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


Large, whitish glossy eyes and strong canine teeth. A brassy olive-buff color, 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 there is one large dark spot or blotch 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

Statewide; abundant throughout the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. 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. It has been successfully stocked in the larger man-made lakes and river impoundments throughout Iowa.


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 the 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 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, weighing over 20 pounds. Its size, sporting qualities and delicious flesh make it one of the most important game species in North America.

Walleye are most abundant in large, cool, sandy-bottomed lakes, reservoirs or impoundments, but also lives in 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, Walleye are usually found at the bottom of deep pools with large boulders or submerged logs, but migrate to shallow waters at night. In large northern lakes, it 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, 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 use other spawning areas, but egg and young survival will suffer. Spawning activity takes place over about 3 weeks, with the peak last 7 to 10 days.

Generally, a large female is accompanied by several smaller males across the spawning ground in erratic and thrashing movements, with eggs and milt released at the same time. About 95 percent of the eggs are fertilized as they sink to the bottom. Individual eggs lodge in rubble or gravel crevices where they will be protected and  water can circulate, keeping them silt free and oxygenated. No protection is provided by the parents. Adults return to deep water after spawning is complete.

The number of eggs individual females produce varies according to body size and physical condition, but normally is 23,000 to 50,000 eggs 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 that 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 starts to eat. At first, only the tiniest planktonic organisms are eaten, but as the fish grow, cladocerans and immature aquatic insects are eaten. Small fry are sometimes seen in schools on the spawning grounds, but soon disperse. After the fish reach about 2-inches long, they start to add small fish, minnows, Yellow Perch, suckers, and Bluegill to their diet. Adult Walleye eat large quantities of fish, sometimes feeding upon them almost entirely. Yellow Perch make up a big 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 eaten at times.

Walleye are fairly easy to propagate and raise in hatcheries. Nearly 125 million walleye fry are produced each year to stock larger lakes and reservoirs throughout Iowa. A smaller number are also raised to fingerling size in shallow nursery lakes and concrete raceways before stocking. Walleye usually reach 5.5-inches long 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 next 8 years. Females grow faster and reach a larger maximum size than males. Larger fish 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:

