Unraveling the Pickerel and Walleye Mystery: Are They Truly the Same Fish?

Are Pickerel and Walleye the Same Fish?

When it comes to freshwater fishing, there is often confusion surrounding certain species of fish. One common question that arises among anglers is whether pickerel and walleye are actually the same fish. While they may bear some similarities, pickerel and walleye are distinct species with their own unique characteristics. In this blog post, we will delve into the differences between these two popular game fish.

The Basics: What Are Pickerel and Walleye?

Pickering: Pickerel refers to a group of freshwater fish belonging to the pike family (Esocidae). They typically inhabit North American waters and can be found in lakes, rivers, and streams. The most common types of pickerel include chain pickerel (Esox niger) and redfin pickerel (Esox americanus).

Walleye: On the other hand, walleyes belong to the perch family (Percidae). Renowned for their exceptional taste and challenge they offer when caught, walleyes are highly sought after by both recreational fishermen and food enthusiasts alike.

Distinguishing Features

Pickering: Chain pickerels have elongated bodies with dark-green backs covered in scales featuring distinctive markings or chains along their sides. Redfin pickerels exhibit similar characteristics but tend to be smaller in size compared to chain pickerels.

  • Elongated body shape
  • Dark-green back with chain-like markings on sides
  • Voracious predators known for ambush-style hunting

Walleye: Unlike pickering, walleyes have a more streamlined body with olive or gold coloring on their backs and sides. They possess large, reflective eyes that aid in low-light visibility and hunting efficiency.

  • Streamlined body shape
  • Olive or gold coloring on the back and sides
  • Large, reflective eyes for enhanced night vision

Habitat and Distribution

Pickering: Pickerels thrive in various freshwater environments such as lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams across North America. While they can adapt to different habitats, they are commonly found near vegetation-rich areas where prey is abundant.

Walleye: Walleyes prefer clear waters with moderate temperatures. They can be found throughout North America but are particularly prevalent in the Great Lakes region as well as major river systems like the Mississippi River.

Fishing Techniques for Pickerel vs. Walleye

Pickering: When targeting pickerel, anglers often use artificial lures such as spoons or spinners to mimic small fish movements. Casting close to structures like fallen trees or weed beds where pickerel tend to hide proves successful.

Walleye: As walleyes primarily feed during low light conditions or at nighttime, fishing around dawn or dusk is most productive. Popular techniques include jigging with live bait (such as minnows) near rocky structures or trolling with crankbaits along drop-offs.

Cooking and Culinary Delights: Pickerel vs. Walleye

Pickering: The firm white flesh of pickerel makes it an excellent choice for cooking enthusiasts. It has a mild flavor that pairs well with various seasonings and cooking methods such as baking, grilling, or frying.

Walleye: Known for its delicate yet flaky texture and subtle taste, walleyes are considered a delicacy in many culinary circles. They can be prepared in numerous ways including pan-frying, broiling, or even smoking to bring out their unique flavors.


In conclusion, pickerel and walleye may share some similarities at first glance but they are indeed separate fish species. Pickerels belong to the pike family while walleyes are part of the perch family. Their physical features, preferred habitats, fishing techniques employed to catch them, and even their culinary characteristics set them apart from each other. Understanding these differences better equips anglers with the knowledge needed to successfully target either pickerel or walleye during their freshwater fishing adventures.

So next time you’re out on the water wondering whether you’ve caught a pickerel or a walleye – take a closer look! Happy fishing!