Walleye, illustration by Maynard Reece, from Iowa Fish and Fishing.


This fish has large, whitish glossy eyes and strong canine teeth. The color of the walleye is a brassy olive-buff, sometimes shadowing to yellowish sides and white beneath. The caudal fin has a silver or milk-white tip on the lower lobe. There are no distinct dark bars or mottlings on the sides of the body, but instead an overall mottling of brown or black. Spots on the anterior dorsal fin are lacking, but one large dark spot or blotch is present near the base on the last 2 to 3 spines of the posterior dorsal fin. There are 19 to 22 soft rays in the dorsal fin and 12 to 14 in the anal fin. The lateral line has 80 to 89 scales. The cheeks are sparsely scaled.


Walleye Distribution

The Walleye ranges from occasional to common in Iowa natural lakes and our major interior river drainages, such as the Des Moines, Iowa, Cedar and Wapsipinicon. Stocking programs have greatly increased the original range of this species to the larger man-made lakes and impoundments, and stocking has also improved Walleye populations in many of Iowa's interior rivers. Walleye are widespread and abundant in the Great Border Rivers.


mostly fish such as Yellow Perch or Gizzard Shad; other aquatic animals such as crayfish, frogs, snails, and insect larvae

State Record

14 pounds, 8 ounces - Des Moines River, Polk County, September 1986 - Gloria Eoriatti, Ankeny, Iowa

Expert Tip

Backtrolling the upstream side of Mississippi River wing dams using crankbaits can provide sizzling Walleye action! Fall fishing for Walleye on Iowa's interior rivers can be outstanding, cast a crankbait up into shallow water and pull it back across the sand into deeper water - then hang on!


The Walleye is the largest member of the perch family, attaining weights of over 20 pounds. Its size, sporting qualities and delicious flesh make it one of the most important game species in North America.

The Walleye is distributed statewide. It is abundant throughout the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. It ranges from occasional to common in all of Iowa’s major interior river drainages including the Big Sioux, Cedar, Des Moines, Iowa, Little Sioux, Maquoketa and Wapsipinicon as well as in Iowa’s natural lakes. The Walleye has been successfully stocked in the larger man-made lakes and river impoundments throughout the state.

The Walleye is most abundant in large, cool, sandy-bottomed lakes, reservoirs or impoundments but also inhabits small lakes and large streams in smaller numbers. It is a highly migratory fish and can be found in lower reaches of small tributaries to large rivers. In rivers, the Walleye is typically found at the bottom of deep pools containing large boulders or submerged logs, but migrates to shallow waters at night. In large northern lakes, the Walleye spawns over bars or shoals.

Walleye reproduce in both streams and lakes in Iowa, but they are also hatchery-propagated in large numbers at the Spirit Lake and Rathbun Fish Hatcheries. Shortly after the ice melts from the lakes and rivers and the water temperature reaches 45 to 50 degrees F, Walleye move into the shallows to spawn. Actual spawning takes place at night. The adult female moves to a spawning area where her arrival is awaited by males. The spawning area may be a smaller tributary stream, a shallow area in a river or a shoal in a lake. It is usually an area with clear water, 1 to 5 feet deep, and the bottom is covered with rubble or gravel. The area is likely to have current, the result of either flowing water or wave action. If such conditions do not exist, the adult fish occupy other spawning areas, but egg and young survival will suffer. Spawning activity takes place over a period of about 3 weeks with the peak lasting from 7 to 10 days.

Generally, a large female is accompanied by several males of smaller size across the spawning ground in erratic and thrashing movements, with eggs and milt being emitted simultaneously. Approximately 95 percent of the eggs will be fertilized as they sink to the bottom. Individual eggs lodge in rubble or gravel crevices where they will be protected and where water can circulate, keeping them silt free and oxygenated. No protection is provided by the parents. Once spawning is completed, adults return to deep water.

The number of eggs produced by individual females varies according to body size and physical condition, but normal fecundity ranges from 23,000 to 50,000 per pound of fish weight. Incubation lasts 12 to 18 days, depending upon water temperature. Under the best of conditions 5 to 20 percent of the eggs will hatch. Cold weather, which delays hatching, extremely heavy wind action or currents which might wash the eggs ashore, and muddy water which coats the eggs with silt are prime factors which decrease hatching odds.

Upon hatching, the newborn fry is about 1/2 inch long and paper thin. For several days it will drift about, absorbing the yolk sac and gaining strength. Immediately after the yolk sac is absorbed, the fry begins to feed. At first only the tiniest planktonic organisms can be utilized, but as the fish increase in size, cladocerans and immature aquatic insects are consumed. Small fry are sometimes observed in schools on the spawning grounds but soon disperse. After the fish reach approximately 2 inches in length, they begin to add small fishes, minnows, Yellow Perch, suckers, and Bluegill to their diet. Adult Walleye consume large quantities of fish, sometimes feeding upon them almost entirely. Yellow Perch make up a substantial part of the Walleye diet in the natural lakes. Gizzard Shad are the most important forage source in the flood control reservoirs and the Great Border Rivers. Crayfish, frogs, snails, and insect larvae are also utilized at times.

