Characteristics - brassy olive buff above, white below; large, white glossy eyes and sharp teeth; no distinct bars or mottlings on sides, but caudal fin has white tip on lower lobe
Distribution - large lakes and rivers
Foods -mostly fish; other aquatic animals
Expert's Tip - Backtrolling contour lines using crankbaits can provide sizzling walleye action!
Other names -- dore, glass-eye, 'ol marble-eyes, pickerel, picks, walleyed pickerel.
The walleye is the largest member of the perch family, attaining weights of over 20 pounds. Its size, sporting qualities and delicious flesh make it the most important game species in Manitoba if not one of the most important in North America.
This fish has large, whitish glossy eyes and strong canine teeth. The color of the walleye varies. The water in which the walleye lives seems to have an impact on their color. In tea stained bog fed rivers they are almost black, in larger lakes with moderate clarity they have an olive green buff with a white underside, and when they come in from lake Winnipeg in the fall they have a unique color- an undescribable green. The caudal fin has a silver or milk-white tip on the lower lobe. There are no distinct dark bars or mottlings on the sides of the body, but instead an overall mottling of brown or black. Spots on the anterior dorsal fin are lacking, but one large dark spot or blotch is present near the base on the last 2 to 3 spines of the posterior dorsal fin. There are 19 to 22 soft rays in the dorsal fin and 12 to 14 in the anal fin. The lateral line has 80 to 89 scales. The cheeks are sparsely scaled.
Walleye reproduce in both rivers and lakes in Manitoba, but they are also hatchery-propagated in large numbers in numerous hatcheries throughout the Province. This latter propogation is a joint activity of angling associations, government and commercial fishermen. It is said that there are more walleye in Manitoba than all the US states which have walleye populations. Many feel that natural reproducing populations are far more successful at surviving and thus more important for the future of the fishery in the province. As result many walleye bodies of water have slot limits set up to protect the natural reproducing populations. Lake of the Prairies is an excellent example of where this strategy has not only succeeded but has provided anglers with one of the best walleye waters in the province. Finally any reference to walleye in Manitoba would be incomplete if it did not make reference to the fall run "Green backs" of the Red and Winnipeg rivers. In many fishing journals there have been arguments as to whether these fish are a subspeicies of the walleye due to their special appearance...an irridescent green at times almost silver when captured by the lense of a camera. This color is uncommon to the walleye in other parts of the continent. Not to brag, but the possibility for a Canadian and a North American record does exist in the province and that opportunity will increase as the emphasis on the commercial fishery diminishes. This will probably be a long time coming as whole communities adjacent to lake Manitoba , Winnipeg generate their living from the commercial fishery. All controversy and arguments aside, Manitoba waters produce one of the most consistent populations of walleye in North America. It follows from all of this that without a doubt this fish is king in Manitoba.
Shortly after the ice melts from the lakes and rivers and the water temperature reaches 45 to 50 degrees F, walleye move into the shallows to spawn. Actual spawning takes place at night. The adult female moves to a spawning area where her arrival is awaited by males. The spawning area may be a smaller tributary stream, a shallow area in a river or a shoal in a lake. It is usually an area with clear water, 1 to 5 feet deep, and the bottom is covered with rubble or gravel. The area is likely to have current, the result of either flowing water or wave action. If such conditions do not exist, the adult fish occupy other spawning areas, but egg and young survival will suffer. Spawning activity takes place over a period of about 3 weeks with the peak lasting from 7 to 10 days.
Generally, a large female is accompanied by several males of smaller size across the spawning ground in erratic and thrashing movements, with eggs and milt being emitted simultaneously. Approximately 95 percent of the eggs will be fertilized as they sink to the bottom. Individual eggs lodge in rubble or gravel crevices where they will be protected and where water can circulate, keeping them silt free and oxygenated. No protection is provided by the parents. Once spawning is completed, adults return to deep water.
The number of eggs produced by individual females varies according to body size and physical condition, but normal fecundity ranges from 23,000 to 50,000 per pound of fish weight. Incubation lasts 12 to 18 days, depending upon water temperature. Under the best of conditions 5 to 20 percent of the eggs will hatch. Cold weather, which delays hatching, extremely heavy wind action or currents which might wash the eggs ashore, and muddy water which coats the eggs with silt are prime factors which decrease hatching odds. Some studies have also suggested that the larger the female the better the chance of the eggs to survive.
Upon hatching, the newborn fry is about 1/2 inch long and paper thin. For several days it will drift about, absorbing the yolk sac and gaining strength. Immediately after the yolk sac is absorbed, the fry begins to feed. At first only the tiniest planktonic organisms can be utilized, but as the fish increase in size, cladocerans and immature aquatic insects are consumed. Small fry are sometimes observed in schools on the spawning grounds but soon disperse. After the fish reach approximately 2 inches in length, they begin to add small fishes, minnows, yellow perch, suckers, and goldeyel to their diet. Adult walleye consume large quantities of fish, sometimes feeding upon them almost entirely. Yellow perch make up a substantial part of the walleye diet in the natural lakes. Whitefish, tulibee are the most important forage source in the big lakes of Manitoba. Crayfish, frogs, snails, and insect larvae are also utilized at times.
Angling for these fish can be relatively simple or an incredibly complex enterprise. For more information on this see the articles included as a part of this web site