A fish that is native to much of Canada and a good chunk of the Northern United States, the walleye, or yellow pike as it’s often referred to, has spread far and wide, and not just because they’re strong swimmers.
Humans have been artificially propagating them for decades and introducing them to non-native waters to boost their numbers.
As they’re such a popular animal in fishing communities, many people have lots of questions about this species, many of which are centered around their distinctive teeth. How big can they get?
How many do they grow? What are they used for? Can they hurt with their bite? And, perhaps most importantly for fishermen, can they cut your fishing line?
Well, that’s what this article is all about: Establishing these core facts about the walleye, especially their teeth.
So make yourself comfortable, because we’re about to cover a lot of details about this humble little fish.
Basic Facts About The Walleye
Let’s establish some information about the walleye itself before moving on to talking about its teeth.
The name ‘Walleye’ comes from the reflective tissue that lies just behind the retina of most kinds of vertebrae, or backbone, animals, which allows the eyes to gather light for its photoreceptors.
This fish’s eyes tend to glow when they are in areas with low light, especially after sunset and nightfall. Nighttime is the most popular time for anglers to catch them, as their glowing eyes make it easier for them to be seen.
They also tend to feed at night, making them more likely to have a nibble on some bait.
Walleye are also sometimes called “whitefish” due to their white flesh. While they can be found in shades ranging from light gray to greenish-blue, they’re usually considered to be grayish-brown or tan. This is actually where the French name for this animal, ‘dore’, comes from.
These fish will sometimes inhabit depths of around 100 feet. They tend to favor rocky habitats, although some also take advantage of areas with sandy bottoms, woody vegetation, or even man-made structures.
Although they can reach sizes of 10 pounds (or more), most adults only reach lengths of 5 inches (14 cm). Walleyes will mature at three years old, but some smaller specimens don’t reach maturity until the age of four or five even.
This species tends to feed on invertebrates, small fish, and plants. Walleyes eat mostly zooplankton during the spring spawning season and then later shift towards benthic organisms, like insects and worms, while feeding throughout the summer.
They’ll spend winter months in both freshwater and saltwater, able to tackle different levels of salinity, unlike many other kinds of fish. However, like salmon, when they migrate into fresh water in the springtime, it’s to spawn.
However, these are facts that many people already know. What we want to find out more about are their teeth.
Walleye Teeth Facts
Walleyes’ teeth are very sharp and pointy. Their teeth are designed to catch small prey fish. As is the case with lots of other fish, walleyes have a jaw hinge joint, and, like sharks, they can move their jaws independently of each other.
Walleyes have longer canines than other freshwater fishes. Their teeth are designed to prevent struggling prey from escaping while being swallowed. Walleyes also try to swallow their prey head-first, again, to reduce chances of escape.
Walleyes are beautiful fish that are often caught on top of lakes or rivers. They are usually found near deep water, but they do sometimes venture into shallower waters.
Despite those shiny peepers, their eyesight is very poor, so they rely on smell and feel to locate prey.
Walleyes eat crayfish, insects, worms, and other small aquatic creatures, for which their teeth are perfectly suited to biting down and gripping on. They use their long pectoral fins to swim quickly, either to ambush prey or to escape predation themselves.
Do Walleye Have Sharp Teeth?
So, if you are an angler who is looking to catch a few of these animals on a day or night fishing trip, you’re probably wondering if these fish have sharp teeth. Or, at least, you’re wondering if they have sharp enough teeth to draw blood or fray a net.
Walleyes’ teeth are sharp, but they’re not as sharp as those of Pike and Muskeg. You should be careful about getting them stuck in your fingers, because if you do, you may end up with a nasty infection.
To protect yourself from this, you must make sure to avoid putting your hands inside the mouth.
The walleye having sharp teeth isn’t too surprising, however. Smaller fish of all kinds tend to have sharp teeth as a defense mechanism.
How Many And What Kind Of Teeth Do Walleye Have?
Walleyes have sharp teeth that are longer than those of other fishes. They also have more teeth than most. Their teeth are used to catch insects and very small fish when they’re younger.
When they get older, they use their sharp teeth to eat bigger fish. Walleye fish are relatively large predators for their environment, given that they can grow up to about two feet long.
Their favorite food is other fish, but they also eat insects and crustaceans, which their teeth are also adapted for gripping on to. They do have trouble snatching up certain crustaceans, though, as their smooth, hard shells can be too tough even for walleye teeth.
Can Walleye Bite You?
So, now comes the million-dollar question: Can a walleye bite you, and is it particularly dangerous if they do so?
Well, the short answer is: Maybe.
Walleyes do attack people, but it’s not intentional. You can get bit by them if you touch their mouths, which is why most anglers will do what they can to avoid handling this fish around that area.
Walleyes have very strong jaws, so many fisherfolk will use pliers to free the hook from the fish’s mouth instead of their hands.
If you get bitten by a walleye, then you should clean the wound and disinfect it with alcohol or iodine solution. You may need antibiotics to prevent an infection.
Walleye bites usually heal up quickly, but sometimes anglers need to get antibiotic injections to get rid of the infections if they do not clean out the wound well enough before patching it up.
Can Walleye Cut Lines?
With all this discussion of the sharpness of walleye’s teeth, you may be worried about what those teeth can do to your fishing lines.
But don’t worry. Their teeth are spread out so that they can’t bite through a fishing line right away. However, to catch walleyes, you will need to use a fluorocarbon leader.
You should also avoid using braided lines because they are more prone to damage.
Walleye Fishing Tips
Whilst we’re here, here are a few tips that you should keep in mind when it comes to fishing these little, or sometimes big, critters. We’ve already touched on a few tips in this guide, but we’ll discuss them a little more in detail here.
When fishing for walleye, you should also watch out for sharp rocks and underwater hazards when casting your line.
You should use live bait such as minnows, shad, crayfish, crawdad tails, grasshoppers, krill, leeches, bloodworms, and nightcrawlers when you’re trying to catch larger walleye, as these are all some of this fish’s favorite foods.
If you want to go after smaller ones, artificial lures, like jerk baits, spoons, buzz baits, bobbers, crankbaits, and jigs work great.
The best time to catch lots of walleyes is between April and June, during spring break. This is the prime season for catching walleyes, as there’s plenty of food to feed on whilst you cast your lure.
You should also hunt later in the day, as you will be able to see the reflective eyes of this fish in lower light.
As you can see, this species has a lot going for it. It lives in freshwater lakes, rivers, marshes, ponds, and streams across North America. It has a long lifespan and can grow anywhere from a few inches, to even a couple of feet in some cases!
It has a reputation for being aggressive and cunning, making it one of the most popular game fish for professional tournament anglers.
We hope you found this article helpful, and that you now know a little more about these awesome, yet incredibly toothy, fish.