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Ontario Walleye Biology Fishing Resource

Beautiful Walleye

The common name, walleye, was selected by a committee of experts appointed by the American Fisheries Society in 1933, as most appropriate for this fish. Other names, which are commonly used, are dore, pike-perch and esspecially pickerel. The name, dore, was used by the early settlers in Quebec and is not only picturesque but descriptive of the golden colour of the fish. The name, walleye, has reference to the glassy appearance of the eye. The name, pickerel, means a diminutive pike, which is definitely a misnomer because the walleye is not a diminutive pike, and there is nothing pike-like in its form or habits except, possibly, the large mouth and the canine teeth. The term, pickerel, is more appro- priately applied to a young pike or to a small species of pike. Ad mittedly, the names, pickeral and walleye, have been rather universally adopted. In the scientific name, Stizostedion means pungent throat and vitreum means glassy, from the large eye. The body of the walleye is elongate, the head long and conical, and the mouth large. The jaws contain large canine or tearing teeth. The two dorsal fins are well separated; the first is spinous and the second soft-rayed. The membranes between the last two or three spines of the dorsal fin are inky black. When the side of the fish is stroked from the back to the front, it feels rough to the touch. This is owing to patches of spinelike prickles (etenii) on the exposed portions of the scales, which have been aptly named ctenoid scales.

Coloration is generally olive-brown or dark brown with brassy yellow mottlings sprinkled over the body and head. A careful observer will note that the lower lobe of the tail fin has a very distinct creamy or white margin.

Average age and size of walleye in Ontario

Age
(years)
Av. Length
(in)
Average Weight
(lbs)
2 7.4 3 oz
3 10.6 10 oz
4 12.3 1 lb
6 15.3 2 lb. 3oz. 
8 20.3 4 lb. 14oz.
12 24.1 8lb 14oz.
13 25.1 10lb 12oz.

Distribution

The walleye ranges from New Brunswick to Virginia on the Atlantic coast, through the Great Lakes region and upper Mississippi valley, westward to the Saskatchewan valley, and northward to the Mackenzie River region and Hudson Bay drainage. It is found throughout Ontario and is particularly common in the Great Lakes basin. In Northern Ontario, it is incredibly abundant. The range of the species has been greatly extended by stocking. Habitat It thrives in clear, cold lakes and rivers, especially where there are extensive forage and spawning areas; a wide range of several miles is desirable.

Habits

Movements
It is an active swinuner and a great traveller. Tagging studies, conducted by Lake Erie District biologists of the On- tario Department of Lands and Forests in 1956, demonstrated that a walleye tagged in the Thames River at Prairie Siding, eight miles from the mouth of the river, was caught at Saginaw Bay, Michigan, 175 miles from the point of tagging. Similar studies conducted on the Winnipeg River demonstrated that some walleye were caught 25 miles downstream and some 10 miles up- stream from the tagging site. The greater percentage was caught downstream. The period involved from the date of tagging to the date of recovery was one to two months.

Spawning
Spawning takes place soon after the ice goes out in spring when the temperature of the water ranges from 38F. to 44F. This may occur early in April, if the season is advanced, or early in May if the season is delayed because of cold, inclement weather. Large numbers of walleye ascend tributary streams and spawn in bouldery riffles at night. The males usually precede the females. When the spawn is ripe, eggs and milt (sperms) are extruded into the water and fertilization of the eggs is effected. The eggs are very sticky and adhere to the gravelly bottom, downstream from the spawning area. The incubation period is of two to three weeks' duration. The east shore of Georgian Bay may be cited as an example of an extensive area where stretches of rapids in numerous rivers provide ideal spawning grounds for walleye and suckers. Both species spawn in similar situations but at different times. The walleye is the first to spawn when the water has warmed to 38"F. to 40"F. The sucker spawns after the walleye and before the sturgeon, although some late spawning suckers may overlap with early spawning sturgeon. Spawning also takes place in the shallow waters of lakes, on sandy, gravelly or ston shoals. , y Walleye are prolific spawners, but there is considerable variation in the number of eggs produced by individual fish. For example, the number produced by a three- to three-and-a-half-pound female may vary from 72,000 to I 10,000. Aver- age counts of eggs in the ovaries have shown that there are about 26,000 eggs per pound of fish. The eggs are small and measure ap- proximately 120,000 to the quart.

Food and Growth
Young walleye feed mostly on small plankton organisms. With increasing size, aquatic insects and their larvae and numerous other invertebrates are eaten. With further growth, fish such as yellow perch, minnows, suckers and ciscoes are important food items. Careful observations have provided evidence that walleye may not eat while spawning.

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