The walleye is the largest member of the perch family and is one of the most highly prized game fish in Wisconsin. It is found in clear-water northern lakes as well as large rivers like the Mississippi, Wisconsin, Wolf and Fox. Learn where to watch them spawn.
Walleyes eat mostly minnows, but leeches, small bullheads, nightcrawlers and various small plugs, cast or trolled, are favorite baits. Their large, unusual eyes are designed to help them easily find their prey. They can grow to lengths over 37 inches and weigh up to 25 pounds. Most catches are 14-17 inches and weigh about 2 pounds. Walleyes are easily distinguished from other fish by their golden color, and by the black triangle of membrane on the back portion of the dorsal fin. The lower half of the tail fin also has a white tip which helps in identification.
The walleye is a schooling fish like the perch and can be found along the shorelines and in shallow bays looking for small fish to eat, especially at dusk. Dawn, dusk, and dark are the best times for this light sensitive fish. Start prospecting close to shore and keep drilling holes until the bottom drops sharply away. Stream inlets or outlets are also good spots, but look out for thin ice!
As with northern pike, tip-ups rigged with minnows are the best at attracting walleyes. You may need to experiment with the depth of your line. Unlike the northern, the walleye will come up and attack the bait and head straight for the bottom. Let the resistance come from the unwinding reel and wait until it stops. Wait! The walleye is turning the bait around before eating it and may take about 5 minutes. When the line tugs again, set the hook with a yank, and expect a fight! Work the fish to the surface and get out your gaff hook.
You can also choose to jig for walleyes with monofilament line on a jigging rod. You can bait it with wax worms, small minnows or cut smelt. The "proof" is in the jigging to lure and not scare away the fish. With a lure, you must set the hook with the first strike since it is not "real" food. This method may also allow you to catch several walleye when they're biting since you don't have to rebait the hook each time.
State Record Catch Size: 18 pounds, High Lake, Vilas County, WI.