Sander vitreuswalleye(Also: Blue pike; Dory; Glass eye; Gray pike; Marble Eye)

Geographic Range

Walleye are native to the Nearctic Region. Walleye are abundant in many lakes and larger rivers over much of North America, from the Northwest Territories across Canada east of the Rocky Mountains to Labrador, southward along the Atlantic Coast to North Carolina, west to Arkansas, and north along the Missouri River. Their original range involved the Mississippi, Great Lakes, and St. Lawrence drainages, but they have been widely introduced into Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf drainages. (Froese and Pauly, eds., 2002; Phillips, et al., 1982)


Walleyes prefer deep lake and river water but will move into shallow flats to feed during early evening and night. (Tomelleri, 1990)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • Range depth
    27.0 (high) m
    88.58 (high) ft

Physical Description

The name walleye refers to the glassy, large pupils of this fish; their white stare is a result of light reflected back through the pupil by crystalline matter in the retina. This allows the walleye to see extraordinarily well in darker waters. Walleyes are long and slim; brownish- green or silver above to creamy white below with dark stripes. The ventral lobe of the tail fin has a prominent white margin. Walleyes have large canine teeth. They have a large, visible, black spot at the base of the last three spines in the first of their two dorsal fins. They can reach 107 cm in length and can grow to 11 kg. Average weight is around 5 kg (Phillip, et al., 1982; Froese and Pauly, 2002)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    2.0 to 10.0 kg
    4.41 to 22.03 lb
  • Range length
    107.0 (high) cm
    42.13 (high) in


In southern areas, walleye may live 10 to 12 years but in northern waters they may live to be more than 20 years old


Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Walleye are strictly carnivorous. Young walleye eat plankton. As they get older, they mostly eat fishes such as yellow perch and freshwater drum. They also eat insects, crayfish, snails, and mudpuppies (a kind of salamander). They even eat small mammals when fish and insects are not available. Feeding occurs at night. (Tomelleri, 1990; Froese and Pauly, 2002; Ontario Fishing Network, date unknown)

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats terrestrial vertebrates
    • eats non-insect arthropods


Adult walleye are top predators, which means that they do not have any natural predators in their habitat except humans. Humans do catch and eat adult walleye. The eggs and young fish are susceptible to predation by other fish such as white bass, muskellunge, white perch, largemouth bass, northern pike, and catfish. Young walleye avoid predation by staying near cover.

Ecosystem Roles

Walleye are top predators. Once they reach adulthood, they primarily eat other animals and are not themselves eaten (except by people). They compete for food with other fish that are predators, including smallmouth bass and white perch.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The walleye is perhaps the most sought after warm-water game fish and it supports a large fishing industry, particularly in the Central U.S. and Great Lakes area. (Phillips, et al., 1982)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • controls pest population

Conservation Status

Overall, walleye are not threatened or endangered. Populations of walleye are managed by humans as a game fish. One subspecies, Sander vitreus (blue pike) is believed to have gone extinct recently.

Other Comments

The walleye is the state fish of Minnesota and by far the most popular fish in that state. In southern areas, walleye may live 10 to 12 years but in northern waters they may live to be more than 20 years old (Phillips et al. 1982; Ontario Fishing Network, date unknown)


Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Robin Street (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Froese, R., D. Pauly, eds.. 2002. "Fishbase" (On-line). Accessed March 23, 2002 at

Galarowicz, T., D. Wahl, B. Herendeen. 1999. "Illinois Natural History Survey:Development of an Individual-based Model to Evaluate Growth and Survival of Walleye" (On-line). Accessed 2 April 2002 at

Lake Erie Walleye Magazine, 2001. "The walleye fact file" (On-line). Accessed 2 April 2002 at

Ontario Fishing Network, Date unknown. "Lake Nipissing Walleye Fishing Biology and Life Cycle" (On-line). Accessed 2 April 2002 at

Phillips, , Schmid, Underhill. 1982. Fishes of the Minnesota Region. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Tomerelli, J. 1990. Fishes of the Central United States. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.