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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Walleye - Sander vitreus

Non-native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: SNA

Agency Status


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General Description
There are conflicting ideas among experts as to whether the walleye is native to Montana or not. Regardless, it is one of the most important sport fishes in Montana's eastern drainage and elsewhere in the U.S. and in Canada, where the walleye is a much sought-after commercial fish as well. Its flesh is of the highest quality. In recent years, some sportsmen's groups in Montana have aggressively pursued the increased planting of walleye and promoted walleye fishing tournaments. Sometimes walleye hybridize with sauger, producing sterile saugeye. Adult walleye largely eat fish and for the most part are lake and reservoir dwellers. Walleye are so named because of their large, reflective eyes which are very light-sensitive. They are very active at night.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Jaws and roof of mouth have large canine teeth. Anal fin has 2 spines and 11 to 14 (usually 12 or 13) soft rays. Body often has a golden hue.

Species Range
Montana Range


Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 4095

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Usually some spawning migration upstream, or to suitable rocky areas in lakes. Commonly moves into tributary streams.

Primarily found in larger lakes and reservoirs, to a lesser extent in rivers. Spawns over gravelly riffles and rocky areas in shallow water.

Food Habits
Adults feed heavily on small fish when available. All age groups feed on various aquatic invertebrates.

Good walleye spawning sites are limited in Ft. Peck reservoir. Large population in Big Dry Arm of reservoir. Largely dependent on Big Dry Creek for successful spawning.

Reproductive Characteristics
Spawns April - early May with peak around late April at water temperatures from 40 - 50 degrees F. Sexually mature in 2-4 years. Spawn in small groups and eggs are broadcast over bottom Incubation requires 12-18 days.

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Citation for data on this website:
Walleye — Sander vitreus.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from