Range & Habitat: The Walleye is a freshwater perciform fish native to most of Canada and to the northern United States. It is a North American close relative of the European pikeperch.
Identification & Biology: The common name, “walleye”, comes from the fact that their eyes, not unlike those of cats, reflect light. This is the result of a light-gathering layer in the eyes called the tapetum lucidum which allows the fish to see well in low-light conditions. In fact, many anglers look for walleyes at night since this is when most major feeding patterns occur. Their eyes also allow them to see well in turbid waters (stained or rough, breaking waters) which gives them an advantage over their prey. Thus, walleye anglers will commonly look for days and locations where there is a good “walleye chop” (i.e. rough water). This excellent vision also allows the fish to populate the deeper regions in a lake and can often be found in deeper water.
Walleyes grow to about 75 cm (30 in) in length, and weigh up to about 7 kg (15 lb). The maximum recorded size for the fish is 107 cm (42 in) in length and 11.3 kg (25 lb) in weight. The growth rate depends partly on where in their range they occur, with southern populations often growing faster and larger. In general, females grow larger than males. Walleyes may live for decades; the maximum recorded age is 29 years. In heavily fished populations, however, few walleye older than 5 or 6 years of age are encountered.
Market Description: Lending to its popularity as a sport-fish is the fact that they are voracious predators, striking hard and fighting hard, but also is the fact that they are great eating and a unique part of Canadian culture. Pickerel seasons work somewhat like this. They are available in the winter by ice fishing but in very, very limited quantities. They are a plenty in the spring peaking in May but as the water warms up in the summer they move deeper and become very scarce. They come back in the fall as water temperatures cool and peak in October before virtually disappearing until next spring.
Flavor profile: Med flake, earthy notes, delicate flavor
Fishing Technique: hook & line
Special Note: Has low light vision, hunts at night
Recommended Preparation: Raw flesh is an off white with a sort of translucent quality but cooked it is a relatively bright white. The flesh is very lean, but moist with a nice flaky texture. Flavor is relatively mild with Pickerel but don’t overpower the fish with rich sauces. Pickerel is best enjoyed very simply with a little butter and lemon.