Put the big fish back… and other fish facts

Picture of walleye under water

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Walleye spawn in the spring as soon as the ice is out by depositing eggs over rocks and cobble shoals. The fertilized eggs fall into the cracks and spaces between the rocks to safely incubate and hatch.

Female walleye can carry up to 26,000 eggs per pound of body weight. So, a large female walleye (10 lbs) can carry as many as 250,000 eggs. Of those, only 1% of fertilized eggs will survive under ideal conditions. This is why it is so important to release any large female walleye that are caught, and keep them in the lake to spawn again. It ensures the future of a healthy fishery, and good genes for more big fish!

You can differentiate male from female walleye by size and shape:

  • Males tend to have a longer body shape with long heads and are usually 15-21 inches (males rarely grow past 23 inches).
  • Females tend to be larger (almost all the big walleye are females), have a rounder body shape, and have smaller heads as compared with the body size.

It is best to limit the harvest of fish during the spawn, as they are particularly vulnerable to angling and netting during this time, and over-harvest will diminish the overall stock of fish in the lake. If there is fishing during spawning time, try to selectively harvest small to medium size males and return large females to the lake. This will not affect the overall success of the spawn as much as the harvest of larger egg-carrying females.

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