Wildlife biologists Lisa Einfelt and David Wahl conducted a study
on walleye predation habits and found some interesting results.
The first result observed was that Walleye are more pursuers
of prey as opposed to stalkers. They follow schools of bait
fish and look for opportunities. They usually attack and consume
any baitfish that strays outside the school. This indicates
that you should always fish your lure on the extremities of
baitfish schools as opposed to the middle of bait fish schools
presenting the feeding walleye with that easy opportunity.
Next it was interesting to find out their point of attack. Iíve
seen it suggested that walleye hide in wait and attack from
the side. This wasnít the case in this study. It seems the walleye
like to follow and attack from below and behind inhaling the
baitfish from the tail region. Next, they manipulate the prey
in their mouth to allow for head first swallowing and ingestion.
The exception to this rule is when they are attacking a larger
bait fish which would be difficult to maneuver prior to swallowing.
This requires a head first attack which does occur but on a
lesser scale. This makes a good case for using trailer hooks
in the presentation of your lure to ensure you take advantage
of the walleyes attack habits. And yes they did find that larger
walleye tended to select larger prey.
Walleye chose prey sizes that were toward the upper end or larger
than those predicted to be optimal. For instance they observed
a 100-mm walleye consumed prey over a 20-mm size range, whereas
for 200-mm fish, this range was about 50 mm. It seemed that
body depth of the baitfish offers more of a constraint than
body length. For bait fish with larger depth bodies the walleye
would selectively pick out smaller targets. They also preferred
baitfish with more of a contour at the head and the tail. This
probably has a lot to do with their smaller mouth openings and
has been learned over thousands years of evolution.
The lesson here is to fish lures with proper contour that have
less depth and may be a little longer in size. It also seemed
that Walleye preferred bait fish that lacked a spine and stiff
body structure. Even though gizzard shad have more body depth
they lacked a spine and had bodies that could easily be compressed
for swallowing. Gizzard shad were preferred over both golden
shiners and especially blue gill. Learn what baitfish exists
in the fishery you are going to be fishing. Next watch the hatch
so to speak utilizing your knowledge of the baitfish that would
be preferred based on the above results.
Obviously blue gill are less preferred and golden shiners and
especially gizzard shad are more preferred targets. Do your
homework. Walleye also donít like to put a lot of energy into
their pursuits. Their prey preferences were related to the amount
of time and energy spent on capture. The walleye could more
easily follow and get closer to the schooling Gizzard shad and
didnít have to spend a lot of excess energy with wasted missed
strikes. Gizzard shad presented more easy targets and thus were
taken more often than the other 2 species. This is not really
newsworthy. It simply substantiates what most walleye fishermen
already know. Provide an easy target and get more strikes.
In conclusion knowing the predatory habits of the walleye does
allow a fisherman an advantage. Utilizing this information can
provide any serious walleye fisherman the edge in any of his
or her fishing expeditions.