What Do Walleye Eat? (Interesting Fish Facts)


Walleye, a popular gamefish in North America, exhibits a diverse diet primarily composed of smaller fish such as yellow perch, minnows, and shads. However, larger walleye can also consume smaller bass or crappie.

Juvenile walleye predominantly feed on zooplankton and insects, with burrowing mayflies playing a crucial role in their growth. Their feeding habits are highly opportunistic, allowing them to consume a variety of prey fish depending on their abundance in the lake.

For instance, walleye in Lake Winnipeg feed on juvenile rainbow smelt. Additionally, they consume larger aquatic insects, crustaceans, and crayfish throughout the year.

Interestingly, walleye can sustain themselves in waters with limited conventional food sources through cannibalism. While adult walleye are not commonly eaten by other fish, they are preyed upon by largemouth bass, northern pike, and musky. Human beings are their natural predators.

Walleye fishing necessitates specific gear and techniques, and Strike and Catch is a website that offers valuable information and tips on fishing, including ice fishing.

Key Takeaways

  • Walleye primarily eat smaller fish like yellow perch, minnows, and shads.
  • They are highly opportunistic predators and can eat a variety of prey fish, depending on the abundance in the lake.
  • Walleye also feed on insect larvae, crustaceans, and crayfish.
  • They can sustain in waters with limited conventional food sources through cannibalism, feeding on smaller walleye if other food sources are scarce.

What Walleye Eat

Walleye primarily feed on smaller fish such as yellow perch, minnows, and shads. They can also consume a variety of prey depending on the availability in their environment, including larger fish like smallmouth bass and crappie, as well as insects, crustaceans, and crayfish.

Their feeding habits play a significant role in their growth and overall health. The diet of walleye can impact their growth rate, body condition, and reproductive success. For example, a diet rich in prey fish can lead to faster growth and higher survival rates for young walleye. On the other hand, a diet lacking suitable prey can result in slower growth and lower survival rates.

Understanding the impact of diet on walleye growth is vital for fisheries management and conservation efforts. It helps ensure the availability of suitable food sources to sustain healthy walleye populations.

Diet and Prey

The diet of the walleye consists primarily of smaller fish species such as yellow perch, minnows, and shads, as well as insects, zooplankton, and crustaceans. Their feeding behavior is highly opportunistic, allowing them to adapt to the availability of prey fish in their habitat.

Juvenile walleye mainly consume insect larvae, including mosquitoes and mayflies, which are crucial for their growth. They also consume larger aquatic insects and crustaceans, with a particular fondness for crayfish throughout the year.

Walleye can sustain themselves in waters with limited conventional food sources due to their cannibalistic nature. Adult walleye, when food is scarce, feed on smaller walleye, and larval walleye exhibit cannibalistic behavior.

As top predators once they reach a certain size, they play a crucial role in regulating the abundance of prey fish in their ecosystem, impacting the overall balance of the aquatic community.

Opportunistic Predators

Opportunistic predators, walleye exhibit a highly adaptive feeding behavior, consuming a variety of prey fish and invertebrates depending on the availability in their habitat. Their feeding behavior is influenced by the abundance of specific prey fish in their environment. When smaller fish like yellow perch, minnows, and shads are abundant, walleye primarily feed on them. However, they are not limited to these prey fish and can also consume smaller bass or crappie. In their juvenile stage, walleye mainly rely on zooplankton and insects as their primary food source. They have been observed to feed on insect larvae such as mosquitoes and mayflies, as well as larger aquatic insects and crustaceans. Walleye also have a preference for crayfish and can sustain themselves in environments with limited conventional food sources through cannibalism. The availability of prey greatly impacts the feeding behavior of walleye, making them highly adaptable predators.

Prey Fish Invertebrates Other Food Sources
Yellow Perch Zooplankton Crayfish
Minnows Insect Larvae Smallmouth Bass
Shads Aquatic Insects Crappie
Small Bass Crustaceans Bluegill
Mosquitoes and Mayflies

Lake-Specific Prey

Lake-specific prey for walleye can include juvenile rainbow smelt in Lake Winnipeg. These fish are a significant food source for walleye in this particular lake, contributing to their growth and survival.

In addition to rainbow smelt, walleye in different lakes may have other specific prey options based on the abundance of certain species. The importance of burrowing mayflies cannot be overlooked, especially for young walleye. These insect larvae are a crucial part of their diet and play a vital role in their growth.

Furthermore, walleye are opportunistic predators and can consume a variety of prey fish, such as smallmouth bass, crappie, and bluegill. They also feed on larger aquatic insects and crustaceans.

The availability of these lake-specific prey items influences the feeding habits and overall population dynamics of walleye.

Cannibalism and Predation

Cannibalism and predation play significant roles in the population dynamics and feeding habits of walleye.

Walleye exhibit cannibalistic behavior, with larval walleye preying upon their own kind. This behavior helps regulate the population size and ensures the survival of the fittest individuals.

As walleye grow larger, they become top predators in their habitat, feeding on smaller fish species such as yellow perch, minnows, shads, and even smaller bass or crappie.

However, walleye are not immune to predation themselves. They are preyed upon by larger fish species like largemouth bass, northern pike, and musky. In particular, large northern pike and musky can prey on big walleye.

