How To Hold A Walleye | Handling & Releasing Walleye

It is widely understood that Walleye fish in the 15 to 17 inch size range are considered the best for eating. Knowing how to handle and release Walleye properly is essential for successfully practicing selective harvest, where you choose to keep and consume fish within that preferred size range while responsibly releasing others to help maintain the fish population.

Let discuss this topic ” How To Hold A Walleye” in details.

How To Hold A Walleye

Why It is Important to Hold a Walleye Carefully?

Handling Walleye carefully is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, Walleye have a protective slime coating that shields them from infections, and rough handling can harm this layer, making the fish vulnerable to diseases. Secondly, Walleye possess sharp teeth, so handling them with care is essential to avoid getting cut, especially when holding them by the gills, which are delicate. Thirdly, Walleye are valuable and deserve respect. Handling them gently ensures they are not needlessly injured or killed.

Why It is Important to Hold a Walleye Carefully

Additionally, there are more reasons to handle Walleye carefully. They are often released after being caught, helping them survive and reproduce. Walleye play a vital role in the ecosystem by regulating other fish populations. Moreover, their beauty and significance deserve our respect. Ultimately, careful handling of Walleye ensures their health, respects their value, and contributes to their thriving in the wild.

Check Best Walleye Rods


How to Safely Hold a Walleye?

There are a few ways to hold a Walleye and the ” air guitar hold” is a common and safe way to hold a Walleye or many other fish species. It provides good support for the fish while avoiding damage to the gills and minimizes stress on the fish. Supporting the fish under its tail and near the pectoral fins while keeping the index finger under its jaw is a practical and secure way to handle it.

secure way to handle

Check Best Fishing Line For Walleye

Another safest way to hold a Walleye fish is by holding it at the tail and supporting its belly with your other hand. Walleye fish do not like to be handled too much, and it is not good for them to be out of the water for a long time. This technique allows you to control the fish’s movement while also offering necessary support. Holding the tail helps keep the fish steady, and supporting the belly prevents you from squeezing too hard, which could harm the fish.

It is a safe and secure way to handle the fish, ensuring both your safety and the fish’s well being. Big Walleye are especially sensitive to being handled too much, making it harder to release them. 

Hold the fish gently

When handling fish for catch and release, make sure your hands are wet before touching the fish to protect its slime layer. Hold the fish gently but securely to support its body without squeezing too hard. Try to be quick when taking photos and release the fish back into the water promptly. Hold the fish horizontally to reduce stress, and avoid touching its delicate gills. If you can, use barbless hooks, as they are easier to remove and kinder to the fish.

If the fish seems tired, gently move it in the water to help it recover before letting it swim away. These practices help ensure the fish’s well being when you catch and release them.


How to Hold a Walleye to Remove Hook?

Once you have got a secure grip on the fish, you can employ needle nose pliers to extract the hook. As hooks, particularly jigs, can become firmly lodged in the fish’s mouth. If you are using your fingers to extract the hook, exercise extreme caution to prevent harming the fish or injuring yourself. 

Check Best Trolling Rods For Walleye

In cases where the hook is deeply embedded, you might need to cut the line and deal with the hook’s removal later. It is important to remember a few key points when unhooking a Walleye like avoid touching the fish’s eyes or gills, keep the fish horizontal with its belly facing up, and evenly support its weight with both hands. Using needle nose pliers is crucial for a safe extraction. When releasing the fish, aim to do so quickly and minimize handling.

Following these guidelines ensures a safe and effective hook removal process for a Walleye.

How to Hold a Walleye to Remove Hook

In many cases, you can unhook a fish without lifting it out of the water, which is better for the fish’s health.

Check What Size Hook For Walleye


Releasing Walleye

Catch and release fishing, whether you choose to do it voluntarily or it is required by specific rules, is likely to play an increasingly important role in managing fish populations and protecting the environment.

When you plan to release a fish, it is important to avoid exhausting it during the catch, you do not need to hold Walleye by the eyes and you should cut the line if the fish is hooked deep. Hold the fish gently under its belly until it is ready to swim on its own. 

Releasing Walleye

Check Is It Safe To Eat Lake Erie Walleye?

When you have a larger Walleye to release, support them by the tail and under the belly in the water. Allow the fish to breathe and do not push it back and forth. When the Walleye is ready, it will swim away. If it seems to be struggling, hold it right side up until it regains its balance.

When you intend to release a large fish, you can place it in a live well with oxygenated water, which can aid in its faster recovery. Once the fish regains its energy and becomes more active, you can gently release it back into the water from the side of the boat. This approach increases the fish’s chances of swimming away safely and thriving after the release.


My Final Thoughts

Proper handling and releasing of Walleye fish is crucial for responsible fishing and conservation. Selective harvest favors Walleye in the 15 to 17 inch size range. Safe handling techniques, like holding the fish by the tail and supporting its belly, protect the fish’s well being. Using needle nose pliers for hook removal and practicing catch and release ensure the fish’s survival and ecosystem balance. Overall, responsible fishing practices are essential for the health and sustainability of these valuable fish.

To learn more about Walleye fishing, explore our reliable methods, techniques, gear tips, reviews and guides on Walleye fishing.

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