One of the more popular sport fish, walleye are undoubtedly some of the finest table fare among fresh water fish. Native to central North America and Canada, they have been extensively stocked throughout much of the United States. It is the largest member of the perch family in North America. Walleye refers to the fish’s large, luminous eye, which give them extraordinary vision in low light.
Walleyes are a pelagic species that travel, feed and spawn in schools. They have a torpedo shaped body, forked tail, and a mouthful of sharp canine teeth. Coloration is typically a golden-brown to olive-brown, but they sometimes take on a grayish hue and can have dark-on-light mottling. The belly is white to off-white. A distinguishing mark of walleye is the white spot on the lower edge of the tail. While a typical walleye is under 24 inches and five pounds, they can exceed ten pounds and 30 inches.
Fish comprise the bulk of walleye’s diet, they frequently feeding in shallow water under low light conditions, moving deeper during bright light or use the cover cliffs, boulders, logs and even heavy weeds. Under windy or turbid conditions walleye remain more active throughout the day. Their preferred water temperature falls between that of trout and bass. Walleyes’ natural habitat includes large lakes, big streams and rivers, with cool and moderately deep water. Turbid water is tolerated.
Spawning takes place in early spring when water temperatures reach the low 40’s. They prefer area with highly oxygenated water to spawn such as rivers or windswept shorelines. Spawning occurs under the cover of darkness where the males prod the females into releasing their eggs over shallow rock, rubble or gravel areas. A five-pound female may deposits more than 100,000 eggs. There is no parental care of the eggs.
Walleye in Texas
Stizostedion is Greek and vitreum is Latin, meaning "pungent throat" and "glass", respectively. The latter is probably a reference to the species' large eyes. As is typical of perches, the walleye is equipped with two separate dorsal fins. The anterior fin has spines, and the posterior dorsal has 19-22 soft rays. The anal fin has 12-14 rays and two spines. The body is generally mottled with dark blotches on a yellowish-to-greenish brown background. Colors on the lower body shade to white on the belly. The lower lobe of the tail fin has a light tip. Walleyes are obvious carnivores with teeth in the jaws and on the roof of the mouth.
Walleyes are early spring spawners. They are generally nocturnal with most activity, including spawning, occurring at night. In the spring, spawning begins when water temperatures reach 45-50° Fahrenheit. Fish begin to move upstream into tributaries. Typically, spawning takes place on riffles after fish have moved upstream, but in lakes it may also take place on rip-rap dams or reefs (as in the Great Lakes). Eggs are scattered at random by females who are accompanied by several males that fertilize the eggs. Walleye eggs are adhesive and stick to the substrate. At water temperatures of 57°F, they hatch in about seven days. There is no nest building, and no parental care for eggs or fry. Young walleyes are fast growers and may attain lengths of ten inches or more during their first year if conditions are favorable. Although young fish may consume crustaceans and various insects and their larvae, adults are primarily piscivorous. Walleyes typically live to be 7-8 years old and weigh 12-15 pounds. However, individuals in their mid "teens" have been collected, and the world all-tackle record is 25 pounds.
The species has been stocked in several Texas reservoirs.
High summer water temperatures restrict walleye growth and survival in much of Texas. However, in the north Texas lakes, such as Lake Meredith, the species does very well. Six-to-eight pound specimens are common at times. The state record comes from Lake Meredith and stands at 11.88 pounds. Walleye is considered an excellent food fish from Texas to the northern states.