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Ontario Walleye Fishing

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Walleye (Pickerel - dore)

The walleye is a freshwater fish that is found in most of Canada and to the northern United States. It’s a close relative of the European pikeperch. It’s sometimes referred to as the yellow walleye so that it is distinguished from the extinct blue walleye, which was found in the Great Lakes area and lake Nipissing in the 1800's.

In the English speaking areas of Canada, the walleye is known as the pickerel or the yellow pike even though the fish is not related to the pikes. It is well known as the "dore" in French portions of the province.

Because the fish has been artificially propagated for over 100 years there is a lot of variation across the watersheds. Usually fish within watersheds are very similar but the Walleye are not because of this. They have been put into waters that don’t have the species which has reduced the genetic distinctiveness of populations.

Their name the walleye comes from the reality that their eyes, just like cats, reflect light. The “eyeshine” comes from light gathering layers in their eyes that allows the fish to see really well in low light conditions. Anglers look to catch walleye’s at nights since this is when they are feeding. The walleye’s eyes also give it the ability to see well in rough waters. This eyesight gives them a distinct advantage over their prey. So what do anglers do? They look for days and locations where there is rough water to go walleye fishing. The fish’s eyesight also allows for them to populate and go into the deeper water in a lake. They do this primarily in the warmest part of the summer.

Walleye Range in Ontario

Walleyes color is usually olive and gold. The olive side of the fish is the dorsal side. The flanks grade into a golden hue. The color is broken up by five darker saddles that go up to the upper sides. On the belly, the walleye is white. The walleye has a large mouth with lots of sharp teeth. The anal and dorsal fins are full of spinous material. The sauger fish looks a lot like the walleye but the distinction is the white color on the lower lobe of the caudal fin on the walleye. The sauger does not have this. Also saugers have rows of black dots on its fins and the walleyes do not.

Walleyes grow to be about 31 inches and can weigh up to 20 pounds. The biggest one caught on record is one that was 42 inches in length and weighed 25 pounds. The fish’s growth rate depends largely on where it is located when it is growing. The walleyes in the southern populations usually grow faster and larger. Also, females are usually bigger than the males.

Their life span is pretty long. The longest recorded age for a walleye is 29 years. However, in those areas that are fished heavily, rarely are fish over 5 or 6 encountered. In North America where they are considered a prize, they are usually caught when they are 12 to 20 inches. This is way below their potential size.

Just like most fish, walleyes increase in weight as they grow longer in length.

In the majority of the range of the species, the male walleyes mature at age 3 or 4. Females normally don’t mature until about a year later. Adult walleyes head towards tributary streams in late winter or early spring. They do this to lay eggs over gravel and rock. They do also lay eggs on reefs and shoals as well. Some are even known to spawn on sand or vegetation. The water temperature for spawning is 43 to 50 degrees F. A female that is large can lay up to 500,000 eggs. After the eggs are laid the female gives no care to the eggs. The eggs then will fall down into spaces amongst the rocks. The eggs hatch from 12 to 30 days. The hatching period of time depends on the water temperature. After the eggs hatch they spend a week or so absorbing yolk. Next they feed on zooplankton and then after 40 to 60 days they can eat small fish. Walleyes love to eat minnows, leeches and crayfish as food sources.

Anglers say the walleye is great to eat. So as a result, it is fished both commercially and recreationally for food. Most anglers go fishing for the walleye at nighttime because that’s when the walleye likes to fed. They use lures that look like small fish and live minnows as bait. Most commercial fisheries for this fish are found in Canada.

Because of the popularity of fishing for walleyes, most fishing for them is regulated so that they are not overfished. They also regulate quotas and length limits for anglers to make sure that the walleye’s are not over exploited. In Ontario many lakes have "slot sizes"

The walleyes eyesight makes feeding for them not only at night or dawn and dusk but on cloudy and overcast days with choppy water going on. Similar to this, if the water is dark and its daylight they will feed as well. This certainly gives them an advantage over their prey. In the spawning season, the walleye is usually found in shallower water, usually around six feet deep. But they like to stay in murky water there.   


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