Meet Your Species: Walleye

There’s nothing like seeing that glistening, golden fish break the surface of the water. You’ve caught a walleye! And chances are, you’re licking your lips in anticipation of those buttery fillets. Let’s have a closer look at one of Manitoba’s most plentiful and prized fish species.

What’s in a name? If you live south of the 49th parallel, chances are you call this fish a walleye. In English-speaking Canada, it’s most often called a pickerel, which sounds a whole lot like pike, and can sometimes lead to massive confusion. Biologically speaking, walleyes are the species Sander vitreus while northern pike are a species called Esox lucius.

Why walleye? If you’ve ever inspected a walleye close up, you’ll notice those marble-sized peepers on the sides of the fish’s head. The term walleyed means that the pupils face out (as if staring at a wall). Walleye’s eyes shine bright at night because of light-gathering properties. This allows them to feed when the sun goes down. Fishing after dark can increase your success with this species.

Is it a walleye or a sauger? You’ll need keen eyes to tell the difference between these two closely-related species. In walleyes, look for white splotches on the lower part of the tail. In saugers, looks for rows of black dots on the top fins and tail.

Tackling the catching question. If you’re fishing from shore, load up a pickerel rig with some salted minnows and toss your line way out. Look for the tell-tale tap of a walleye nibbling, nibbling. If you’re on a boat over deep water, set up a jig with a minnow and drop it over the side of the boat. Wait until your jig hits bottom, then reel up a wee bit.