Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts and welcome to my post discussing an important question when it comes to fishing… can you eat Walleye? Now, the short answer is absolutely, if fact, it is one of the most popular and sought after fresh water species to consume…
So let’s check out the ins and outs of eating Walleye below…
What are Walleye?
So, before we start, let’s just quickly recap what we are talking about here. Walleye are a freshwater gamefish native to the United States and Canada. Also known as also called the yellow pike or yellow pickerel, they live predominately at the bottom of lakes and rivers and are known as one of the most prized freshwater table fish you can catch.
Walleye have a long, thin body that is primarily gold and olive in color with a white belly. They posses two dorsal fins on the top of their bodies with a large mouth and sharp teeth. Their name comes from their eyes which are cloudy-looking which is caused by a reflective layer of pigment.
They generally live for around 15 – 20 years depending on their habitat and can reach sizes of up to 80 cm (31 in) in length.
Note: Due to their popularity as a sport fish and for consumption, many States and jurisdictions have seasonal restrictions or slot limits in place. To avoid fines, always check local regulations before hitting the water.
Can you eat Walleye?
Absolutely you can. In fact Walleye are probably the most popular freshwater table fish you can catch with a firm, flaky texture and delicate, mild taste. It is Also extremely good for you as a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D.
Are they any good?
In short, absolutely they are. In fact they are one of the most popular and sought after freshwater table fish in the U.S. Their flesh is clean, sweet and extremely versatile. However, as with most freshwater species (such as Largemouth Bass etc.), the following should be considered:
- They will take on the flavour of their surroundings – so avoid eating if they are caught in murky, stagnant or dirty water.
- The older varieties tend to taste a lot stronger or ‘fishier’ so if you are planning to keep one for dinner, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the biggest one you catch.
- Larger varieties are also more susceptible to worms, parasites and increased absorbsion of waterway contaminants.
In most cases, as long as the water is clean and you are within your slot limit, then you are generally good to go.
As with most white meated fish, Walleye do not need to be bled upon capture however if you plan to consume it, then it is always a good idea to place them on ice as soon as possible after it is landed. Many use an ice slurry in a cooler which is generally a ratio of 2 parts ice to 1 part water for this purpose.
Due to their eating habits, freshwater fish must be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed prior to consumption. From here, preparation will be determined by how you plan to eat it. If they are to be eaten whole then you will need to clean and scale them beforehand. If you plan to pan fry, then you can either scale and fillet or fillet and skin. Keep the meat refrigerated or on ice at all times before and after preparation.
Can you freeze uncooked fillets?
Yes – Raw Walleye fillets can be frozen for 6 – 12 months. It must at the very least be gutted and cleaned and placed in an airtight bag (ziplock bags are good here – try to remove as much air as possible) prior to being placed in the freezer. They will last longer (up to the full 12 months) if vacuum sealed instead.
Can they be eaten raw?
Technically yes, if it is caught in clean water and prepared with the utmost care until eaten then it can be ok – although the taste does not match that of saltwater species such as Tuna, Salmon and Kingfish. The issue here however is that freshwater fish tends to contain more bacteria and parasites which are killed off by cooking.
To be honest, if sashimi is your meal of choice then I would look for a species such as Striped Bass or those listed above and leave the freshwater catches for the frypan.
How to cook Walleye
At the end of the day, due to its white flesh and versatility, Walleye can be prepared in the same manner as most other fresh or saltwater species in that they can be:
Walleye fillets can be cooked over charcoal or gas grills with any and all spices and seasonings as you see fit. Below is a common recipe:
- Heat a grill hot but not smoking.
- Pat fillets dry then spread butter or oil over the non-skinned side (or both if fillet is skinned) along with salt and pepper.
- Grill fillets until just cooked (fillets start to flake) – Do not overcook as the meat will go dry.
- Consume with salad or grilled vegetables.
You can of course use any other herbs or spices on the flesh to taste.
As above, but in a pan – I like to add garlic to the butter when I pan fry white fish fillets with the salt and pepper as well. I have seen many Walleye recipes with Asian spices or Italian herbs used too so that is also worth a try. Of course, they can also be crumbed as well which entails:
- Gather three bowls and in the first, place some flour, eggs (beaten) in the second and breadcrumbs in the third.
- Pat dry each fillet (skin on or off to preference) and then cover in flour.
- Sink the flour covered fillets into the egg mixture and then cover in breadcrumbs
- Shallow fry in the oil of your choice in a pan large enough to hold the full size of the fillet.
- Spritz with lemon juice and consume with fries (chips), salad or whatever else takes your fancy.
Note: For extra flavour, add salt and pepper to the flour or even some grated Parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs. I have even seen some good recipes using BBQ rubs on the fillets as well.
For this last option, the fish is cooked whole in the oven. A cooking example is as below:
- Make sure the fish is cleaned and scaled.
- Score the skin with a sharp knife (This will stop it shrinking too much from the heat).
- Cover the outside with a lubricant such as butter or oil.
- Fill the cavity with whatever takes your fancy (common options are garlic, herbs, spices, lemon, tomatoes or mustard).
- Bake in the oven until just cooked – again, it will dry out if left too long.
Note: Based on my research over a number of recipes, a 1.5lb Walleye will take around 15 – 30 minutes in a 375F oven.
And there you go – my response to the question of whether you can eat Walleye. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences – or recipes – would love to see your recipes below too.
Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections, or would like me to check anything else out for you.
Until next time