Big walleye age question.

  • avatartimmy
    Posts: 1,968

    Recently I was talking with some friends and we were all wondering about how old a walleye will get. Take an average fish on a lake like Mille Lacs. I know a 12-14″ fish is probably 3 years old, or so I’ve been told. Is this roughly accurate? How about your 28-30″ fish? I know there are a lot of variables, and that there are all kinds of exceptions, but generally how old would an average fish have to be to get to that 28″+ range?

    Just curious.


    Profile photo of big_gbig_g
    St. Cloud / Isle, MN
    Posts: 15,959

    I would guess, that a 28″ fish in Minnesota, is at least 10 years old. This is just a somewhat educated guess, on what I have read in the past. In more southern water’s, a fish could reach that size in considerably less years. I also believe that walleyes can live into their late 20’s before dying, from what I remember reading.

    big g

    Profile photo of jigsjigs
    Posts: 163

    I read an Infisherman article that stated that right now, 1 percent of Lake Erie’s walleye population is made up of the 1982, 1984 year classes. Don’t know how that area compares to minnesota, but thought it was amazing that many 22-24 year old fish were still around.

    Dubuque, Iowa
    Posts: 1,031

    I have been told that lake fish grow much slower than walleyes in the Mississippi. In the Mississippi it takes a walleye around 3 years to reach the legal 15″ length. I know that the Mississippi Walleye Club has been stocking branded fish down here so it has been easy to follow the growth of the fish. This past summer we were catching fish that had been stocked 3 years ago. Most of these fish were in the 16″ range but there were a few taken that were already much larger (3 that I know of that already exceeded 20″). I imagine some of the larger fish were females since they were so much larger. I don’t know the growth rate for northern lakes but I have heard that it is substantially longer than that of river fish.


    Posts: 1,403

    If you can get one scale, preferrably from the cheek of the walleye, you should be able to take it to the DNR lab in Grand Rapids and they can age the fish exactly for you! Call ahead to make sure they aren’t too busy to do it for you. Otherwise, any of the colleges with fisheries programs can probably do it, too, although they may want to charge you for it.

    St. Paul, Mn
    Posts: 10,935

    Some info on the 2005 Mille Lacs survey. One interesting fact. Check out the number of walleye test netted that are greater than 29 inches. None! The lake just does not have the genetics to pump out those bigger fish. In other words, the walleye die of old age before growing over 29 inches.

    Pool 4 (and Lake Erie) are totally different animals. A 3 year old walleye can be 18-19 inches on the river. So a lot of factors come into play when analyzing size to age and ultimately how big the fish can get before dying. Also keep in mind many fish attain their largest size/weight well before their max age. In other word, older fish may drop size weight in their last few years.

    Interesting topic.


    Posts: 1,968

    Interesting responses – and pretty much what I was expecting.

    Jon – you mentioned that many fish reach max weight before they reach max age. Interesting that you should say this. A few years back, I iced a 9.5lb lake trout that was tagged. I clobbered it for the smoker – not thinking much of it. I sent the tag info to the ministry to get the fish’s bio. I was informed that it was a male that was tagged 3 years prior about 2 miles from where I caught it(no surprises there). The surprising info was that the fish’s tagging data showed it to be 1/2 ” longer when it was tagged and .5 lbs heavier. I attribute this to the inconsistencies in my measurement vs the netters measurements of a squirming fish. The weights, I believe were pretty accurate, as my scale is the same as the ministry creel clerks scale – and was calibrated by them on the ice. So in 3 years, the trout did not grow any in length – and actually lost 1/2 lb!! Oh yeah – the trout was 18 yrs old when tagged – making it 21yrs old when I caught it. I would say that the male trout I caught was either at or very near max size. Just like people, each individual fish only can get so big.


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