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 brightcolored 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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