The walleye is the largest member of the perch family. It can grow to lengths of over 2 feet. The walleye’s body shape is elongate, streamlined, and slightly compressed. The color of this fish is variable. It is generally brownish yellow to grayish yellow on the back and sides, shading to white on the belly. Young walleyes show vague saddle-shaped bands on the body. Walleyes differ from yellow perch in that they possess large canine-like jaw teeth.
Walleyes are also known by other names such as pike perch and walleyed pike. It is considered by many to be New York State’s top game fish, and most agree that it is the most delicious food fish. The New York State record walleye was caught in 1994 at the Kinzua Reservoir and weighed 16lbs.7oz.
The walleye is widely distributed in New York State where suitable habitat exists. They prefer lakes and larger rivers with considerable areas of deep water. Cold to moderately warm water temperatures are the most favorable. As surface waters warm to the mid 70's F. they slowly retreat to deeper and cooler waters. Most of the time they suspend near the bottom during the day and move into shallows to feed at night. Walleyes are active during the winter and are a popular target of ice fishing anglers. Walleye fry first feed on zooplankton, and then switch t o insects. By the time they are 3 inches long, they feed on fish and larger organisms.
Walleyes spawn in early spring just after the ice goes out and water temperatures reach 40 to 45 F. Spawning areas consist of gravelly stream bottoms, or shoals in lakes where there is considerable water movement over rocks, gravel, or sand. Walleyes do not build nests. The males move onto the spawning area first. This area is usually in 1 to 5 feet of clear water and in some type of current. Spawning is generally done after dark. The female is attended by one or more males as they swim over the spawning area, simultaneously emitting eggs and sperm as they go. Fertilized eggs fall among the gravel and rocks on the bottom which provide some protection. Females may lay 35,000 to more than 600,000 eggs depending on her size. No parental care is given to either eggs or young.
Walleye can be successfully raised in farm ponds that are 3/4 acre and larger. Minimum depth for a walleye pond should be at least 10 feet. Walleye are a cool water fish and prefer a temperature range that is somewhere between that of bass and trout.
Once again, an abundant minnow population should be established before walleye fingerlings
Yellow perch are often stocked with walleye to provide forage for them. Both walleye and perch are excellent for eating. Walleyes usually do not reproduce in farm ponds. The recommended stocking rate for walleyes is 100 fingerlings per surface acre.