Species Profile – Walleye

Tue, January 24, 2017 | Lakes and Parks

Scientific Name: Sander vitreus; synonyms Stizostedion vitreum
Common Name(s): Walleye, Walleyed Pike, Colored Pike, Yellowed Pike, Pickerel

The Walleye, Sander vitreus, is commonly mistaken for the similar Sauger, Sander canadense. They can be distinguished from one another by the white coloration on the lower lobe of the tail fin of Walleye and by the rows of black spots on the fins of the sauger that are absent or indistinct on the Walleye. Walleye are larger than sauger. The Walleye has a large mouth extending to the rear of the eye and has many sharp teeth. Walleye are olive and gold with dark saddles extending to the upper sides, while the belly is whitish in color. In some parts of their range, walleye are known as walleyed pike or pickerel, although they are not closely related to species of pike. Walleye typically range from 15-31 inches in length and weigh 4-20 lbs. The current state record is 22 lbs 11 ounces, harvested from Greers Ferry Lake.

Sander vitreus is native to most of Canada, the great lakes, and the upper Midwest in the United States. It is considered native to Arkansas in the White River drainage, and the Ozark and Ouachita mountains. It has been stocked extensively throughout other reservoirs in the state and has been widely distributed to areas outside of its range in the United States. Although considered a cool water fish, it is native nearly to the Gulf Coast in the Mobile River Drainage.

Adult Walleye prefer water temperatures between 69 and 74°F and can live in both rivers and lakes. They generally need flowing water for successful spawning and without such require annual stocking of fingerlings or fry maintain populations in reservoirs.

Walleye spawn in early spring when water temperatures reach 43-50°F. Spawning takes place at night when fish migrate upstream to tributaries. Typically, spawning takes place in stream riffles, but in lakes can occur on rip-rap dams. Adhesive eggs are laid on gravel or rock, but some populations are known to spawn on sand or vegetation. Eggs are scattered at random by females, then several males immediately release milt to fertilize the eggs. In larger Arkansas reservoirs, natural spawning does occur where tributaries are large enough. In smaller lakes a small amount of successful reproduction may come from spawning over rocky shorelines, but stocking is required to maintain walleye fisheries. There is no nest building or no parental care for eggs or fry. Walleye are capable of spawning with sauger, producing the hybrid saugeye.

Walleye are top predators that consume insects, crustaceans, but mostly other fish.  The Walleye’s large eye has a reflective layer, the tapetum lucidum, which is an adaptation for vision in dim light, and gives it the “walleyed” appearance.  Walleye retreat to deep waters during the day, then move inshore to feed at dusk.

Walleye serve as a popular food fish and support both recreational and commercial fisheries. It is common to fish for them at night because of their nocturnal feeding habits.

Special Notes:
Here in Bella Vista, a walleye stocking program was started in the spring of 2016 where they are grown in two culture ponds located on the Berksdale Golf Course.  In 2011 saugeye were stocked in lakes Avalon and Norwood.  In 2015 Lakes Ann and Windsor received a stocking.  In 2016 the POA fisheries department made the transition from saugeye to walleye with stockings in lakes Avalon, Norwood, and Windsor.  We hope to perpetuate the program by collecting our own broodstock from these lakes for spawning purposes.  Therefore, we ask that anglers release all walleye / saugeye less than 20 inches and only keep two a day.  This should be a reasonable request because we see growth to twenty inches in 2 years.  Last year’s sampling yielded a 7 pound saugeye from Lake Avalon, only two pounds shy of the state record.  We hope to be able to consistently stock walleye in the future and see lakes Ann, Avalon, and Windsor as the most suitable lakes.  Stocking will take place in early June.  Walleye are popular with fisherman due to their vigor and food quality.  Those hoping to catch walleye should fish deep during the day where the light is dim, or at dusk or cloudy days in shallower water for best results.