Scientifically named Sander vitreus, Walleye belongs to the perch family. It is a nocturnal predator, preferring to hunt smaller fish, insects, and crustaceans during the dim light of dawn, dusk, or under cloudy conditions. Walleyes typically inhabit moderately deep, cool waters in lakes and large rivers. In Alberta, the presence of Walleye is a testament to the province's clean, pristine water bodies, as this fish thrives in well-oxygenated environments with minimal pollution.
The Walleye's peculiar eye structure enables it to see well in low light conditions, giving it an advantage over its prey during its preferred hunting times. This unique characteristic, coupled with its delicious taste, has made the Walleye one of the most well-known and sought-after freshwater fish in Alberta.
The Walleye has long been a staple in the diets of Indigenous peoples residing in Alberta. These communities have sophisticated fishing techniques tailored to the Walleye's habits and habitats. With the influx of European settlers, Walleye fishing grew in popularity both as a sustenance activity and as a commercial endeavor.
Over the years, due to its popularity, the Walleye populations faced threats from overfishing. Recognizing the ecological and cultural importance of the species, Alberta introduced regulations and conservation programs to ensure the sustainable management of Walleye populations. Today, the fish remains an enduring symbol of Alberta's rich fishing traditions and commitment to preserving its natural resources.
Walleye is cherished for its tender, succulent meat and is versatile in culinary preparations:
- Pan-frying: One of the most popular methods, pan-fried Walleye fillets, when seasoned lightly and cooked to a golden crisp, are a treat for the palate.
- Grilling: With a brush of olive oil and a sprinkle of herbs, Walleye can be grilled to perfection, preserving its natural flavors.
- Baking: Walleye can be baked with a medley of vegetables and seasonings, resulting in a flavorful, wholesome dish.
- Poaching: Gently poached Walleye in a broth of herbs and white wine retains its delicate texture and taste.
- Fish Cakes: Ground Walleye can be combined with breadcrumbs, herbs, and spices to create delicious fish cakes.
- Chowders: The mild flavor of Walleye shines in creamy chowders, paired with potatoes, corn, and other vegetables.
When cooking Walleye, it's crucial to ensure its freshness, as this fish is best enjoyed when prepared soon after being caught. It's also important to note that Walleye has few bones, making it a preferred choice for many, especially those new to eating freshwater fish.