The Way to Walleye

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 15, 2010

Many anglers don’t know anything more about walleyes than that they are good eating. That’s solid information, of course, but it doesn’t help you catch them.

What does help is learning that walleyes are considered a cool-water fish. The species, Stizostedium Vitreum Vitreum, generally prefers cooler water than largemouth bass, but warmer water than trout. When water temperatures are in their preferred range, somewhere just south of 70 degrees, walleye move and eat more, making them more susceptible to anglers. In Missouri, late spring and early fall provide some of the best walleye fishing of the year.

It’s rare to see a walleye unless you are bringing it up on the end of your line. That’s because these slender fish usually hang out in deeper water than many other species. Except during a brief early spring spawn, they seldom frequent the shallows and almost never jump from the water or cruise along the surface.

So that identification is not a problem, you should know that walleye are a longish fish—small ones are often called “cigars.” Their backs and sides are olive green to brown, and they have white bellies. Their large mouths are full of jagged teeth.

Walleyes also have a white spot on the lower part of their tail. The spot helps distinguish them from saugers, a smaller fish in the same genus. Saugers are also typically darker than walleye and their coloration is splotchier. Walleyes grow larger, too. The Missouri record is 21 pounds, 1 ounce. Sauger only rarely exceed 5 pounds.

The dictionary may help you understand how they got their name. The word walleye refers to a condition in which the eye shows more white than normal. At times, walleye will give you a milky white stare, especially if you shine a light on them.

Their eyes, like those of raccoons, deer, cats and other nocturnal animals, have a light gathering layer that helps them see well in dim or dark light. This gives them a vision advantage over much of their prey and is almost certainly the reason walleye fishing is often best in low light conditions, or even during the dark of night.

Sometimes just a darkening is enough. A few clouds blocking the sun or a brisk

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