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Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Pool 9, Mississippi River Allamakee River Mile 647.9 at Lynxville, WI upstream to River Mile 679.2 at Genoa WI. 35169.00
Pool 19, Mississippi River Lee Amenities listed are at City of Ft. Madison boat ramp. Amenities vary by location in Pool 19 33500.00
Pool 13, Mississippi River Clinton Between Bellevue and Clinton, Iowa. Pool 13 Starts at River Mile 556.7 28117.00
Pool 11, Mississippi River Dubuque River Mile 583 at Dubuque, IA upstream to River Mile 615 at Guttenberg, IA. 19875.00
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
Pool 12, Mississippi River Jackson Between Dubuque and Bellevue, Iowa 12349.00
Rathbun Reservoir Appanoose 8 miles northwest of Centerville 11000.00
Pool 14, Mississippi River Scott Located between Clinton and Davenport, starts at River Mile 522.5 10291.00
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
Spirit Lake Dickinson One mile North of Spirit Lake 5684.00
Coralville Reservoir Johnson 4 miles north of Iowa City 5340.00
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
Pool 15, Mississippi River Scott Between Davenport, Iowa and Rock Island Illinois. Starts at River Mile 482.9 3626.90
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 1065.00
Rice Lake Winnebago 1 mile south, 1 mile east of Lake Mills 1000.00
Five Island Lake Palo Alto north edge of Emmetsburg 973.00
Lake Macbride Johnson 4 miles West of Solon 940.00
Black Hawk Lake Sac east edge of Lake View 922.00
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
Big Lake (Lansing) Allamakee 3 m N Lansing 800.00
Lake Manawa Pottawattamie Southwest edge of Council Bluffs 784.70
Little River Watershed Lake Decatur 1 mile west of Leon 733.00
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 579.00
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
Lake Delhi Delaware 3m W Delhi 448.00
Pleasant Creek Lake Linn 4 miles North of Palo 400.00
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
Brinker Lake Black Hawk N edge Waterloo, located within George Wyth State Park. 270.00
Crystal Lake Hancock north edge of Crystal Lake 264.00
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
Lake Cornelia Wright 3 1/2 miles north, 2 miles east of Clarion 243.00
Bussey Lake Clayton 2 m N Guttenberg 240.00
Summit Lake Union West edge of Creston 230.00
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 162.60
Lake Anita Cass 1/2 mile south of Anita 159.00
Minnewashta Lake Dickinson 1/2 mile south of Arnolds Park 118.00
Middle Raccoon River (above Redfield confluence) Dallas The best access is the hard surface ramp below the dam in the city of Redfield. 110.00
Iowa River (Marshalltown to Coralville Lake) Iowa This stretch is located in Marshall, Tama, the SW corner of Benton, Iowa, and Johnson County. A popular access is at the Hwy 21 Access, which is part of the Iowa River Corridor Wildlife Area, just south of Belle Plaine. 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
Big Pond Clayton 90.00
Turkey River (above Clermont) Fayette This section of river includes the headwaters in Howard county and flows through Winneshiek and Fayette Counties. A popular access is at Vernon Springs Park just 2.5 miles southwest of Cresco. 89.00
Maquoketa River (below Monticello) Jackson 82.00
Hickory Grove Lake Story 3 miles southwest of Colo 81.50
East Fork Des Moines (state line to Algona) Kossuth This stretch or river is in Kossuth County. Plum Creek Dam on 240th Street is a popular place to access the river. 80.00
Upper Iowa River (above Decorah) Winneshiek Find this stretch in Howard and Winneshiek County. A popular access is found in Kendallville Park and Campground off of Hwy 139 about 8 miles northeast of Cresco. 79.00
Cedar River (Nashua to La Porte City) Black Hawk North Cedar Park located on the north side of Highway 188 east of Plainfield is an excellent hard surface boat launch. 77.00
Wapsipinicon River (Tripoli to Troy Mills) Buchanan Most angling occurs below Sweet Marsh Reservoir or Highway 3 and south to Troy Mills. 73.00
West Fork Cedar River Black Hawk Best access locations are west of Highway 14 below the Big Marsh Wildlife Area in Butler County. 68.00
Maquoketa River (above Monticello) Delaware Access points begin below the dam at Backbone State Park. 68.00
Prairie Park Fishery Linn 1.5 miles SSE of Cargill on Otis Road, along the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids 66.80
Iowa River (Iowa Falls to Marshalltown) Marshall This stretch is located in Hardin and Marshall County. A popular access is located in Pine Lake State Park, just east of Eldora on County Road S56. 66.00
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
Turkey River (below Clermont) Clayton This stretch is found in Fayette and Clayton County. A popular scenic and historical area is the Motor Mill Access about 8 miles southeast of Elkader on Galaxy Road. 65.00
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 Chris Larsen Park: 1280 Larsen Park Road/Sioux City, IA. Located on the Sioux City riverfront along the Missouri River. Larsen Park offers 110 acres on the Sioux City Riverfront. Managed by the City of Sioux City. 64.00
Cedar River (above Nashua) Floyd This stretch is found in Chickasaw, Floyd, and Mitchell Counties. A popular multi-use location is the Charles City Whitewater Park in downtown Charles City on Hwy 14. 63.00
Missouri River (Council Bluffs to state line) Fremont Lake Manawa State Park: 1100 South Shore Drive/Council Bluffs, IA 51501 phone: 712-366-0220. Managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Lake Manawa State Park has boat ramps on the Missouri River within the park. 61.00
Briggs Woods Lake Hamilton 2 miles south of Webster City 59.00
Shell Rock River (above Greene) Floyd Located in Worth, Cerro Gordo, and Floyd Counties. A popular access point is Wilkinson Pioneer Park located at the end of CR B20 in Rock Falls. This park is the start of the Shellrock River Greenbelt and Preserve featuring 7.5 mi. of scenic bluffs. 58.00
Upper Iowa River (below Decorah) Allamakee This stretch includes Winneshiek and Allamakee County. A popular access is at Lower Dam about 11 miles northeast of Decorah. 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
Little Sioux River (Correctionville to Missouri R) Harrison Little Sioux Park, 2 miles SW of Correctionville, Woodberry County Conservation Board 57.00
Cedar River (La Porte City to Cedar Rapids) Linn This stretch is located in Benton and Linn County. A popular river access is in the Dudgeon Lake Wildlife Area right of Hwy 150 on the North side of Vinton. 56.00
Greenfield Lake Adair 1 mile southwest of Greenfield 56.00
Cedar River (Cedar Rapids to Moscow) Cedar This stretch is found in Linn and Cedar County. A popular access is found in Palisades State Park which is on Hwy 30 between Cedar Rapids and Mount Vernon. 55.00
Missouri River (Little Sioux to Council Bluffs) Pottawattamie Wilson Island State Recreation Area: 32801 Campground Lane/Missouri Valley, IA 51555 phone-712-642-2069. Managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Wilson Island Recreation Area has 544 acres along the Missouri River near Missouri Valley Iowa. 53.00
Wapsipinicon River (Troy Mills to Oxford Junction) Jones This stretch is located in Linn and Jones County. A popular access on this stretch is in Pinicon Ridge Park, just off Hwy 13 by Central City. 53.00
East Fork Des Moines (Algona to Humboldt) Humboldt 52.00
Des Moines River (Saylorville to Red Rock) Marion A mid-section access point for this stretch of river is at the Pleasant Hill Boat Ramp. This ramp is located on SE Vandalia Drive immediately east of Highway 65. 50.00
Iowa River (above Iowa Falls) Hardin 49.00
West Fork Des Moines (Emmetsburg to Humboldt) Humboldt 48.00
Joyce Lake Allamakee 45.00
Fogle Lake S.W.A. Ringgold ½ mile west of Diagonal 44.00
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