Walleye (Sander Vitreus)
Walleye (Sander Vitreus), also known as colored pike, pickerel, walleyed pike and yellow pike, is a freshwater fish that is native to the Northern States in the U.S. and a large portion of Canada. Walleye are considered one of the most popular game fish in their native range. Prior to the 1980s there used to be a subspecies of walleye known as blue walleye (Sander vitreus glaucus), native to the Great Lakes, but now is considered extinct. For over a century wildlife departments in the U.S. have been artificially populating different bodies of water with walleye via hatchery and stocking programs. Walleye are one of the most popular game fish in North America.
The average angler won't find it difficult to identify walleye. They're an olive and gold color with dark saddles that extend to the upper sides of the fish, with a white belly. Walleye have a lot of sharp teeth in their rather large mouth. Theiy have a life span that can reach into decades. Walleye can weigh up to 20 pounds, depending on the body of water and availability of food and reach a length of 30 or more inches. The world record for a walleye is 25 pounds and 42 inches according to the IGFA (International Game Fish Association).
Walleye are a predatory fish and will eat pretty much whatever nature sends their way. Their diet will change as they grow in size, going from invertebrates to larger fish. Walleye aren't by nature a cannibalistic species, but will eat their own species if there is a lack of food. Perch are a staple in the diet of walleye, including other fish species, crayfish, leeches, snails, and frogs. In some rare instances small mammals when other food isn't readily available. They tend to feed in shallow water at both dawn and dusk, which is why perch are so popular to walleye; perch can't see well in low light.
Male walleyes reach reproduction age at about 4 years of age, while female walleye usually reach sexual maturity about 12-16 months after males. They spawn during the spring and right temperature for walleye spawning is 43 °F to 50 °F. Walleye do not guard or nurture their eggs or fry and larger females can lay 400,000+ eggs in a single spawn. Walleye fry will hatch in 11 to 28 days, depending on the water temperature. Fry will feed on fly larvae and zooplankton for the first 30 to 60 days of their life.
Due to the popularity of walleye most anglers will find that the ones they catch will be less than six years old with a maximum length of 21 inches. Wildlife management departments have enacted regulations to improve the quality of walleye. These regulations include limiting the minimum length a walleye must be to be kept and setting daily creel limits, limiting the amount of walleye a fishermen can take during a specific timeframe. These regulations have really helped increase the population of medium size walleye in the Northern United States.