Fish Facts

Walleye Facts: (provided from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans website)

The walleye, the highly esteemed member of the perch family, gets its name from the large eye with its light-reflecting retina, which gives the fish its walleyed appearance. This fish is probably the most economically valuable species in Canada’s inland waters. Walleye is a major commercial and sport fish in Ontario and the Prairie Provinces, and a major sport fish in Quebec. An angler survey in Ontario showed that the walleye was the game species most often fished and was the second in abundance in anglers’ catches.

The perch family is a large one, with about 140 species in North America alone. The walleye (Stizostedion vitreum) is a close relative of the yellow perch, sauger and the darters. Walleye are known by many common names such as pickerel, yellow pickerel, yellow walleye, pike perch, wall-eyed pike, walleye pike and core.

Walleye Description:
Walleye has a dark green back, golden yellow sides and a white belly. The lower tip of the caudal fin is white, and there is a large black blotch at the rear base of the first dorsal fin. Young walleye usually have dark blotches across their backs and down their sides, patterns that usually are absent in the adults. The colour of the walleye is highly variable, depending on habitat, with golden colour characteristics in many populations. Usually Walleye are paler with less obvious black markings in turbid waters and more strikingly marked in clear waters. Adult Walleye average about l kg but the record is in the vicinity of 11 kg.

Walleye Distribution:
Most commonly found in fresh and only rarely brackish waters of North America, walleye in Canada inhabit tributaries of the St. Lawrence River downstream to the Manicouagan River, north to its tributary to the east coast of James Bay; northwest from the Hudson Bay coast in Ontario and Manitoba to Athabasca, Great Slave and Great Bear lakes down to the Mackenzie River’s delta; south through the Peace River drainage of northeastern British Columbia; and south, east of the Rocky Mountain foothills, to southern Alberta. Walleye form a dominant part of the fish fauna of central Canada, particularly in the boreal forest zone.

Walleye Reproduction:
Walleye spawning occurs in the spring or early summer, depending on latitude and water temperature. Northern populations do not spawn in some years when the water temperature is not favourable. Normally, spawning begins shortly after ice breaks up in a lake, at temperatures of 7° to 9°C but has been known to occur over a range of from 6° to 11 °C.

Courtship may commence much earlier when water temperature is at 1°C. The males move to the spawning grounds first. These are usually rocky areas in flowing water below impassible falls and dams in rivers and streams, coarse-gravel shoals, or along rubble shores of lakes at depths of less than 2 m. The walleye may move into tributary rivers immediately after they are free of ice and while the lakes are still ice covered. Walleye spawning takes place at night, in groups of one large female and one or two smaller males or two females and numerous males.

The male walleye is not territorial, and does not build a nest. Prior to spawning, there is a lot of pursuit, pushing, circular swimming, and fin erection. Finally, the spawning group rushes upward into shallow water, stops, the females roll on their sides, release their eggs and simultaneously milt is released by the males. Apparently females deposit most of their eggs in one night of spawning. The fertilized eggs are heavier than the water and fall into crevices in the stream or lake bottom where they stick to stones and debris. The maximum number of eggs released by one female has been estimated at 612,000.

The eggs hatch in 12 to 18 days on the spawning grounds and by 10 to 15 days after hatching the young have dispersed into the upper levels of open water. By the latter part of the summer, young-of-the-year Walleye move toward the bottom. Growth is fairly rapid in the south, but slower in more northerly latitudes. Females grow more quickly than males.

Walleye Diet:
The diet of walleye shifts very rapidly, from invertebrates to fishes, as the walleye increase in size. This is partly a reflection of their change in habitat from surface to bottom waters. During the first six weeks of life their diet consists mostly of copepods, crustaceans, and very small fish. Walleye can be cannibalistic, especially if small yellow perch or other forage fish are not readily available. Some populations, even as adults, feed almost exclusively on emerging larval or adult mayflies for part of the year. The relative amounts of the various species of fish that walleye feed on apparently are determined by their availability. Yellow perch and cyprinids are particularly favoured when these species are present. Other food such as crayfish, snails, frogs, mudpuppies, and rarely small mammals may be taken, but usually only when forage fish and insects are scarce.

Walleye Habits:
Walleye caught by anglers are usually 0.5 to 1.5 kg in weight and more than three years of age. The present angling record is a walleye taken in Old Hickory Lake, Tennessee, in 1960, which was 104.1 cm long and weighed 11.3 kg. The previous long-standing record was a walleye of 10.1 kg caught near Fort Erie, Ontario, in 1943. Male walleye generally mature at two to four years of age and females at three to six years of age. Maximum age varies from 10 to 12 years in the south to possibly more than 20 years in the north.

The special layer in the retina of the eye tapetum ucidum, being extremely sensitive to bright daylight intensities, restricts feeding to twilight or dark periods. Walleye are tolerant of a great range of environmental situations, but appear to reach greatest abundance in large, shallow, turbid lakes. Large streams or rivers, provided they are deep or turbid enough to provide shelter in daylight, are also preferred habitat of the walleye. Walleye use sunken trees, boulder shoals, weed beds, or thicker layers of ice and snow as a shield from the sun.

In clear lakes the walleye often lay in contact with the bottom, seemingly resting. In these lakes, Walleye usually feed from top to bottom at night. In more turbid water they are more active during the day, swimming slowly in schools close to the bottom. Walleye frequently are associated with other species such as yellow perch, northern pike, white suckers and smallmouth bass. White suckers, for example, orient themselves in walleye schools and behave as part of them. During the winter the walleye do not change their habitat except to avoid strong currents.

