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Eradicating the Invasive Walleye

Thinking of Walleye as an invasive species is funny, many anglers would I’m sure find it laughable. In Ontario it is arguably the most popular game fish based on flavour alone. Deliciousness certainly should matter but there are many other qualities that determine the perceived value of a species, and no matter how popular a species is, when it is illegally introduced into a body of water it is a damned invasive.

Having rolled into the family cottage the night before, the morning was spent catching up with the family over several cups of much needed strong coffee. Not only had I got up early which made it somewhere around 4 a.m. my time, there was also the fact that I’d been awake for something like twenty hours and had four hours sleep. When I finally got around to fishing that afternoon, digging the fly rods out of my suitcase was too much effort. Pulling down my old tackle box, tying on a classic Rapala perch Shad Rap and trolling the family’s tradition route was just the medicine I needed.

The first fish of my annual Ontario cottage trip. Another invasive walleye hits the net.

The boat hadn’t moved fifty feet from where I started trolling and the rod slowly bowed. Having not changed the battery clips for the old fish finder I was running blind. Certain I'd started the route too early I was positive the lure had just dove hook first into a weed bed. Cranking on the reel the deep diving Rapala felt like it was dragging up five pounds of cabbage, closing in on the boat a couple of subtle head shakes and a golden glitter gave it away….walleye.

It’s fair to say a walleyes’s fight is sluggish at best. They are not renowned for testing your gear, in fact they are quite boring. The first fish of my trip was a four pounder that didn’t even try to get away. Boring as it was, I was stoked to pull another one out of the lake. A few years ago walleye started showing up regularly when we were trolling for pike. Likely introduced by a local from another nearby lake.

One of the many invasive walleye we have caught over the past few years.

Last year we didn’t catch as many as the year before and this past summer, after three weeks of fishing we only pulled in the one. Introducing a new species to a lake can have many unsavoury effects, disease, competition for food and spawning grounds. Why take a chance at pushing out fun fighting fish for a boring one. As far as table fare goes, sure the walleye is good, no argument there, but if you haven’t learned the boneless method of filleting pike, figure it out. Taste tests at our table have always come back with pike being the clear favourite. Then again, maybe ignore that last statement, it is always cool to feel like you are privy to a fine tasting secret that few others are.

See you on the water or the mountain.

-Matthew Mallory


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