The Walleye is relatively easy to propagate and rear in hatcheries. Nearly 125 million walleye fry are produced each year in Iowa for stocking larger lakes and reservoirs throughout the state. A smaller number are also raised to fingerling size in shallow nursery lakes and in concrete raceways prior to planting. Walleye typically reach 5.5 inches in length the first year and about 9.3, 12.4, 15.2, 17.4, 19.2, 20.6, 21.7, 22.1 and 23.2 inches in the succeeding 8 years. Females grow more rapidly and attain a larger maximum size than males.

The current Iowa record Walleye was caught in the Des Moines River in Polk County in 1986. The fish was 30 1/2 inches in length and weighed 14 pounds, 8 ounces. Larger individuals have been reported in netting operations for brood fish from Rathbun Lake, Spirit Lake, West Okoboji Lake and Clear Lake.

Recent stream sampling information is available from Iowa DNR's biological monitoring and assessment program.


Harlan, J.R., E.B. Speaker, and J. Mayhew. 1987. Iowa fish and fishing. Iowa Conservation Commission, Des Moines, Iowa. 323pp.

Loan-Wilsey, A. K., C. L. Pierce, K. L. Kane, P. D. Brown and R. L. McNeely. 2005. The Iowa Aquatic Gap Analysis Project Final Report. Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Iowa State University, Ames

