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  • A Virtual Museum on the State's Fish Biodiversity
    Sander vitreus
    Walleye
    Credit: Joseph Tomelleri

    Taxonomic Hierarchy

    Life
    Animalia
    Chordata
    Actinopterygii
    Perciformes
    Percidae (Perches)
    Sander
    Sander vitreus (Walleye)

    Description

    All text below is derived from a January 2013 copy of Dr. Timothy Bonner's website at Texas State University. That content was derived primarily from published literature. We are aware of some conflicts with the museum record and the content below will evolve as the new, expanded UT and Texas State Fishes of Texas project team members are able to update it. We invite collaborations to improve and expand the species account content. Please contact us if you wish to help, or if you discover flaws in our species account content that you can address.

    Type Locality

    Cayuga Lake, New York (Michill 1818).

     

    Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

    Stizostedion: to prick a little breast, intended by Rafinesque to mean pungent throat, presumably in reference to the ctenoid breast scales; vitreum: glassy, in reference to the large eye (Ross 2001).

     

    Synonymy

    Perca vitrea Mitchill 1818:247.

    Stizostedion vitreum Cook 1959:190.

     

    Characters

    Maximum size: Walleye attain large sizes, with adults reaching up to 430 mm SL (Becker 1983).

     

    Coloration: The upper head and back range from olive to yellowish brown and the sides are lighter. The first dorsal fin has a dark spot at the posterior base, though otherwise the fin membranes are distinctly without spots. The second dorsal fin has rows of small spots. Anal and pelvic fins are generally clear. The undersides of the head are white to yellow (Ross 2001).

     

    Teeth count: Canine teeth well developed (Hubbs et al 1991). There are strong, canine teeth in the jaws and on the palatines (Ross 2001)

     

    Counts: 19-22 dorsal fin soft rays; 3 or 4 pyloric caecae; 12-13 anal fin soft rays (Hubbs et al 1991). 77-104 SC, 8 lower gillrakers, 12-14 first dorsal spines, 1-2 second dorsal spines, 13-(11-14) anal rays, and 13-16 pectoral rays (Ross 2001; modified from Scott and Crossman 1973; Becker 1983).

     

    Body shape: Large, elongate fish with an almost cylindrical body (Ross 2001).

     

    Mouth position: Has a large, terminal mouth. The posterior margin of the jaw extends to under the back of the eye are the upper jaw is protrusile (Ross 2001).

     

    External morphology: Cheeks sparsely scaled; preopercle strongly serrate; upper jaw extending to below middle of eye or farther (Hubbs et al 1991). A forked caudal fin and widely separated dorsal fins. The lateral line is complete and straight (Ross 2001).

     

    Distribution (Native and Introduced)

    U.S. distribution: Occurs naturally throughout much of northern North America east of the Rocky Mountains; widely introduced elsewhere in the United States (Hubbs et al 1991)

     

    Texas distribution: Introduced populations stocked into numerous reservoirs in the state (Hubbs et al 1991)

     

    Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, NGO)

    Populations in the southern United States are currently stable (Warren et al. 2000).

     

    Habitat Associations

    Macrohabitat: In the Tombigbee River, Walleye were common in sections with hole or pools 2.4-6.1 m deep, alternating with shoals and bars. They were also found in stream sections where springs provided localized areas of cooler water in the summer. In tributaries, walleye preferred heavily shaded areas (Schultz 1971). Southern stocks of walleye have not done well in reservoirs (Hackney and Holbrook 1978).

     

    Mesohabitat: The upper temperature tolerances for fish acclimated at 23°C averaged °C for northern and southern stocks of walleye (Peterson 1993).

     

    Biology

    Spawning season: Walleye in the Tombigbee apparently spawn from February to April at water temperatures of 8.9-12.8°C (Schultz 1971).

     

    Spawning location: Northern walleye spawn along rocky, waveswept shallow in lakes, over gravel substrata of inlet streams or over flooded vegetation (Becker 1983), and spawning habitat is likely similar for southern stocks (Ross 2001). Lithopelagophils; rock and gravel spawners with pelagic free embryos. (Simon 1999).

