When Do Walleye Spawn? Facts About Walleye Spawning

Lets discuss When Do Walleye Spawn? Walleye spawning occurs in spring, with timing varying by location. In some places (Mississippi), it can start as early as February, while in the Far North, it might not happen until June. Biologists have noticed Walleye spawning as early as April 5 and as late as May 7 in places like Red Lake,  Minnesota, and Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin.  The specific timing varies with their location. Walleye spawn at night and have a single spawning event each year.

Walleye fishing is a passion that thrives year round for many anglers. However, when Walleye enter their spawning season, their hunger intensifies, and they become more responsive to bait. During the winter, Walleye eat less and slow down. When spring arrives and the water warms up, they get hungry and active, making it a great time for fishing.

When Do Walleye Spawn

Understanding when Walleye spawn is crucial for anglers, as it presents an exceptional opportunity for catching these elusive fish. During this time, Walleye are exceptionally food aggressive, making it the ideal moment for successful fishing expeditions. 

This article explores the importance of knowing the timing of Walleye spawning, the required water temperature for spawning, their spawning locations, and offers strategies to maximize your angling success during this unique period. Understanding Walleye spawning, their biology, and reproduction can significantly enhance your fishing endeavors. Let’s know more about it!

Check How To Hold A Walleye.


Walleye Spawning

Walleye Lifespan

Walleye typically become sexually mature at around 3 to 4 years of age. Once mature, they have the potential to live for over 20 years, during which they can engage in multiple spawning events.

Walleye Spawning

Check Best Walleye Rods


When do Walleye Spawn?

The timing of Walleye spawning varies significantly across different lakes and rivers. Even among lakes within the same state or province, there can be notable differences. However, a common factor to bear in mind is that spawning generally occurs early in the year as Walleye emerge from their winter hiding spots. This timing can vary based on local conditions and is essential knowledge for anglers targeting Walleye during this pivotal period. 

Variations in ice melt, water temperature, and weather patterns can lead to changes in when fish move to their spawning areas and the duration of peak spawning activity

When do Walleye Spawn

Walleye spawning typically occurs in the spring, where in some regions it occurs sometime between mid-March and mid-May, when water temperatures reach 42-45°F.  

Check Best Fishing Line For Walleye


How do Walleye Spawn?

Walleye typically move to tributary streams or shoals in larger water bodies to spawn. Once there, they engage in a group spawning process, in which females release their eggs and males fertilize them immediately. Females can release thousands of eggs, and the eggs are adhesive, meaning they stick to the bottom of the water body. 

After spawning, the male Walleye guard the eggs until they hatch. The eggs hatch after 12-30 days, depending on the water temperature. The Walleye fry are free swimming and immediately begin to feed on plankton and other small organisms.

How do Walleye Spawn

Anglers can have great fishing just before Walleye spawn, during the pre-spawn period when big fish become more active. Keep in mind that some pre-spawn dates might fall before the official fishing season begins.

Fisheries management often takes into account the timing of ice melt and the Walleye spawning season when setting regulations to protect the fish during this critical period.

Check Is It Safe To Eat Lake Erie Walleye?


Spawning Locations of Walleye

In various water bodies, Walleye use different spawning locations. In rivers, they favor tributary streams with gravel and cobble bottoms. In lakes, their choice is shallow areas with hard substrates like rocky reefs, sandbars, and gravel shoals. These choices are influenced by their need for strong currents or wave action to oxygenate their eggs and proximity to deeper water for fry safety. 

Spawning Locations of Walleye

Specific examples of Walleye spawning spots across North America include locations in the Great Lakes, Canadian Shield lakes, the Mississippi River and its tributaries, and the Columbia River and its tributaries. This variation in Walleye spawning preferences ensures their successful reproduction.

I have compiled data from different regions to highlight Walleye spawning locations in your local waters.

LocationSpawning Period
Ontario (Canada)late April to mid-May
Minnesotamid-April to mid-May
Iowaearly to mid-April
Missourilate March to early April
Alabamamid-March to early April

Two Important Walleye Spawning Factors

Walleye spawning is influenced by two specific environmental factors:

Two Important Walleye Spawning Factors
  • Water temperature: Walleye typically spawn in the spring, when water temperatures reach 42-45°F. However, the exact temperature range can vary depending on the region and the water body.
  • Photoperiod: The length of daylight hours, or photoperiod, plays a role in triggering walleye spawning. They are inclined to spawn as the days grow longer and the photoperiod is increasing. This natural response to changing light conditions helps synchronize their reproductive activities.

