Below is some information that may give you an idea of the age of walleye with respect to length.
Walleyes hatched during the spring months, generally April/May, will average 6-8 inches by fall (September/October); depending upon food supply and population numbers.
According an Ohio Division of Wildlife reports, the next spring, when the walleye is 1+ years old, length may average 10 1/2 inches; again, depending upon food supply, the number of walleye competing for the food supply, and upon when you may have caught it.
Most walleye harvest occurs during the summer months, so consider most yearling walleye to average 13-14 months in age during June-July; that’s where the (+) enters the picture behind the age number.
The chart below, provided by Ohio Division of Wildlife, shows the following averages for walleye sampled from past harvests
1+ year old walleyes caught= 10 1/2″
2+ year old walleyes caught= 14 1/4″
3+ year old walleyes caught= 17 1/4″
4+ year old walleyes caught= 18 7/8″
5+ year old walleyes caught= 20 1/4″
6+ year old walleyes caught= 21 1/4″
7+ year old walleyes caught= 22 3/4″
8+ year old walleyes caught= 24 1/4″
9+ year old walleyes caught= 26 1/4″
10+ year old walleyes caught=27 1/2″
Again, remember the “+” indicates the fish measured were caught past their one year anniversary of hatch date.
Some years when bait fish abundance is low and the walleye population is high, growth rates may be slower.
Another fact to remember is that female walleyes will grow faster and larger than males. The chart above reflects the average of both the males and females caught. If only females were measured, the above lengths would be considerably longer. Due to the fact that the smaller, slower growing males are averaged in above, the growth rates of walleyes 3-7 years old seem to exhibit slow growth. This is because of the smaller, slower growing males are being averaged into the same sample.
Past 10 years of age, it is often said that a walleye may grow approximately an inch per year; again depending upon factors such as food and population size.
Given that assumption, that 33″ monster you are seeking in Lake Erie may be around 15-16 years old!
On larger walleyes, the best way to determine age is through observation of yearly growth rings (annuli) which are present on the scales; quite similar to growth rings observed on a cross section of tree trunk. This practice of aging fish from a scale sample may require a fisheries expert with experience in reading scales.
Lake Erie walleye tend to “grow fast and die young” due to factors such as temperature and food abundance, as opposed to walleye found in the colder lakes of say upper Ontario; where growth is slow and they may live to a ripe old age.
Do 33″plus walleye exist in Lake Erie? Talk to some of the commercial netters and ask them about the length and weight of some walleyes caught in commercial springtime shore seines!! There are a few out there, that’s for sure, yet finding them is like looking for a specific grain of sand on the beach. And once hooked, many anglers reallyarnt prepared to do battle with a 33″ walleye which might weigh in around 15-16 pounds.
There were outstanding spring walleye hatches in 2014 and 2015 .Those two years of walleye production combined, matched or perhaps even exceeded, the 2003 walleye hatch, which had been the largest on record. And those young walleye will be of catchable size this summer. The 2014 walleye are about 16 to 19 inches in length. The 2015 walleye range from 13.5 inches to 16 or 17 inches. All will be longer than the minimum 15-inch size limit before summer has ended.
A major problem for anglers all around Lake Erie,has been a lack of emerald shiner minnows, a native baitfish that is the most popular for catching yellow perch. Ohio fisheries experts know the schools of emerald shiner minnows have been hard for after-dark minnow netters to find over the last couple of years. There is no way of estimating the emerald shiner population, as well. The ODOW nets used to sample young yellow perch or walleye are generally ineffective at rounding up the smaller baitfish.
Emerald shiner minnows require certain environmental conditions to thrive.Since they are short-lived, however, they have the ability to reproduce at a high level. It would only take a good year or two for the baitfish population to bounce back.
There is not really a good good way to index shiner populations, the reality seems to be a reduced shiner population the last two years. DNR would be really be concerned if the condition of walleye and yellow perch were in trouble (because of a lack of forage). But there has not been substantial impact on predators because there are so many other baitfish for them to eat.
In the spring of 2015 after a major walleye hatch, Lake Erie minnow dippers were frustrated by the huge numbers of tiny walleye mixed in with the small emerald shiner minnows. They finally had to give up netting baitfish, and we have seen similar conditions in 2016 and this year as well.
The game fish won’t go hungry. There is plentiful prey available for yellow perch and walleye to eat, including shad and smelt.
This is a very unique time for Lake Erie walleye anglers,we have had such consistently good perch and walleye hatches in recent years that thaose fishing Lake Erie and its tributaries should enjoy great fishing for many years to come.