     

    Reproductive strategy: Spawning usually occurs in the evening in small groups. Either male or female may initiate spawning by pushing them sideways. The prodding is continuous, often without specific fidelity between a single pair. The small group rushes to the surface where eggs and milt are released. A female may release all of her eggs in one spawning; males can spawn over more prolonged periods of time (Ellis and Giles 1965). Eggs are broadcast in the current (Ney 1978), then sink, and are held in place on the bottom by the adhesive outer egg membrane, called the chorion (McElman and Balon 1979).

     

    Fecundity: Egg number has been given as high as 612, 000 in females 801 mm in length, and it increases yearly at least to age 11 (Scott and Crossman 1973).

     

    Age at maturation: In Oklahoma, most males are mature by age class 2, and females by age class 3 (Grinstead 1971). In the Tombigbee River, patterns are similar, males mature at 355-381 mm TL, and females at 431 mm TL (Schultz 1971).

     

    Migration: Spawning migrations have been reported in the Pearl River in January and February (Cook 1959). There is some evidence suggesting that walleye show homing behavior, as many return to spawn at the site where they originally hatched. This behavior is not as well developed as in the various species of Pacific salmon (Olson et al. 1978). Whether or not true homing occurs, walleye do show upstream spawning migrations (Ross 2001).

     

    Longevity: Few walleye live to eight years, and have a maximum age of only 10 years (Hackney and Holbrook 1978).

     

    Food habits: In Oneida Lake, New York; slightly before the full absorption of the yolk sac, larval fish begin feeing on small crustaceans (cladocerans and copepods; Houde 1967). Larval walleye will also feed on their siblings of identical size, termed "cohort cannibalism" (Mathias and Li 1982).

    The switch to fishes occurs early, between 34-80 mm TL with the variation likely due to the relative abundance of fishes and invertebrate prey (Mathias and Li 1982). Fishes of one year or older are almost entirely piscivorous (Knight et al. 1984).

    However, other studies indicate that walleye are rather opportunistic in food habits (Ryder and Kerr 1978; Lyons 1987). Walleye can have substantial impacts on survivorship of small fish species occupying the littoral zones of lakes. Major declines in the populations of darters (Iowa darter [Etheostoma exile], Johnny darter, and logperch) and to a lesser extent minnows (bluntnose minnows and mimic shiners) were attributed to predation by juvenile walleye in a Wisconsin lake (Lyons and Magnuson 1987).

    Adult and juvenile walleye tent to avoid light, thus feeding activity varies with light intensity. Feeding is greatest during dusk, late evening, and midmorning (Mathias and Li 1982)

     

    Growth: Walleye grow faster and mature earlier in the Southeast as compared to more northern populations. The average TL of walleye for ages 1-8 in the southeast are: 236 mm, 383 mm, 474 mm, 541 mm, 597 mm, 630 mm, 690 mm, and 727 mm, respectively (Hackney and Holbrook 1978).

     

    Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

     

     

    Host Records

    Protozoa (3), Trematoda (22), Cestoda (10), Nematoda (10), Acanthocephala (4), Leech (2), Mollusca (Glochidia), Crustacea (7) (Hoffman 1967).

     

    Commercial or Environmental Importance

     

     

    References

    Becker, G. C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. Madison, Wisconsin, The University of Wisconsin Press 1052 pp.

    Cook, F. A. 1959. Freshwater fishes in Mississippi. Mississippi Game and Fish Commission, Jackson.

    Ellis, D. V., and M. A. Giles. 1965. The spawning behavior of the walleye, Stizostedion vitreum (Mitchill). Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 94:358-362.

    Grinstead, B. G. 1971. Reproduction and some aspects of the early life history of walleye, Stizostedion vitreum (Mitchill) in Canton Reservoir, Oklahoma, pp. 41-51. In: Reservoir fisheries and limnology. G. E. Hall, ed. Spec. Publ., no 8, American Fisheries Society, Washington, D.C.

