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Walleye vs. Pickerel: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed & Dua Fatima || Published on May 28, 2024
Walleye is a larger, freshwater fish known for its excellent taste and nocturnal feeding habits, whereas pickerel, related and similar in appearance, is generally smaller and less sought-after for culinary purposes.
Walleye vs. Pickerel

Key Differences

Walleye, a member of the Percidae family, is prized in North America for its delicate flavor and is a popular target for sport fishing. Its name comes from the fish's distinctive eye appearance, which reflects light. This adaptation allows it to see well in low-light conditions, supporting its nocturnal hunting habits. On the other hand, pickerel, also a member of the same family but often referring to several species within the Esox genus, is smaller and known for its aggressive nature. Pickerel are less popular among anglers and chefs, primarily due to their size and the presence of more bones compared to walleye.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
May 28, 2024
The walleye can grow significantly larger than most pickerel species, with some specimens reaching up to 31 inches in length and weighing as much as 20 pounds. This size difference makes walleye more appealing for both sport and commercial fishing. Whereas pickerel, with a maximum length often not exceeding 24 inches for the larger species, is more commonly found in smaller lakes and streams, making it a less common catch for those targeting larger fish.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
May 28, 2024
Habitat preferences also distinguish these two fish. Walleye are often found in deeper, cooler waters of lakes and rivers, seeking out areas where they can use their superior night vision to hunt. Pickerel, however, tend to inhabit shallower, weedier waters where they can ambush prey, adapting well to a variety of freshwater environments.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
May 28, 2024
Regarding diet, walleye are opportunistic feeders, primarily preying on smaller fish, insects, and crustaceans, utilizing their excellent night vision for hunting. Pickerel, despite their smaller size, have a similar diet but are known for their aggressive predation, often taking on prey as large as themselves.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
May 28, 2024
In culinary circles, walleye is highly regarded for its white, flaky texture and mild flavor, making it a favorite in many North American cuisines. Pickerel, while edible, is not as widely celebrated, often because of its bonier texture and the meticulous preparation required to make it palatable.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
May 28, 2024
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Comparison Chart

Family

Percidae
Esox (often considered within Percidae for comparison)
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
May 28, 2024

Size

Larger (up to 31 inches/20 pounds)
Smaller (typically not exceeding 24 inches)
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
May 28, 2024

Habitat

Deeper, cooler waters of lakes and rivers
Shallower, weedier waters
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
May 28, 2024

Diet

Smaller fish, insects, crustaceans
Similar to walleye, but known for aggressive predation
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
May 28, 2024

Culinary Value

Highly prized for its taste and texture
Less popular, considered bonier and requiring more preparation
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
May 28, 2024
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Walleye and Pickerel Definitions

Walleye

Found in deeper, cooler parts of lakes and rivers.
Walleye tend to stay in deeper waters during the day.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 05, 2024

Pickerel

A smaller, aggressive freshwater fish.
The pickerel we caught was full of energy and very aggressive.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 05, 2024

Walleye

A freshwater fish known for its good vision in low light.
The walleye's unique eyes help it to hunt at night.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 05, 2024

Pickerel

Less sought-after by chefs due to its bonier texture.
Pickerel is not as popular on menus because of its many bones.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Mar 05, 2024

Walleye

A popular target for sport fishing.
Anglers enjoy the challenge of catching walleye because of their size.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
Mar 05, 2024
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Pickerel

Prefers shallower, weedier waters for ambush hunting.
You'll often find pickerel hiding among the weeds.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 05, 2024

Walleye

Larger compared to pickerel.
The walleye I caught was significantly larger than any pickerel I've seen.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 05, 2024

Pickerel

Not as large as walleye, making it less appealing for sport fishing.
Most fishermen prefer walleye over pickerel because of the size difference.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 05, 2024

Walleye

Prized for its delicate taste in cuisine.
We're having grilled walleye for dinner, a real treat!
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 05, 2024

Pickerel

Known for taking on prey its own size.
Pickerels are fearless, sometimes attacking fish as big as themselves.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 05, 2024

Walleye

Pl. walleye or wall·eyes A freshwater food and game fish (Sander vitreus) of North America, having large silvery eyes and a greenish-yellow mottled body.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 05, 2024

Pickerel

Any of several North American freshwater game fishes of the genus Esox, especially the chain pickerel.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 05, 2024

Walleye

An eye or eyes affected with exotropia.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 05, 2024

Pickerel

A freshwater fish of the genus Esox.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
Mar 05, 2024

Walleye

An eye with a light-colored iris or white or opaque cornea.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 05, 2024

Pickerel

A young or small pike.
Bet [better] is, quoth he, a pike than a pickerel.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 05, 2024

Pickerel

Any one of several species of freshwater fishes of the genus Esox, esp. the smaller species.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Mar 05, 2024

Repeatedly Asked Queries

Is pickerel fishing as popular as walleye fishing?

No, walleye fishing is generally more popular due to the fish's size, taste, and the sportive challenge it presents.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
May 28, 2024

Can you eat pickerel?

Yes, pickerel is edible, but it's considered less desirable than walleye due to its bonier texture.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
May 28, 2024

Do walleye and pickerel live in the same waters?

While both can be found in freshwater, walleye prefer deeper, cooler waters, whereas pickerel are more often found in shallower, weedier environments.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
May 28, 2024

What is the main distinction between walleye and pickerel?

The main distinction lies in their size, habitat preference, and culinary value, with walleye being larger, preferred for its taste, and found in deeper waters.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
May 28, 2024

Why is walleye so popular among anglers?

Walleye is popular for its size, the challenge of catching it, and its excellent taste, making it a sought-after fish for both sport and culinary purposes.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
May 28, 2024

Are walleye and pickerel related?

Yes, they are both part of the Percidae family, though pickerel is often associated with the Esox genus, highlighting their differences within the broader family context.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
May 28, 2024

What makes walleye so special in culinary terms?

Walleye is prized for its white, flaky texture and mild, appealing flavor, making it a favorite in many North American dishes.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
May 28, 2024

How can you tell a walleye from a pickerel?

Beyond size, differences can be noted in body shape, fin configuration, and especially the distinctive eye shine of walleye.
Hifza Nasir
Hifza Nasir
May 28, 2024

How do the diets of walleye and pickerel compare?

Both species have similar diets, feeding on smaller fish, insects, and crustaceans, but pickerel are known for their more aggressive hunting.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
May 28, 2024

Which fish is better for a beginner angler to target?

Beginners might find pickerel easier to catch due to their aggressive nature and prevalence in a variety of waters, though walleye offer a rewarding challenge.
Dua Fatima
Dua Fatima
May 28, 2024

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.
Dua Fatima
Co-written by
Dua Fatima

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