Difference Between Walleye and Pickerel

The animal kingdom, vast as it is, is so diverse that it is believed that humans might have possibly not even discovered a considerable portion of it.


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What is more interesting is that every day not only do we find out more about new species, but we find out new things about species that we have already found.

Arguably, aquatic wildlife is something that humankind has not been so proficient in researching.

Two of the most common aquatic animals, the walleye and the pickerel, might have a lot of things in common and, at times, may even be used interchangeably with one another,

but there is a lot of difference between them, which one could easily understand.

Indeed, the walleye is sometimes called the pickerel, but it is not at all a correct statement, especially when we are talking on official terms.

Key Takeaways

  1. Walleye and pickerel are freshwater fish with similar appearance and taste.
  2. Walleye have larger eyes and are more likely to be found in deeper, colder waters, while pickerel are found in warmer, shallower waters.
  3. “pickerel” is often used interchangeably with “northern pike”, a different fish species.

Walleye vs Pickerel

Walleye is a freshwater fish native to North America, known for its delicious taste and large, sharp teeth. Pickerel is a species of fish in the pike family and ability to catch prey quickly. They are found in slow-moving bodies of water and have a dark green or olive colour, with a lighter belly and small, sharp teeth.

Walleye vs Pickerel

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Walleye is a freshwater perciform fish found mostly in Canada and the Northern United States. They belong to the pike family and are olive or gold in colour.

Pickerels, on the other hand, are freshwater fishes, more precisely known as Chain Pickerels. They, too, are found in Canada and the Northern United States. They have a rather greenish colour, mostly on their sides.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonWalleyePickerel
FamilyBelongs to the Perch Family.Belongs to the Pike Family.
Scientific NameSander vitreusEsox americanus
ColourIt is olive or golden in colour.It has a greenish colour on its sides.
SizeWalleye is larger than Pickerel.Pickerels are relatively smaller than walleyes.
HabitatWalleyes live in deep waters.Pickerels live in shallow waters.

What is Walleye?

Walleye is a freshwater perciform fish in Canada and the Northern United States. The walleye is either olive or golden in colour. The scientific name of this fish is Sander vitreus.

It is important to note that it might be easily confused with the European Zander, as it is its closest relative.

However, their natural habitats are far away from each other. The walleye we find now might also be called yellow walleye.

This is because another species called the blue walleye used to exist, which is now supposed to be extinct.

The main reason this fish is so easily confused with the pickerel is not because of its looks but because the people in Canada refer to them as pickerels.

This is incorrect, as pickerels are a completely different variety of fish and have different characteristics.

The reason why this fish is known as walleye is that these fishes have eyes that point outward. Since it seems as if they are not looking in any particular direction and are ‘staring at walls’, they are named walleye. 

These fishes have an evolutionary advantage due to their habitat. They have this particular ‘eyeshine’ feature that helps these fishes see in the dark.

They have light-collecting tissues in their eyes, making them shine at night or in the dark. This is very similar to the tissues found in the eyes of dogs, cats, etc.

The walleye usually lives in deep waters, which might also be turbid. Hence, there is not much light available to see through. This feature helps them see places where it would have been tough to see otherwise.


What is Pickerel?

Pickerels, precisely called Chain Pickerels, are freshwater fishes belonging to the pike family. Similar to walleyes, they are also found in Canadian freshwaters and the Northern United States.

There are three kinds of pickerels available, and the name pickerel is just an umbrella term used for all these three fishes.

The three fishes are chain pickerel, the most common and well-known type. When talking about pickerels, they refer to this fish unless specified otherwise. The other two are the smaller redfin pickerel and the grass pickerel. 

The colour and pattern of the pickerel are very defined and hard to miss. It has a greenish colour on its sides. This green colour is imprinted like a chain pattern from the cheeks to the tail.

These fishes are carnivores and have arrays of sharp teeth in its mouth.

Their diet includes frogs, smaller fishes, worms, etc. They also jump out of the water to eat the insects flying near its surface.

The pickerel is a very popular fish in angling sports. This is because they can swallow small fishes like minnows whole, which gives them a better chance of getting trapped in the hook.


Main Differences Between Walleye and Pickerel

  1. The main difference between walleye and pickerel is that walleyes belong to the perch family, while pikes belong to the pike family.
  2. The scientific name of the walleye is Sander vitreus, while the scientific name for pickerels is Esox americanus.
  3. Walleyes are olive or golden, while pickerels are greenish on their sides.
  4. Walleyes are larger than pickerels in terms of size. They are heavier too.
  5. Walleyes live in deep waters, while pickerels live in shallow waters.
Difference Between Walleye and Pickerel
  1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1577/T02-111.1
  2. https://pubs.geoscienceworld.org/gsa/gsabulletin/article/79/7/855/6354
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