    Hackney, P. A., and J. A. Holbrook II. 1978. Sauger, walleye, and yellow perch in the southeastern United Stated, pp. 74-81. In: Selected coolwater fishes of North America. R. L. Kendall, ed. Spec. Publ. no. 11, American Fisheries Society, Washington, D.C.

    Houde, E. E. 1967. Food of pelagic young of the walleye, Stizostedion vitreum vitreum, in Oneida Lake, New York. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 69(1):17-24.

    Hubbs, C., R. J. Edwards, and G. P. Garrett. 1991. An annotated checklist of the freshwater fishes of Texas, with keys to identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement 43(4):1-56.

    Knight, R. L., F. J. Margraf, and R. E. Carline. 1984. Piscivory by walleyes and yellow perch in western Lake Erie. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 113(6):677-693.

    Lyons, J. 1987. Prey choice among piscivorous juvenile walleyes (Stizostedion vitreum). Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 44(4):758-764.

    Lyons, J., and J. J. Magnuson. 1987. Effects of walleye predation on the population dynamics of small littoral-zone fishes in a northern Wisconsin lake. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 116:29-39.

    Mathias, J. A., and S. Li. 1982. Feeding habits of walleye larvae and juveniles: comparative laboratory and field studies. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 111(6):722-735.

    McElman, J. F., and E. K. Balon. 1979. Early ontogeny of walleye, Stizostedion vitreum, with steps of saltatory development. Env. Biol. Fish. 4:309-348.

    Mitchill, S. L. 1818. The fishes of New York described and arranged. In a supplement to the memoir on the same subject, printed in the New-York Literary and Philosophical Transactions. Vol. 1, pp. 355-492. Amer. Monthly Mag. Crit. Rev. 2(4):241-248; (5):321-328.

    Ney, J. J. 1978. A synoptic review of yellow perch and walleye biology, pp. 1-12. In: Selected coolwater fishes of North America. R. L. Kendall, ed. Spec. Publ. no. 11, American Fisheries Society, Washington, D.C.

    Olson, D. E., D. H. Schupp, and V. Macins. 1978. An hypothesis of homing behavior of walleyes as related to observed patterns of passive and active movement, pp. 52-57. In: Selected coolwater fishes of North America. R. L. Kendall, ed. Spec. Publ. no. 11, American Fisheries Society, Washington, D.C.

    Peterson, M. S. 1993. Thermal tolerance of Iowa and Mississippi populations of juvenile walleye, Stizostedion vitreum. Copeia 1993(3):890=894.

    Ross, S. T. 2001. The Inland Fishes of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi 624 pp.

    Ryder, R. A., and S. R. Kerr. 1978. The adult walleye in the percid community — a niche definition based on feeding behavior and food specificity, pp. 39-51. In: Selected coolwater fishes of North America. R. L. Kendall, ed. Spec. Publ. no. 11, American Fisheries Society, Washington, D.C.

    Schultz, C. A. 1971. Survey of the walleye population and related parameters in the Tombigbee River system in Mississippi. Federal Aid in Fish Restoration, Project f-23, Mississippi Game and Fish Commision, Jackson.

    Scott, W. and E. Crossman. 1973. Freshwater Fishes of Canada. Fisheries Research Board of Canada 966 pp.

    Simon, T. P. 1999. Assessing the sustainability and biological integrity of water resources using fish communities. CRC Press. Boca Raton; London; New York; Washington.

    Warren, L. W., Jr., B. M. Burr, S. J. Walsh, H. L. Bart, Jr., R. C. Cashner, D. A. Etnier, B. J. Freeman, B. R. Kuhajda, R. L. Mayden, H. W. Robison, S. T. Ross, and W. C. Starnes. 2000. Diversity, Distribution, and Conservation status of the native freshwater fishes of the southern United States. Fisheries, Conservation. 25(10):7-29.

    Hoffman, G. L. 1967. Parasites of North American Freshwater Fishes. University of California Press, Berkeley, 486 pp.

     

    Records

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    Occurences Over Time


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    Photos

    Credit: Joseph Tomelleri Credit: Garold Sneegas Credit: Garold Sneegas Credit: Chad Thomas, Texas State University Credit: Garold Sneegas Credit: Joseph Tomelleri