This column is about walleye fishing. Wait! Wait! Come back! It’s really interesting stuff! At least it is if you like to catch walleyes. If you’re one of those, as I am, there’s nothing more beautiful than seeing the gold and black of a walleye on the end of your line. They are truly a great fish to catch and on occasion, eat. Which brings us to today’s subject: Sander Vitreus Glaucus, or the Blue Walleye.
From about 1880 to the 1950s, the Blue Walleye was a staple of theGreat Lakescommercial catch. InLake Eriethey made up 50%
of all commercial fish caught. But then the population started to decline and by 1983 they were declared extinct in the Great Lakes by both theUSand Canadian governments. In fact, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has a reward posted for anyone who can produce a Blue Walleye from theGreat Lakes. So far, the few
that have been produced turned out not to be Blues after genetic
Nobody quite knows what happened to them but it appears to be a combination of human pressure and something environmental, although nobody knows why it affected just Blue Walleyes and not ordinary black and gold ones.
Now here’s what’s interesting. Many people, including myself, have caught Blue Walleyes. I got two of them last month inNorthern Ontario. Many Canadian outfitters advertise that they have fly in lakes where they have Blue Walleyes, and you can see pictures of fishermen with fish they’ve caught. The Canadians still maintain that the Campbell Status Report of 1985 that said they’re
extinct is accurate. So what gives? The .002% of the population that cares, wants to know? So here’s what I’ve come up with based on what American and Canadian scientists have published…
The true Blue Walleye that thrived in theGreat Lakesis as extinct
as the Passenger Pigeon. The walleyes being caught [like mine] in
OntarioandQuebecare a genetic variation called Blue Morphs. Oh they’re walleyes all right, and they’re unquestionably blue. They just aren’t genetically Blue Walleyes. These fish are bigger than a real Blue Walleye and have the white fins of a regular walleye. Something that Blues don’t have. So how come they’re blue colored walleyes if they’re not Blue Walleyes? Here’s what the Canadian scientists think;
The Blue Morphs are regular walleyes however they don’t have as much gold pigment in their scales and the slime coating they have to protect them from parasites has a bluefish tinge. They think that comes from being exposed to increased sunlight coming through ozone holes in the atmosphere. Thus you get walleyes colored blue
without being Blue Walleyes. Got that? Good.
I am a little disappointed that my two Blue Morphs weren’t the real thing. I did let them go thinking that they were, but what the heck. One of the good things about fishing for walleyes is that you can catch a lot of them.
So now you know the strange and sad story of the Blue Walleye. Remember if you manage to catch one inSaginawBay, report it to the Fish and Wildlife Service. There could be a couple of bucks in
it for you.