarily feed on smaller fish (including smaller walleye) but will eat whatever the lake has to offer – insects, leeches, frogs – even small mammals. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d4/Button_hide.png
The maximum recorded size is 42 inches in length, and walleye may live for decades: the maximum recorded age is 29 years. In our area, however, few walleye older than 7 or 8 years are encountered.
Adults migrate to tributary streams immediately after ice break up in the spring to lay eggs over gravel and rock,, ideally in moving water that helps keep the eggs aerated. A large female can lay up to half a million eggs! There is a Fish Hatchery on West Hawk Lake that’s well worth visiting, and that helps keep our lake well stocked with walleye. You can see Hatchery staff catching females at the mouths of breeding creeks in the spring migration.
Fishing season in our area generally opens the weekend before May long. And, in our area, all walleye between 45 cm and 70 cm (between 17 and 27 ½ inches) in length must be released if caught.
Here are a few tips on walleye behaviour: hopefully this will increase your success and enjoyment next time you’re out.
Catching Walleye in all Seasons
In the first few weeks of the season look for the spawning areas. Walleye will stay in their spawning areas for a few weeks after the spawn: males usually stay a little longer than females before moving off to their summer haunts. Immediately after the spawn walleye will refuse food for about 2 weeks while they recuperate from the stresses of the spawn. After this lull however they go into a period of heavy feeding for several weeks and if you know where to find them, this can be the best fishing of the year, especially for those big ones. During this period they spend much of their time foraging in shallow waters where baitfish are more plentiful. Try fishing in 6-15ft of water with a jig and minnow, and move deeper as the spring progresses.
By summer walleye are spending more time in deeper waters, where water temperatures and light conditions are more to their liking. This year’s crop of baitfish is at its peak and finding food is not a problem - this means they spend less time actively feeding and fishing can be tougher. Look for them foraging for baitfish on sunken reefs around and along the edges of deep weed beds, or suspended in open water just in or just above the thermocline. Leaches and night-crawlers work well in the summer, trolling “Lindy rigs” is a favourite…. or try a split shot, bobber rig around the edge of weeds.
As surface waters start to cool and the angle of the sun narrows there are less baitfish around, Walleye will spend more time in the shallows. Look for them near steep drop-offs where they can hang out in the depths but quickly come up into shallow waters to feed. Summer techniques will continue to produce.
As you know walleye feed most actively in low light conditions. Cloudy days, a little chop on the water and silt turned up on a windy shore are all conditions that result in less light filtering through the water and better walleye fishing. Strong thunderstorms and sustained cold fronts typically cause walleye to feed less and move deeper into the weeds.
Now that you know how to catch them, lets learn how to make a Manitoba delicacy.
How to Fillet:
First, make sure you use a sharp filleting knife. Learning how to clean fish is nearly impossible with a dull knife. Buy yourself a good knife and you won’t regret it. And remember to keep it sharp! S
ee our page on filleting fish for more info, or
follow this link to learn how to do it:
This is how we like to do it. First, wash fillets. Place flour and your favourite spices (or no spices) in a plastic bag and toss damp fillets to coat. Fry immediately in butter (for flavour) and oil (to reduce burning temperature) till browned. Serve with lemon or honey.
Many people use an egg and milk dip instead of plain water, and many different kinds of breading, like crushed pretzels! We sell a great breading for shore lunches at both Falcon Lake Marina, and Faloma Marina. Enjoy!