In the spring, Walleye have a spawning run to shallow shoals, inshore areas, or tributary rivers, while at other times they move up and down in response to light intensity. Walleye also move daily or seasonally in response to temperature or food availability. For the most part, walleye seem to remain in loose but discrete schools with separate spawning grounds and summer territories. There is evidence, as well, to suggest that populations of walleye home to the same spawning area each year.

Walleye Enemies:
Northern pike is probably the dominant predator of the walleye over much of its range. The muskellunge also preys on the walleye in more restricted areas, but the northern pike may also be an important competitor because it is the only other major, shallow-water predator in the north. Adult perch, other walleye, and the sauger prey on young walleye. Many fish-eating birds and mammals also take young walleye from time to time.

Yellow perch, sauger and smallmouth bass are the walleye’s main competitors for food. But more important in controlling populations are water temperature, stream flow and wind at spawning time, and interference from other species, which spawn over the walleye eggs. The major controlling factor of walleye populations appears to be mortality during the egg and fry stage.

Most walleye are caught by still fishing with live minnows and earthworms as bait or with artificial lures such as spinners, spoons, plugs and jigs. Drifting and trolling are usually the most effective methods used to seek out schools of moving walleye and the twilight periods of sunset and sunrise are the best times for catching the species. While not a spectacular fighter when hooked, the walleye is a steady battler that tends to bore to the bottom.

Canadian commercial fisheries have been harvesting about 4,000 to 5,000 metric tons (t) of walleye annually. The years 1941 to 1980 saw considerable fluctuations in catch. Walleye catches peaked at almost 10,000 t in 1956 but in recent years they averaged approximately 4,000 t with a landed value of about $8 million.

Muskellunge (Musky) Facts: (provided from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans website)

Belle River Ontario is the Musky Capital of the World!

Muskellunge (Musky) (Esox masquinongy) is the accepted common name of Canada’s largest freshwater game fish. It is also known by its original Indian name, maskinonge, which is the official name given it in the statutes of Canada and those of Ontario and Quebec. Anglers often refer to it as the musky. The muskellunge (Musky) has been exclusively a game fish in Ontario since 1904 and in Quebec since 1936 due to the intensity of sport fishing for it and the decline in catches.

A close relative of the northern pike, the muskellunge (Musky) exhibits the same long body shape with dorsal and anal fins set back near the tail, the long, flat-topped snout with undershot jaw, and the large mouth armed with rows of strong, sharp teeth. Early in the century, this fish was known to exceed 45 kg in weight. The largest Musky on record weighed 50 kg and was netted by commercial fishermen in Michigan state waters in 1914. The world’s record Musky by an angler was taken on the St. Lawrence River in 1957 and weighed 31.5 kg. Today, muskellunge are most often caught in the length range of 71 to 122 cm and weight range of 2.3 to 16.3 kg.

The overall colour of the muskellunge (Musky) varies with the geographical area. Its flanks usually show dark spots, bars or wavy lines on a light background in contrast to the northern pike, which has light markings on a dark background. Its back, head, and upper sides usually vary from greenish brown to slate grey, shading to greenish gold or silver on the lower sides and white over the belly. Its scales are very small and unlike the northern pike, Musky has no scales on the lower half of its cheeks.

In Canada, the range of the muskellunge (Musky) extends throughout the St. Lawrence River and all of the Great Lakes and to many inland waters of Ontario and Quebec. Musky has also been introduced in eastern Manitoba and although still limited, has spread naturally in that province.

Musky’s preferred habitat is warm, heavily vegetated lakes, stumpy, weedy bays, and slow-flowing, heavily vegetated rivers. Like the northern pike, it has a voracious appetite for other fish such as yellow perch and white sucker.

Few Canadian game fish are as popular with sport fishermen as the muskellunge (Musky). Its leaping, fighting tactics and unpredictable behaviour make it a worthy opponent for the most experienced angler. It is caught by trolling or casting with a plug, spoon, and spinner or with live baitfish. As with other sport fisheries, legislation imposes season, size, daily bag and possession limits of Musky.

Yellow Perch Facts:  (provided from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans website)
The yellow perch is a favourite sport fish of children. This small prolific fish, widely distributed in Canada’s inland waters, has delighted generations of young anglers, not to mention their elders. But perch importance does not stop there. Commercial fishermen catch large numbers, the greatest production coming from the Great Lakes. Today perch is the most valuable commercial catch taken from Ontario waters. As well, in the ecology of many of our rivers and lakes, perch is of inestimable value as the prey of larger fish.

The scientific name of perch, Perca flavescens, describes its body colouration perfectly. Perca is an ancient word meaning dusky and flavescens means yellowish. The yellow perch is dusky olive green over the back, and its sides to below the pectoral fins are yellow or yellow-green marked with six to eight broad, dusky, vertical bars. The perch’s belly is white. Like other members of the perch family, such as the walleye and sauger, perch has two well-separated dorsal fins, the first spiny-rayed and the second softrayed. Perch seldom exceeds a length of 30 cm or weighs more than 450 gm, averaging in weight only 100 to 300 grams.

Primarily a lake fish, the yellow perch is also found in ponds and slow-moving rivers and streams across the northern United States and in all of the Canadian provinces. Perch is especially abundant in in the Great Lakes drainage system. Perch occurs as far north as Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories.

Perhaps the easiest of all fish to catch, it is taken in all seasons of the year. Perch responds to any type of natural bait and will also attack artificial lures. Usually perch move in large, loose schools which, when encountered, provide the angler with fast and furious activity. Commercial fishermen catch the yellow perch with gillnets, poundnets, and trapnets.
An excellent pan fish, the flesh of the yellow perch is firm, white, and sweet tasting. Most of the commercial catch of perch is filleted for sale in the United States, but there is a growing market for perch in Canada. Perch is marketed here both as the whole fish and as fillets.

Just Remember …A Bad Day of Fishing is Better than a Good Day at the Office!!!