Walleye is one of Canada’s most popular sport fish. They can be found in most large lakes across Canada and the United States. They inhabit freshwater, but will withstand clear or even murky coloured waters so expect to find them in a variety of conditions and pack your bait accordingly.
The name Walleye comes from the unique eyes they possess. Their eyes are capable of gathering white light (similar to those of a lion) which allows Walleye to see in very low-light conditions. This includes deep locales and their special eyes allow them to see near the surface on days when the water or choppy. Many fishermen will venture out on days when the water is rough and the skies cloudy as walleye will come up nears the surface to feed.
Walleye are a golden colour fading to an olive colour on their belly. French-Canadians call this fish doré, which means golden. Walleye have large and sharp teeth similar to the Northern Pike. Walleye grow to lengths of over 30 inches and weights of over 20 lbs. Typically, the female is slightly larger than the male and they are virtually impossible to tell apart. In many lakes the once massive populations have been decimated by over-fishing so minimum and maximum size limits have been introduced to help encourage re-establishment of their populations.
The Bay of Quinte, which is one of the best places for Walleye fishing in Canada, has a limit of “not more than 1 greater than 63cm or 24.8 inches in length” per person. In many areas the pressure from Walleye fishing is so great that the fish will not get the chance to grow to more than 12 inches in length. Since larger fish lay more eggs, a size limit was introduced to help expand their numbers back to what they once were and prevent fishermen from taking home all the big ones who lay all the eggs.
Spawning takes place in late-winter to early spring. The fish will move into quieter tributary rivers, streams or bays and begin spawning usually over gravel or loose rocks. A single female can produce more than 500, 000 eggs in a year once water temperatures are between 43 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (6 to 10 degrees Celsius). She offers no care of the eggs or fry, and many will succumb to other predators before they reach maturity.
Walleye feed on perch and ciscoes and also feed on crayfish, minnows, leeches and worms. Since walleye can see in almost no light, they will often feed near the surface before dawn and after sunset. They feed on dark, stormy days when other fish and fishermen are seeking shelter. Their ability to see in turbid or murky waters gives walleye a big advantage over other fish. During windy days walleye will often hang out in waters approximately 6 feet deep. During the warmer summer months or on calm days they can be found in schools at depths of 10 feet or more.
The types of lures and bait to use for walleye fishing depend greatly on the time of year, type of water you are fishing in and what naturally occurring food source is in the area you are fishing. An orange or chartreuse 3/8 oz. jig head with a live minnow or worm that is jigged up and down is very effective.
A spinner with brightly coloured beads and blade can be substituted for the jig head. Let the jig fall to the bottom then slowly lift it and let it fall again. Walleye happily feed on perch, so a perch coloured crankbait can be effective, in particular if there are schools of perch nearby. When retrieving a casted crankbait, do your best to get an up and down motion to it as when jigging. Unlike most other types of fish, walleye respond to bait that is moving up and down rather than dragged in. Try these lures next time you’re walleye fishing.
They can be very effectively caught when ice fishing due to the up and down jigging presentation of your bait. Live bait is best for Walleye fishing when water temperatures are cool, around 50 degrees Fahrenheit or less. As water temperatures increase over the year, plastic and rubber baits becomes more effective. Brighter colours or even polished silver spinners, jig heads and other baits should be used as water clarity becomes murkier and conditions become darker.
Walleye is one of the best tasting fish in Canada. They are easily caught and a minimum of tackle is necessary. If you are using a sonar look for schools of walleye in the summer months and as they are in shallower water, smaller boats and canoes are very effective to getting to where the fish are. Walleye fishing is fun for the whole family at any time of the year and best of all they can be caught rain or shine.
Copyright 2019 Mike Wilson