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Chris Ellis: Daydreaming about a strange, native fish

September 4, 2018

I had a fish on my mind all week.

That’s not anything new, especially when my work requires me to travel far from my mountain home. I often find myself daydreaming of chunky smallmouths, feisty brown trout or colorful brookies found deep in our hills.

But this week, it was something entirely new. The fish I was obsessing over was one of our native fishes - the walleye.

How and why a fish I know very little about would be in rolling around in my brain all week, I have no clue. It was not like I was in an area where people were talking about the fish or even know what a walleye is. I was in the desert of Arizona in late August.

But there I was. Homesick for the hills of West Virginia with walleye fishing on my mind. I’ve caught many walleyes in my life but relatively few in West Virginia when I was targeting the species. Growing up on Elk River and primarily being a smallmouth junkie, I knew that the river had plenty of walleyes swimming around in it. I even managed to catch a few by luck casting for smallies. But I rarely concentrated on them enough to even take a day or two of my fishing days solely in search of walleyes.

There were folks in my hometown that were known for catching big walleyes. I had a neighbor who had dedicated rods and reels, boats and equipment rigged up just for the species. I paid little attention to him and even thought all the fuss was a little humorous for a weird looking fish when the summertime bass fishing was plentiful and easy.

Now in my downtime between meetings, conference calls and looking at my computer screen I squint my eyes a little harder trying to remember exactly what my neighbor’s special walleye technique was. He and my dad chatted about it all the time in the driveway, but I paid little to no attention. After all, I was an experienced smallmouth fisherman and to me, they hung the moon. If only I could rewind time just long enough to ask that old man a few questions about river walleyes - that would be incredible.

So, this late summer into fall, if you see me loading up my boat mumbling under my breath like a crazy person, just let me be. You’ll know that I am heading out in search of a strange, native fish - the walleye.

In case you were wondering, here is a little about the fish from wvdnr.gov.

Family: Percidae

Common Family: The Perch Family

Common Name: Walleye

Scientific Name: Stizostedion vitreum

Identification: Walleye are yellow-olive green in color with streaks and blotches of dark pigment. The underside of this fish is white. The spiny dorsal fin can be dusky or clear but usually has a black blotch at its base. They also have a white tip on the lower lobe of the tail.

Range and Habitat: Walleye are native to West Virginia and are found in large rivers and reservoirs.

Fishing Facts: Adult walleye eat primarily fish and crayfish. Walleye are generally found on the bottom of a pool or near rocky structure. Walleye are most active at dawn and dusk and jigging with bright-colored baits is an effective fishing strategy.

Chris Ellis of Fayetteville, W.Va., an outdoorsman and Marshall University graduate, is owner of Ellis Communications, a public relations agency serving the outdoor industry. Contact him at chris@elliscom.net.

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