Key Distinguishing Markings:
- The walleye is named after its large opaque and almost blind-looking eye.
- The large reflective surface of its eyes give the walleye a sight advantage over other fish, allowing them to find prey during the night.
- The walleye has a dark green or olive-green back, light brownish yellow sides, and a white belly.
- The back is crossed with five to twelve narrow dark bands.
- The walleye has two dorsal fins, the first having a dark spot at the posterior base of the fin.
- The lower lobe of the caudal fin and the anal fin are white at the tip.
- The walleye is the largest member of the perch family, attaining lengths of more than 30 inches and weights of more than 10 pounds.
- Walleye are common in most of Canada and the northern U.S., however they have been introduced throughout the United States as far south as Alabama.
- In Maryland, good walleye populations are found in Deep Creek Lake, Youghiogheny River Reservoir, Jennings Randolph Lake, Savage River Reservoir, Potomac River, and Liberty Reservoir.
- Efforts are currently underway to establish walleye populations in other Maryland reservoirs.
- Walleye prefer large, clear, cool waterbodies with gravel and sandy substrate.
- Feeding occurs during mainly during the dawn and dusk time periods.
- Walleye prey primarily on spottail shiners, emerald shiners, and yellow perch.
- Other important prey species include bluegills, crappie, bullheads, and crayfish.
- Young walleye feed primarily on zooplankton, aquatic invertebrates, and small juvenile fish.
- Walleye rely heavily on stony shoals for spawning.
- Spawning occurs in the early spring, usually just after ice-out when water temperatures are between 38 - 50 F.
- The female broadcasts her eggs, then two or more males release their milt to fertilize the eggs.
- The eggs are very adhesive, sticking to the rocks and gravel on the shoal.
- A single female can produce as many as 495,000 eggs.
- Incubation is from five days to two weeks.
- The young then leave the spawning areas and grow to be about five to six inches by fall.
- Males reach sexual maturity in two to four years, while females reach sexual maturity in three to five years.
- Fishing for walleye is most productive in the evening using minnow type lures or jigs fished near the bottom over rock piles or along the edges of weed beds.
- Nightcrawlers and live minnows worked very slowly are also good producers.
- Walleye are considered to be one of the best tasting freshwater fish.
- For current recreational size and creel limits, see Maryland's updated regulation page.
- The Maryland State Record walleye was captured in Jennings Randolph Lake, Garrett County during 1998 and measured 34 inches and weighed 14 lbs. 4 oz.
Family: Percidae (Perches)
Order: Perciformes (perch-likes
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
For information concerning walleye and their management, please contact John Mullican at 301-898-5443.
Illustration courtesy of Duane Raver, USFWS