General information about walleye (Sander vitreus), a cool-water fish species in Alberta.



  • Named for their big eyes, walleye are the largest members of the perch family.
  • Two distinct fins are present on the back, the first featuring large spines.
  • Dusky vertical bars are often found on the body. Other distinctive characteristics for these fish include:
    • A yellow-olive back
    • Brassy, silvery sides with yellow spots
    • A white underside
    • White on the lower lobe of the tail


  • Walleye are found in lakes and rivers throughout Alberta, except in the foothills and mountains.
  • Sometimes walleye are incorrectly referred to as pickerel, but true pickerel are members of the pike family and live in eastern Canada.

Natural History


  • Walleye prefer deeper waters, although they also inhabit shallows.


  • Diet consists mostly of other fish, such as lake whitefish, minnows, and yellow perch, as well as insects.
  • If fish and insects are scarce, snails and frogs are also consumed.
  • Northern pike are the chief predator of this species.

Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behaviour

  • Walleye begin moving toward their spawning areas in streams and on lake bottoms in late winter and early spring.
  • They are broadcast spawners. Males and females swim alongside each other during spawning, utilizing lake shoals with wave action or river currents to deposit eggs and milt (excretion of male sperm cells) over the spawning area.
  • Fertilized eggs settle to the bottom and stay in the spaces between rocks and pebbles to incubate.
  • Eggs hatch in 18 to 21 days.

Conservation and Management


Walleye are classified as Secure in the current General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

Current management


Walleye are highly valued as a sport and food fish in Alberta. They are hatched and reared at the Cold Lake Fish Hatchery and stocked into some Alberta lakes.

Walleye are cool-water game fish subject to current Alberta sportfishing regulations. For details, see the My Wild Alberta website at: