3 Interesting Facts About North American Walleye

3 Interesting Facts About North American Walleye
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Walleye are freshwater fish native to the Mississippi River basin, the Great Lakes, and Canada. They prefer lakes, rivers, and other cool, deep, and calm bodies of water, spending most of their days asleep and nights active. However, despite their nocturnal nature, walleye are a popular target for North American fishing enthusiasts! Read on to learn three interesting facts about walleye.

The Origin of Their Name

Fish names always have a unique origin story, and walleye (a member of the perch family) are no different. These fish are identifiable at night or even in murky water conditions thanks to their large pearlescent eyes. Furthermore, the noun walleye sometimes refers to opaque corneas and pearlescent irises, thus inspiring the walleye name! More interesting, however, is the reason why the walleye eyeball is so reflective. Their eyes feature a special layer of pigment called tapetum lucidum that illuminates dark environments. Other animals with tapetum lucidum include cattle, horses, blue-eyed dogs and cats, and deer. Conversely, no humans or primates display this reflective pigment layer.

The Ultimate Freshwater Fish Killer

Most freshwater predators maintain balanced diets of terrestrial insects, aquatic insects, worms, crustaceans, and other fish. However, walleye are unique because their diets are almost exclusively other fish. While juvenile walleye snack on crayfish, insects, snails, and salamanders, full-grown walleye are certified fish killers! Some walleye even eat small mammals when their preferred yellow perch and freshwater drum diet is low. Walleye is one of the many fish you can catch with jigging, but ensure your rig features live bait for the best results.

The Largest Walleye Every Caught

In most regions of North America, caught walleye rarely weigh more than a pound and a half. In fact, walleye over 10 pounds are quite rare catches for the average angler. However, evidence suggests that these perch can reach weights well over 20 pounds! In fact, the largest walleye ever caught weighed a whopping 25 pounds and four ounces and measured 41 inches long, snagged by local Mabry Harper in Tennessee in 1960. No North American angler has ever caught a walleye of that size since. Arkansas local Al Nelson snagged the second largest walleye ever caught in 1982 on Greers Ferry Lake—his catch weighed 22 pounds and 11 ounces.

These three interesting facts about North American walleye effectively highlight how special this fish breed truly is. Thankfully, walleye receive many protections and fishing regulations throughout the United States and Canada to ensure a healthier species overall!


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