Do Walleye Have Teeth? Know the Facts

September 30, 2021

Do walleye have teeth? This is a question many people ask who are unfamiliar with the fish, and in this post, we will take a look at this question and dive deeper into walleye anatomy in general. 

Do Walleye Have Teeth? 

Yes, walleye do have canine-like teeth, but compared to other species like northern pike and musky, the teeth of a walleye are rounded and not the razor-sharp dagger-like teeth of the pike and musky. 

While this poses less of a risk to anglers in terms of getting fingers sliced by the teeth, they still do a great job in the role of securing prey from escaping a walleye’s jaws, and if you’re not careful can still cause damage to you. 

Do Walleye Shed Their Teeth? 

Walleye can regrow teeth that they have lost by biting on hard body lures or particularly tough prey, but there is no evidence that points to the species shedding their teeth on a seasonal or regular basis. 

So while they can regrow lost teeth continuously throughout their lives, they do not do so unless it is needed. 

walleye with lure

How Does a Walleye Feed? 

When a walleye locks its’ jaws onto an unlucky prey fish like a shiner or perch, the teeth hold the struggling fish and keep it from escaping the walleyes’ jaw. 

Walleye like other predatory fish that eat their prey whole must maneuver their meal so that it can be swallowed head first.

The head first feeding means that the fish has to open its mouth and shift the prey fish, and the teeth help with keeping the fish from escaping until its’ death. 

Well Adapted Hunter 

Teeth aren’t the only thing that walleye have on their side when it comes to hunting and catching prey, and the most well-known and dominant feature in their anatomy is their eyes. 

If you look at a walleye’s eye, you will notice it appears to be metallic in color and looks similar to marble with a shine or glow to it. This feature is a layer of reflective pigment called the tapetum lucidum

The tapetum lucidum gives walleye the ability to see in low-light conditions and at night, and as such, they typically avoid bright sunlight and feed when other fish can’t see as well, but walleye will still feed during the day in the right conditions.

They can ypically be found in deep water in the summer months when the light penetration is low, and at night many fish will move to shallower water to feed. 

Walleye Anatomy Continued 

Walleye are largely olive and golden in appearance but coloration can change depending on the environment with clear water walleye being lighter and gold while stained water walleye may be darker in appearance, and they also have white bellies.

They can have a length of up to 31 inches and weigh up to 20 pounds with the largest specimen recorded being a whopping 42 inches in length and weighing 29 pounds. 

The growth rates of walleye depend on their location and habitat, with walleye in the southern regions of their range growing faster and larger than their northern counterparts. 

The maximum recorded age of a walleye is 29 years, but due to heavy fishing pressure and harvest, it is rare to find a walleye that is over 5 to 6 years in age, with the average-sized walleye being 12-20 inches when caught.  

Distribution and Range 

Native walleye populations occur from the southern arctic south to the great lakes region.

Other regions that host populations of walleye are the St. Lawrence River region, the northern Mississippi river basin, and as far south as bodies of water in Alabama and Arkansas. 

Walleye have been widely introduced into bodies of water across the United States by artificial propagation, this is usually done to enhance a suitable body of water and give anglers more fishing opportunities, and has little to no effect on the native fish and animal populations, and in the majority of these stocked bodies of water, the walleye populations cannot reproduce successfully. 

caught walleye

Habitat and Behavior

Walleye live in a wide range of habitats in many different bodies of water from reservoirs, flowages, rivers, and lakes. 

In the spring they can be found running upstream in rivers to spawn, and in shallow bays and rock bars in lakes and reservoirs.

As spring progresses into summer they migrate to deeper water areas such as river holes and channels, deepwater structure like humps, breaks, and points, and suspended in deep water basins. 

They will typically move into shallow water to feed after dark, or during overcast sky conditions. 

In the fall and winter months, they can be found in every area from shallow to deep, and will prefer different areas depending on daily weather conditions, baitfish locations, or other factors.

Diet 

Walleye actually have a fairly diverse diet. While baitfish like lake shiners, chubs, perch, and other small fish make up a fairly large portion of their diet, they will also eat earthworms and leeches regularly, and is a popular bait choice for many anglers. 

Some other interesting prey will also become a snack for walleye, with mudpuppies, snails, crayfish, small mammals, and frogs being found in walleye stomachs. 

Spawning

Spawning migrations for walleye typically start as soon as the ice disappears from the waterways, and water temperatures reach 38-44 degrees Fahrenheit. This depends on the region, as southern regions have different climates than the great lakes region for example. 

In the northern native regions, the spawn typically begins in mid-April to early May, but I can start a little earlier or later depending on the seasonal conditions like a late winter or early spring. 

When walleye are in suitable spawning areas, they disperse their eggs, and there is no parental care whatsoever to protect eggs or the fry like you would find with bedding species like panfish, or the parenting behavior of bowfin and bullhead. 

walleye anatomy

Fishing for Walleye 

Walleye fishing is very popular in the regions where the species proliferates and is one of the most sought-after species by anglers in the Midwestern United States and Canada. 

Due to walleyes having a tendency to move from location to location by the day or week in search of food, it can be a challenge for anglers to consistently catch them, particularly in larger bodies of water, but areas like rock bars and permanent structures are good areas to find them regularly. 

Unlike some species of sport fish, walleye fishing is great after dark, and many anglers will go out in the evening before sunset and fish until morning. During spawning migrations in rivers, the shorelines can be lined with anglers and crowded with boats as anglers try to capitalize on the dense numbers of fish moving through narrow water. 

Conclusion

The anatomy of the walleye is incredibly interesting with features that are in many ways unique to the areas they inhabit. Not only is the anatomy of the walleye interesting, but their behavior and life-cycle are as well.

Anglers love to fish for them as well, as fishing for them requires different tactics and presentations when compared to other species. 

Happy Hunting!

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