Difference Between Walleye and Pickerel (With Table)

The animal kingdom, vast as it is, is so diverse that it is believed that humans might have possibly not even have discovered a considerable portion of it. What is more interesting is that every day not only we find out more about new species, but we find out new things about species that we have already found.

Arguably, aquatic wildlife is something that humankind has not been so proficient in research. Two of the most common aquatic animals, the walleye and the pickerel might have a lot of things in common, and at times may even be used interchangeably with one another, but there is a whole lot of difference between them, which one could easily understand.

It is true that the walleye is sometimes referred to as the pickerel, but it is not at all a correct statement, especially when we are talking on official terms.

Walleye vs Pickerel

The main difference between walleye and pickerel is that walleyes are olive or golden in color and are larger while pickerels have a greenish color on their sides and are smaller than walleyes.

Walleye is a freshwater perciform fish that is found mostly in Canada and the Northern United States. They belong to the pike family and are olive or gold in color.

Pickerels on the other hand are freshwater fishes too which are more precisely known as Chain Pickerels. They too are found in Canada and the Northern United States. They have a rather greenish color, mostly on their sides.

Comparison Table between Walleye and Pickerel

Parameters of Comparison




Belongs to the Perch Family.

Belongs to the Pike Family.

Scientific Name

Sander vitreus

Esox americanus


It is olive or golden in color.

It has a greenish color on its sides.


Walleye is larger than pickerel.

Pickerels are relatively smaller than walleyes.


Walleyes live in deep waters.

Pickerels live in shallow waters.

What is Walleye?

Walleye is a freshwater perciform fish that lives in Canada and in the Northern United States. The walleye is either olive or golden in color. The scientific name of this fish is Sander vitreus. It is important to note that might be easily confused with the European Zander, as it is its closest relative.

However, their natural habitats are far away from each other. The walleye we find now might also be referred to as the yellow walleye. This is because there used to exist another species called the blue walleye, which is now supposed to be extinct.

The main reason why this fish is so easily confused with the pickerel is not because of its looks, but because the people in Canada refer to them as pickerels. This is actually incorrect, as pickerels are a completely different variety of fish and have completely different characteristics.

The reason why this fish is known as walleye is that these fishes have eyes that point outward. Since it seems as if there are not looking in any particular direction and are ‘staring at walls’, that is why they are named walleye. 

These fishes have an evolutionary advantage due to their habitat. They have this particular ‘eyeshine’ feature which helps these fishes to see in the dark. Basically, they have light-collecting tissues in their eyes, which makes their eyes shine at night or in the dark. This is very similar to the tissues found in the eyes of dogs, cats, etc.

The walleye usually lives in deep waters, which might be turbid as well. Hence, there is not much light available to see through. This is why this feature helps them to see in places where it would have been tough to see otherwise.

What is Pickerel?

Pickerels, precisely known as Chain Pickerels, are freshwater fishes that belong to the pike family. Similar to walleyes, they too are found in Canadian freshwaters, and also in the Northern United States. There are actually three kinds of pickerels that are available, and the name pickerel is just an umbrella term used for all these three fishes.

The three fishes are chain pickerel, which is the most common and well-known type of pickerel. When one usually talks about pickerels, they refer to this fish, unless specified otherwise. The other two are the smaller redfin pickerel and the grass pickerel. 

The color and pattern of the pickerel are very defined and hard to miss. It has a greenish color on its sides. This green color is imprinted like a chain pattern which is spread around from the cheeks right to the tail. These fishes are carnivores and have arrays of sharp teeth in its mouth.

Common items in their diet include frogs, smaller fishes, worms, etc. They are also known to jump out of the water to eat the insects flying near the surface of the water.

The pickerel is a very popular fish in angling sports. This is because they can swallow small fishes like minnows whole, which gives it a better chance to get trapped in the hook.

Main Differences Between Walleye and Pickerel

  1. The main difference between walleye and pickerel is that walleyes belong to the perch family while pikes belong to the pike family.
  2. The scientific name of the walleye is Sander vitreus, while the scientific name for pickerels is Esox americanus.
  3. Walleyes are olive or golden in color, while pickerels have a greenish color on their sides.
  4. Walleyes are larger than pickerels in terms of size. They are heavier too.
  5. Walleyes live in deep waters, while pickerels live in shallow waters.


Most fishes can confuse people by their appearance unless the person is an expert or is very experienced in dealing with them. The difference between them is mostly subtle, and it is these little differences that ultimately matter the most.

These fishes come to use for a variety of reasons, from food to sporting events. But most importantly, they have a very important role in balancing the ecosystem to make this world a sustainable, healthy place to live in.


  1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1577/T02-111.1
  2. https://pubs.geoscienceworld.org/gsa/gsabulletin/article/79/7/855/6354