What Water Temp do Walleye Spawn?

Walleye spawn in water temperatures ranging from 42°F to 50°F (6°C to 10°C). In northern regions, this temperature range is usually reached once the ice has melted, and the water begins to warm up in the spring. 

What Water Temp do Walleye Spawn

The exact temperature range varies depending on factors such as water depth, water body size, and local climate conditions. In northern regions of the United States and Canada with colder climates, Walleye may indeed be adapted to spawning at slightly lower temperatures, given their habitat and environmental conditions. Conversely, in the southern United States with milder and warmer climates, the water temperature required for Walleye spawning may be somewhat higher. 

Check Ice Fishing Tips For Walleye.


What is the Egg Count of Walleye?

Female Walleye have the ability to produce and store a substantial number of eggs. According to the research a single female Walleye can produce 27,000 eggs per pound, on average. Their egg production typically falls within a range of 12,000 to 55,000 eggs per pound. To put it into perspective, a trophy size Walleye weighing over 10 pounds has the potential to carry and store more than half a million eggs within her body, this actually shows the impressive reproductive capacity of these fish.


How long do Walleye Spawn?

The majority of Walleye individuals choose to spawn during the night, and each individual Walleye completes its entire spawning process in a single night. Although the journey to reach the spawning grounds can take time, the actual act of depositing and fertilizing tens of thousands of eggs happens in just a few hours. This efficiency in the spawning process is remarkable and allows Walleye to carry out their reproductive activities swiftly and effectively.

How long do Walleye Spawn
  • Baby Walleye: The eggs will incubate for 12-30 days, depending on the water temperature. Once the eggs hatch, the Walleye fry will be free swimming and will immediately begin to feed on plankton and other small organisms. The Walleye fry will remain in the spawning area for several weeks until they are large enough to move to deeper water. At this point, they will begin to disperse throughout the water body.

Do Walleye Spawn at Night?

Walleye often spawn at night. Spawning during the night is a common behavior for Walleye. They are known for their nocturnal or low light spawning habits. This behavior is influenced by their sensitivity to light and helps protect their eggs from potential predators and is an important aspect of their reproductive cycle.

Do Walleye Spawn at Night

The largest female Walleyes in a given ecosystem often follow the pattern of moving to shallow water to spawn during the spring, particularly at night along shorelines. This is where they lay their eggs. It is also noteworthy that these larger Walleyes tend to return to these areas when cisco, a favored prey fish, spawn during late October and November.

This behavior is part of their foraging strategy, as they take advantage of the cisco spawn to feed and sustain their size and energy levels. The interplay between Walleye spawning and their feeding habits is a vital aspect of their ecology.


How do you Catch a Spawning Walleye?

To catch spawning Walleye successfully, you will need to pinpoint their spawning locations. Knowing the specific locations where Walleye will be spawning is indeed the most critical information for successful fishing. However, it is important to check local game laws and regulations during the spawning season. Many states implement special regulations during this time, which may include restrictions not in place during the rest of the year.

These restrictions can cover various aspects, such as hook gap and type limitations, bag limits, size constraints, restrictions on nighttime fishing, or even the complete closure of certain areas. Being aware of and adhering to these regulations is essential for responsible and legal fishing while helping protect the Walleye population during their vulnerable spawning period.

Spawning Walleye tend to favor shallow waters with hard bottoms like gravel reefs, sandbars, and rocky shoals, often in areas with strong currents or wave action. Look for them during early morning or evening hours when they are more active. If you see other fish like carp or suckers spawning in an area, there is a good chance Walleye are also present.

How do you Catch a Spawning Walleye

Check Is walleye A Good Fish To Eat?

Employ appropriate gear and techniques. For gear, use light tackle since Walleye are less aggressive during spawning. Effective lures include small jigs with plastic trailers, small crankbaits, and live minnows. When fishing, cast your lure upcurrent and let it drift downstream past the fish, or try jigging it and slowly retrieving it near the bottom. Patience is key, as they may not bite immediately. 

Finding the right locations and experimenting with various techniques can help you have success in catching spawning Walleye during the spring. It is crucial to practice responsible fishing, especially considering Walleye’s vulnerable status. If you catch spawning Walleye, release any females you catch to support the future of Walleye populations.


My Final Thoughts

Knowing when and where Walleye spawn is crucial for successful angling during the spring season. Understanding their behaviors, using the right gear and techniques, and adhering to local regulations are essential. Practice responsible fishing by releasing female Walleye, ensuring the future of these fish populations. Happy Walleye Fishing!

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