Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What is the perfect size walleye for eating?

Cieplik walleye release
When you come to Bow Narrows Camp you are going to catch a great many big walleyes.

The average walleye we caught last summer was about 22 inches and we get many 26-28 inches (6-8 pounds). These big fish are a ball to catch but are actually too big for eating.

Ontario fishing regulations permit you to keep one fish over 18 inches as part of your daily and possession limit. However, the wise thing to do, both for conservation and eating purposes, is to only keep fish smaller than this.

We shouldn't keep big walleyes because they are the ones who keep replenishing the lake. Walleyes aren't even mature until they are 18 inches long. From that point on they produce hundreds of eggs per pound. The bigger the fish, the more eggs it produces.

Big fish don't cook correctly. Their fillets are so thick that you need to overcook the outside in order to cook the interior. Even if you cut them in small strips they don't come out as well as small fish.

Also if you keep big fish you unintentionally select fish for smaller size since you remove from the population those individuals with genes for large size and fast growth. So when you keep big fish you are helping create a population of mostly small fish. And since smaller fish produce fewer eggs it also means there will be fewer fish, period.

Finally, bigger fish accumulate toxins in their bodies, just as a result of long life and being near the top of the food chain. It's the same reason health authorities recommend you only eat tuna or swordfish once in awhile but say you can eat sardines as often as you like.

So back to the original question, what is the perfect size walleye to eat? Anything from 14-18 inches. These are young fish; their fillets fry perfectly and they just plain "eat" better.

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