Walleye (Sander vitreus) - Introduced


Walleye populations are sustained in a number of Connecticut lakes through annual stocking.

Identification. Usually more slender body shape than yellow perch (very large walleye can be robust). Large mouth usually extends beyond middle of eye. Sharp canine teeth present. Large eye with very reflective pupil. Anal soft rays 11-14. Dorsal soft rays 17-23. Lower lobe of tail fin and anal fin usually with white edges. Tail moderately forked. Dark blotches at back edge of spiny dorsal and base of pectoral fin. Typically dark brown to green on the back, brassy green to yellowish-brown with irregular dark blotches (may be faint) on the sides, often interspersed with yellow spots or blotches, and white or cream-colored on the belly. Juveniles are camouflaged with dark mottling.

35 cm walleye.

This 16-inch walleye is more brownish in color.

Size. Commonly 10 to 20 inches. State survey max. size 30.3 inches. Conn. State Record 14.5 pounds. Max. reported size 42 inches. World Record 25 pounds.

Distribution. Native to much of Canada and the North Central United States. Widely introduced elsewhere. The only naturally reproducing population in Connecticut occurs in the Connecticut River, where fish that spawn in Massachusetts below Holyoke occasionally stray down as far as Portland. At best, walleye are uncommon in the Connecticut portion of the river. Walleye have been introduced into a number of Connecticut lakes, where populations are maintained by annual stockings of 4-inch fingerlings.

Walleye distribution map.

All maps created in 2009. See CT DEEP Fish Community Data for updated distributions.

Habits. A “coolwater” species that has extremely light-sensitive eyes. They prefer lakes and larger streams that are either moderately deep, or shallow and turbid. Walleye typically feed in small schools at night or during daytime at low light periods. Can be caught by angling with a variety of baits and lures, most effectively during twilight or at night. Walleye can be kept in home aquariums, but grow quickly, so a large tank is needed. They will eat fresh dead food but prefer something alive and moving. They are passive toward other fish (unless they decide to eat them), typically lying motionless on the bottom until food is offered.

14 cm walleye.

Juvenile walleyes are more slender and heavily mottled than adults (5-inch specimen pictured).

Comments. Although relatively feeble fighters on rod and reel, walleye are an esteemed game and food fish throughout their range. They are very effective predators of forage fish species. The current State Record (14.5 pounds) was the result of a brief (1950s) fry-stocking program in Candlewood and Lillinonah lakes. The program was discontinued due to lack of natural reproduction.

Walleye in a tank.

An adult walleye as it appears underwater blends in well over rock and gravel substrate.

Walleye head.

Close-up of a walleye's sharp teeth and large, light-sensitive eye.


Text and images adapted from Jacobs, R. P., O'Donnell, E. B., and Connecticut DEEP. (2009). A Pictorial Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Connecticut. Hartford, CT. Available for purchase at the DEEP Store.