Walleye statue on Mille Lacs Lake in Garrison, MN.
They say you learn something new every day, and today, I learned that Minnesota has a state fish! The Walleye. (Also the state fish of South Dakota!) More walleye is eaten in Minnesota than in any other state in the United States. Have you ever been to Garrison or Baudette, Minnesota? Both cities claim to be the “Walleye Capital of the World.” The fish gets its name from the fact that its eyes, like those of lions, reflect white light. Since the walleye is sensitive to light, its eyes are designed to allow it to see well in low-light conditions. Its ability to see well in deep waters is why the walleye is most at home in the large, clear, cool lakes located in the northern forests of Minnesota. The walleye can also see well in rough water, so walleye fishermen will look for days and locations where there is a good “walleye chop!”
The walleye is the most sought-after fish in Minnesota because its thick, white fillets are a tasty treat. For those of you who have never had a delicious walleye sandwich or some fresh, fried walleye for breakfast are really missing out! Each year, Minnesota fishers keep roughly three and a half million walleyes totaling four million pounds! The average walleye caught and kept is about 14 inches long and weighs a little more than a pound. Due to its popularity, the DNR protects the walleye’s habitat, limits catch through regulations and stocks fish where natural reproduction is limited. The DNR has also placed a size regulation – meaning the fish must be a specific size in order to catch and keep rather than catch and release.
Walleye are mostly olive and gold in color with a white belly. It has a large mouth with many sharp teeth. Walleyes look very similar to their smaller cousins, the saugerby. The only difference is the lower part of the walleye’s tail fin is white. Walleyes can grow to 31 inches in length and weigh up to 20 pounds, and females are generally larger than males. The oldest walleye on record is 29 years, but in heavily fished areas such as Minnesota, few walleye older than five or six are encountered. Leroy Chiovitte holds Minnesota’s record for largest walleye caught, weighing in at 17 pounds 8 ounces and 35.8 inches long.
There is officially a new challenge for all of our campers that like to head out on the pontoon for Fishing. Catch a walleye that breaks the current record. I’m sure Alli would give up her canteen for that camper! Have you ever caught a walleye at camp?