Illustration by Maynard Reece, from Iowa Fish and Fishing

Present in these Iowa water bodies:
Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Pool 19, Mississippi River Lee Amenities listed are at City of Ft. Madison boat ramp. Amenities vary by location in Pool 19 33500.00
Red Rock Reservoir Marion 4 miles north of Knoxville 15250.00
Pool 18, Mississippi River Louisa Amenities listed are for the Toolsboro Ramp. The ramp at Toolsboro is paved but the road to the ramp is gravel. There is some shore fishing along the parking area and at the outlet of Lake Odessa. Amenities vary by location in pool 18 13300.00
Pool 16, Mississippi River Scott The amenities list are for Buffalo Shores campground in Buffalo, Iowa. Amenities at other locations in Pool 16 vary by location. 13000.00
Rathbun Reservoir Appanoose 8 miles northwest of Centerville 11000.00
Pool 17, Mississippi River Muscatine Amenities list for Muscatine City Ramp. This ramp is located in downtown Muscatine. Amenities vary by location in Pool 17. 7580.00
Big Spirit Lake Dickinson 1m N Spirit Lake 5684.00
Coralville Reservoir Johnson 4 miles north of Iowa City 5280.00
Saylorville Reservoir Polk North edge of Des Moines 4970.00
West Okoboji Lake Dickinson northwest edge of Arnolds Park 3847.00
Clear Lake Cerro Gordo south edge of Clear Lake 3684.00
Storm Lake (incl Little Storm Lake) Buena Vista south edge of Storm Lake 3097.00
Tuttle Lake Emmet 1 mile east, 2 miles north of Dolliver 2268.00
East Okoboji Lake Dickinson east edge of Okoboji 1835.00
Lost Island Lake Palo Alto 3 miles north of Ruthven 1162.00
Silver Lake (Dickinson) Dickinson west edge of Lake Park 1041.00
Five Island Lake Palo Alto north edge of Emmetsburg 973.00
Lake Macbride Johnson 4 miles West of Solon 940.00
Three Mile Lake Union 3 miles northwest of Afton 880.00
Big Creek Lake Polk 2 miles north of Polk City 814.00
DeSoto Bend at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge Harrison 5 miles west of Missouri Valley at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge 811.00
Lake Manawa Pottawattamie Southwest edge of Council Bluffs 747.00
Little River Watershed Lake Decatur 1 mile west of Leon 743.00
Black Hawk Lake Sac east edge of Lake View 729.00
Brushy Creek Lake Webster 5 miles east of Lehigh 690.00
Lake Icaria Adams 4 miles north of Corning 648.00
Silver Lake (Palo Alto) Palo Alto 2 miles west of Ayrshire 648.00
Twelve Mile Creek Lake Union 4 miles east of Creston 635.00
Little Spirit Lake Dickinson 4 miles north of Orleans 604.00
Browns Lake Woodbury 2 miles west of Salix 580.00
Lake Sugema Van Buren 3 miles southwest of Keosauqua 574.00
High Lake Emmet 6 miles east of Wallingford 467.00
Rock Creek Lake Jasper 4 miles northeast of Kellogg 466.20
North Twin Lake Calhoun 4 miles north of Rockwell City 453.00
Pleasant Creek Lake Linn 4 miles North of Palo 401.00
Lost Grove Lake Scott Six miles east of Eldridge 400.00
Swan Lake Dickinson 2m N Superior 371.00
Ingham Lake Emmet 6 miles east of Wallingford 357.00
Green Valley Lake Union 2 1/2 miles northwest of Creston 338.00
Elk Lake Clay 1 mile west, 3 miles south of Ruthven 261.00
Little Wall Lake Hamilton 1 1/2 miles south of Jewell 249.00
Crystal Lake Hancock north edge of Crystal Lake 244.00
Lake Cornelia Wright 3 1/2 miles north, 2 miles east of Clarion 243.00
Virgin Lake Palo Alto 2 miles south of Ruthven 222.00
Center Lake Dickinson 2 miles west, 1/2 miles south of Spirit Lake 220.00
Nashua Impoundment (Cedar Lake) Chickasaw Located on the east edge of Nashua. 200.00
Easter Lake Polk southeast edge of Des Moines 179.10
Lake Anita Cass 1/2 miles south of Anita 159.00
Brinker Lake Black Hawk N edge Waterloo 134.00
Minnewashta Lake Dickinson 1/2 mile south of Arnolds Park 118.00
Iowa River (Marshalltown to Coralville Lake) Iowa 104.00
Diamond Lake Poweshiek 1 mile West of Montezuma 98.00
Sand Lake Marshall On the Northeast edge of Marshalltown 95.00
Terry Trueblood Lake Johnson 1.5 miles south of Hwy 6 on Gilbert Street in Iowa City. 90.00
Wapsipinicon River (Oxford Junct to Mississippi R) Scott Wapsi River Environmental Education Center : 31555 52nd Avenue, Dixon, Iowa 52745. Northeast of Dixon along the Wapsi River. And Sherman Park across the River in Clinton County 66.00
Skunk River (Coppock to Mississippi River) Des Moines Mac Coon Access is located five and one-half miles north of Lockridge just east of Willow Blvd. 65.00
Missouri River (Sioux City to Little Sioux) Harrison 64.00
Missouri River (Council Bluffs to state line) Fremont 61.00
Briggs Woods Lake Hamilton 2 miles south of Webster City 59.00
Little Sioux River (Correctionville to Missouri R) Harrison Little Sioux Park, 2 miles SW of Correctionville, Woodberry County Conservation Board 57.00
Des Moines River (Stratford to Saylorville Lake) Polk The Highway 30 Access is in the middle of this river section and is located 3 miles west of Boone on the north side of Highway 30. 57.00
Greenfield Lake Adair 1 mile southwest of Greenfield 56.00
Missouri River (Little Sioux to Council Bluffs) Pottawattamie 53.00
Prairie Park Fishery Linn 1.5 miles SSE of Cargill on Otis Road, along the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids 42.00
Grundy County Lake Grundy South side of Hwy 20 at Dike exit 40.00
Upper Gar Lake Dickinson east of Arnolds Park 36.00
Des Moines River (Farmington to Keokuk) Lee Redwing Access : 3941 Valley Road just west of Keokuk. 35.00
Cedar River (Moscow to Columbus Junction) Muscatine Saulsbury Bridge Recreational Area :•2007 Saulsbury Road, Muscatine, Iowa 52761 •From Highway 61 in Muscatine go 2.5 miles north on Mulberry Rd., then 4 miles west on Saulsbury Rd. 32.00
Iowa River (Columbus Junction to Mississippi R) Louisa Cappy Russell Access : West of Oakville 6444 County Road X-71, Oakville, IA 52646 30.00
Iowa River (Coralville Lake to River Junction) Johnson 29.00
Kent Park Lake Johnson 2.5 miles West of Tiffin 26.00
Mohawk Park Lake Linn East side of the Cedar River off J Ave. 26.00
Iowa River (River Junction to Columbus Junction) Louisa River Forks Access : 1001 Main Street, Fredonia, IA 52738 24.00
Black Hawk Pits Sac 1 1/2 miles south of Lake View 22.00
Murphy Lake Linn 1 mile Northwest of Bertram on the West side of Highway 13 20.00
Green Castle Lake Marshall 1 mile South of Ferguson 16.00
Scharnberg Pond Clay 3m E Everly 10.00
Polk Township Lake Benton 5.5 miles Northwest of Urbana on west side of I-380 10.00
Ashton Park Pond Osceola 2.00
Turkey River Clayton Located 6 miles northwest of Elkader at Big Spring Hatchery. 1.00