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Walleye vs. Pickerel: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 23, 2023
Walleye is a freshwater fish species; pickerel refers to several smaller species of pike.

Key Differences

Walleye and pickerel are both freshwater fish species, but they belong to different families. Walleye is a member of the perch family, while pickerel belongs to the pike family.
Walleye is known for its unique eye appearance, characterized by a silvery, opaque glow. This feature aids them in low light conditions. Pickerel, on the other hand, doesn’t possess this specific eye characteristic.
In terms of size, walleye tend to be larger, often sought by anglers for their impressive size and delicious meat. Pickerel, though prized by some anglers, are generally smaller in size.
The body markings of the two fish also differ. Walleye typically have a distinct olive-green color, with a white underbelly and five or more distinct black blotches on their dorsal fin. Pickerel, especially the chain pickerel, has a chain-like pattern along its greenish sides.
Both walleye and pickerel are popular targets for freshwater anglers. However, their habitats, behaviors, and methods to catch them may differ based on their unique characteristics.

Comparison Chart


Belongs to the perch family.
Belongs to the pike family.

Eye Characteristic

Has a silvery, opaque glow in the eyes.
Doesn't have the specific eye glow.

Typical Size

Generally larger, prized by anglers.
Smaller in comparison to walleye.

Body Markings

Olive-green with white underbelly and black blotches on dorsal fin.
Chain-like pattern on greenish sides (for chain pickerel).

Predatory Behavior

Predominantly nocturnal, feeding at night.
Active during various times, depending on species.

Walleye and Pickerel Definitions


Walleye is a freshwater fish species native to North America.
The angler caught a massive walleye weighing over 10 pounds.


Pickerel are aggressive predators and will strike at various lures and baits.
The angler used a spinnerbait to attract the attention of a hungry pickerel.


Walleye is a popular game fish, sought for its taste and size.
Many anglers participate in walleye tournaments each year.


Pickerel belongs to the pike family, scientifically known as Esocidae.
Northern pike, muskellunge, and pickerel are all members of the pike family.


Walleye is characterized by its distinctive glowing eyes.
The walleye's reflective eyes help it see in murky waters.


Pickerel can be found in a variety of freshwater habitats, from streams to lakes.
The pristine lake was home to both walleye and pickerel.


The name "walleye" refers to its outward-pointing eyes.
The term walleye is derived from the Old Norse word vagl-eye, meaning rolling eye or walleye.


Pickerel is a term for several species of small pike.
The young angler was thrilled with his first pickerel catch.


Walleye belongs to the perch family, scientifically known as Percidae.
Walleye and yellow perch are close relatives in the same family.


The chain pickerel has a distinctive chain-like pattern on its sides.
The distinctive markings made it evident that it was a chain pickerel.


Pl. walleye or wall·eyes A freshwater food and game fish (Sander vitreus) of North America, having large silvery eyes and a greenish-yellow mottled body.


Any of several North American freshwater game fishes of the genus Esox, especially the chain pickerel.


What is the distinct feature of a walleye's eyes?

Walleye's eyes have a unique silvery, opaque glow.

Which fish has a chain-like pattern on its sides?

The chain pickerel has a chain-like pattern on its sides.

What family does the pickerel belong to?

Pickerel belongs to the pike family, Esocidae.

Are walleye and pickerel the same fish?

No, walleye and pickerel are different species and belong to different families.

What family does the walleye belong to?

Walleye belongs to the perch family, Percidae.

Is walleye a popular game fish?

Yes, walleye is a highly sought-after game fish, especially for its size and taste.

How can I differentiate between a walleye and a pickerel by looking at them?

Walleye has a distinct olive-green color, while chain pickerel has a chain-like pattern on its sides.

What lures are effective for catching pickerel?

Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and live baits are often effective for catching pickerel.

Do both walleye and pickerel make for good eating?

Yes, both are considered good table fish, with walleye being especially prized for its flavor.

How is the term "walleye" derived?

The term "walleye" comes from the Old Norse word "vagl-eye," meaning "rolling eye" or "walleye."

What type of habitats do pickerel prefer?

Pickerel can be found in various freshwater habitats, from shallow streams to lakes.

Are there specific fishing techniques for walleye?

Walleye fishing techniques often involve jigging, trolling, or using live bait, especially during their nocturnal feeding times.

Are pickerel's teeth sharp?

Yes, like other members of the pike family, pickerel have sharp teeth.

Which fish is generally larger, walleye or pickerel?

Walleye is generally larger than pickerel.

Are walleye's eyes useful for a specific purpose?

Yes, the reflective nature of walleye's eyes helps them see in low light or murky water conditions.

Where is walleye predominantly found?

Walleye is native to North America and can be found in various freshwater bodies across the continent.

Are there multiple species of pickerel?

Yes, there are several species of pickerel, including the chain pickerel and the grass pickerel.

Do both walleye and pickerel live in freshwater habitats?

Yes, both walleye and pickerel are freshwater fish species.

Are pickerel aggressive predators?

Yes, pickerel are known for their aggressive predatory behavior.

Is the chain pickerel the only type of pickerel?

No, apart from the chain pickerel, there are other species like the grass pickerel.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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