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Despite this, adult walleye are not typically eaten by other fish, making humans their main natural predator.

Understanding walleye behavior and the impacts of predation is crucial for managing their populations and maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Fishing for Walleye

Fishing for walleye requires specific techniques, gear, and knowledge of their behavior and habitat.

Walleye are commonly found in freshwater lakes and rivers throughout North America, preferring areas with rocky structures, submerged vegetation, and deep drop-offs.

To increase the chances of a successful walleye catch, anglers often use live bait such as minnows, leeches, or nightcrawlers. Some popular artificial baits include jigs, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits in colors like chartreuse, white, or silver.

The best time to fish for walleye is during low light conditions, such as early morning or evening, as they are known to be more active during these times.

Additionally, understanding walleye feeding patterns and their preference for specific prey fish can greatly improve fishing success.

Overall, mastering the art of walleye fishing requires a combination of skill, knowledge, and the right equipment.

Recommended Gear

When pursuing walleye, anglers are advised to invest in high-quality gear that includes a reliable spinning rod, spinning reel, and braided fishing line. These essential tools will enhance the fishing experience and improve the chances of a successful catch. Here are three key factors to consider when selecting the best gear for walleye fishing:

  1. Versatile Spinning Rod: A medium-sized spinning rod, such as the Ugly Stik GX2 Medium 66 Spinning Rod, provides the necessary sensitivity and flexibility to detect subtle bites and handle the fighting power of walleye. Its durable construction ensures long-lasting performance.

  2. Smooth Spinning Reel: The Pflueger President 30 Spinning Reel is recommended for walleye fishing due to its smooth drag system and reliable performance. Its lightweight design allows for comfortable handling during long fishing trips.

  3. Strong Braided Fishing Line: Power Pro Braid is a popular choice for walleye fishing. Its high strength-to-diameter ratio provides excellent sensitivity and allows for long casts. The braided line’s low stretch property helps detect even the slightest nibbles from walleye.

By investing in high-quality gear, anglers can maximize their chances of success and enjoy a rewarding walleye fishing experience.

Spawning and Timing

The spawning behavior of walleye is influenced by factors such as water temperature, photoperiod, and lunar cycles. Walleye spawning habits typically occur during the spring months when water temperatures range from 42 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Males and females gather in specific spawning areas, often near rocky structures or gravel beds. The female walleye releases her eggs, and the male fertilizes them externally.

After spawning, walleye exhibit unique feeding behavior. The females, exhausted from the spawning process, may not actively feed for a short period of time. However, the males continue to feed, taking advantage of the abundance of smaller baitfish and insects that are also attracted to the spawning areas. This feeding behavior allows the male walleye to regain energy and recover from the reproductive process.

Overall, understanding the spawning and feeding behaviors of walleye is crucial for anglers in determining the best times and locations for successful fishing.

Ice Fishing Tips

Ice fishing for walleye requires specialized techniques and equipment to effectively catch this popular gamefish during the winter months. When venturing out onto frozen lakes, it is essential to have the right gear and knowledge to increase your chances of success.

One of the most important aspects of ice fishing for walleye is using the right techniques. Jigging is a common method that involves bouncing a lure up and down to attract the fish. Using a tip-up system with live bait can also be effective.

As for the best bait for walleye, minnows are a popular choice, as they closely resemble the fish that walleye naturally prey upon. Other options include jigging spoons, soft plastic baits, and even artificial lures that mimic small fish.

By employing these ice fishing techniques and using the appropriate bait, anglers can increase their chances of catching walleye during the winter season.

Strike and Catch Website

The Strike and Catch website provides a comprehensive range of information and resources for fishing enthusiasts, offering valuable insights and tips to enhance their angling experience and increase their chances of success. This website serves as a go-to platform for individuals interested in walleye fishing, providing specific details on walleye habitat and fishing techniques.

Some noteworthy features of the website include:

  • Detailed articles on walleye habitats, such as lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, providing information on their preferred locations and behavior.
  • In-depth guides on various fishing techniques for walleye, including trolling, jigging, and casting, offering step-by-step instructions for optimal results.
  • Tips and tricks for choosing the right bait and lures, considering factors like water clarity, time of day, and weather conditions.
  • Insights on seasonal patterns and migration of walleye, assisting anglers in planning their fishing trips effectively.
  • Interactive forums and communities where fishing enthusiasts can exchange knowledge, experiences, and strategies, fostering a sense of camaraderie among like-minded individuals.

By offering such comprehensive and up-to-date information, the Strike and Catch website empowers walleye anglers to make informed decisions and improve their success rates on the water.


In conclusion, walleye are opportunistic predators with a diverse diet that primarily consists of smaller fish, such as yellow perch and minnows. They also feed on larger prey, including bass and crappie, and consume zooplankton and insects during their juvenile stage.

In specific lakes, walleye may feed on rainbow smelt. They can sustain themselves through cannibalism and are preyed upon by larger fish like largemouth bass and northern pike.

Walleye fishing requires specialized gear and techniques, and Strike and Catch offers valuable information and tips for successful fishing. With their ability to adapt to different food sources and environments, walleye remain a fascinating species in the world of fishing.

About the author

Kimberly is an experienced angler and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for all things fishing. She has been honing her skills on the water for over 7 years, mastering various techniques and tactics for both freshwater and saltwater fishing.

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