Yellow Pike Fish (Walleye or Yellow Pickerel)

yellow pike fish

Last updated on July 30th, 2022 at 07:08 am

The yellow pike fish, or walleye and yellow pickerel, are two different names given to the same fish species. The walleye was the name used in Canada and the Great Lakes region while the yellow pickerel was used in other areas of North America where it lives. Today, these terms are used interchangeably, with some calling it the yellow pike or yellow pickerel depending on preference or location.

The yellow pike fish (walleye or yellow pickerel) lives in the freshwaters of North America and Canada, most commonly found in the Great Lakes region and the northern United States. The pike fish has a variety of different names, many of which refer to its coloration as well as its resemblance to other types of fish.

The walleye (Sander vitreus, synonym Stizostedion vitreum), also called the yellow pike or yellow pickerel, is one of the most popular sport fish in North America. With its tasty white flesh and abundance, it’s no wonder the yellow pike fish continues to be the most sought-after freshwater fish in the United States and Canada.

Origin and description

yellow pike fish

The walleye is a freshwater fish native to North America, but there are populations of it that have become established in Europe and New Zealand as well. There are also populations of what’s considered a similar species, called pike-perch or yellow pickerel that can be found in some areas of North America.

Both these types of fish belong to a broader family of perciform fishes known as Esocidae. And both kinds belong to a smaller subfamily of those called Esocinae. There are currently two recognized species: Esox lucius, which includes both European and American/Canadian varieties, and Esox americanus, which includes only American varieties.

Species profile

yellow pike fish

The yellow pike fish is a unique fish species, with features of both a walleye and a pickerel. It has golden-yellow scales that make it stand out from other pike fish species, even its own family members. The scientific name of the yellow pike fish is Esox lucius sapidus, which means savory tasty pike in Latin.

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These goldfish-like freshwater fish can grow up to 6 feet long and weigh as much as 30 pounds. While they are not endangered yet, they are becoming rarer due to pollution and loss of habitat. They live in large rivers throughout North America. Like many types of pike fish, their diet includes any animals that fall into their river home; they are bottom feeders, meaning whatever falls on top of them is fair game for these voracious eaters!


Lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers that are at least three feet deep are the best habitat for this fish. Walleyes can also be found in many of North America’s Great Lakes. Habitat similar to walleye lakes will suffice for yellow pickerel but they prefer slower moving water than walleyes do. Both species are equally comfortable in both natural and manmade lakes and ponds.

Walleyes tend to spend more time towards the top while yellow pickerel usually stay towards bottom since they lack swim bladders which allow other fish like walleye to float vertically with ease.

Yellow pike fish size

The average length for the yellow pike fish is 22.3 inches (54 cm).

Yellow pike fish tank size

The minimum recommended tank size is 200 gallons for an averagely sized yellow pike fish.

Tank set up

Take care to ensure that your tank is well-maintained and has a safe environment for both you and your yellow pike fish. If you’re adding other pets to your aquarium, make sure they don’t prey on your pike. However, if you choose to keep it as a single pet, be careful not to leave any food lying around—the yellow pike will eat almost anything. The minimum recommended tank size for a yellow pike is 200 gallons.

Keep in mind that these fish can grow up to 22 inches long, so try and create an interesting shape with rocks at one end of your tank; while yellow pickerel enjoy swimming around in circles, they also appreciate plenty of areas to rest at different levels in their surroundings. The pH level should be between 6 and 8, but 7 works best.

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Yellow pickerel require strong filtration and aeration, which means frequent water changes are highly recommended. Use dechlorinated water when doing water changes because yellow pickerel are extremely sensitive to chlorine; start by changing 20% of your tank per week until you find a sweet spot where your fish doesn’t seem to get stressed out. Try avoiding ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate altogether.

Yellow pike fish tank mates

It is not recommended to keep a yellow pike with other types of fish as it is a predator that needs only smaller fish to feed. If you still want to keep more than one yellow pike in your tank, look for peaceful bottom dwellers like catfish and loaches. Make sure that these bottom dwellers are big enough that they cannot be eaten by larger fish.

You should also avoid keeping small fish that are fast swimmers if you wish to put them in a tank with yellow pikes. This will prevent them from being eaten at night when they are most vulnerable.

Some good tank mates are other kinds of pikes, loaches, some catfish, and snails. They won’t show their colors as much in a community tank, but at least they’ll be safe from other fish that like to eat them. It is not recommended to keep these fish with other kinds of goldfish because they look very similar.

Yellow pike fish breeding

yellow pike fish

You can get walleyes and yellow pickerel from a hatchery, but they are also frequently available from bait and tackle shops. These fish tend to be territorial, especially during spawning season when they will not tolerate intruders in their area. If you want to raise both walleyes and yellow pickerel, you’ll need to separate them by breeding tanks.

A 200-gallon tank is sufficient for one pair; each male will require 5 gallons of water per an inch length. Walleyes and yellow pickerel have similar mating behavior: The female releases her eggs into open water; then both parents work together to herd them back towards their nest before fertilizing them with sperm released from the male.

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Spawning typically occurs at night. Fry hatch after about two weeks. They feed on plankton, green water algae, and insect larvae until they reach full size at 6 months old.

Are yellow pickerel aggressive or peaceful?

They can be extremely aggressive and territorial if not given enough space.

Yellow pike fish care

yellow pike fish

The name ‘pickerel’ comes from an Indian word, which means ‘to pierce’. This refers to its sharp teeth and tendency to bite when frightened. The name Walleye is given because of its lazy eye, which turns inward when the fish looks upward toward prey moving overhead.

Its skin is greenish-brown with big round scales while flanking each side of its body are rows of small silver-colored spots. Its flesh is white and flaky but it has no bones. Its eyes are dark with golden corneas that have red rims around them. Males have larger dorsal fins and black blotches on their tailfins than females do.

Walleye fish diet

The yellow pike fish is a carnivore. They can eat a variety of different types of prey in their habitat. This includes small insects, worms, and even small fish.

Yellow pike eats fish, crayfish, frogs, and insects. They also scavenge when they can. The Great Lakes provide a good source of fish for them to feed on as well as a place to breed in many areas. When looking for food they are extremely aggressive predators. Their prey includes some pretty big fish! The top species that make up their diet are sauger, bass, whitefish, and perch.

Water parameters

yellow pike fish

Ideal water should have a pH of 6.5 – 7.5; Temperature around 68 – 73 degrees F (20 – 23 degrees C); Hardness of 10 – 15 dH; Carbonate hardness around 4 – 7 dKH; Ammonia of 0 ppm; and Nitrite of 0 ppm.

Note: The yellow pike fish is less tolerant of lower pH values than many other livebearers, so it is important to keep a careful eye on water parameters when they are present in aquariums containing them.

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Yellow pickerel lifespan

They can live up to 10 years in captivity.

Parasites and diseases

Though not as common as other parasites, a yellow pike fish can still be infected with them. The most common disease of fish is ich, which is most often caused by an infestation of tiny parasitic copepods. This parasite will attach itself to the fish and begin draining its blood. You may see these parasites on your fish’s body, fins, and gills or inside its anus or mouth; it may even appear to have little black spots in its eyes.


Walleyes are preyed upon by northern pike, lake trout, and burbot. Since walleyes mainly feed at night when they use their lateral line to navigate towards their prey, they have developed mechanisms of detecting approaching predators. The eyespot on a walleye’s side can detect approaching pike from a distance so that it can seek safety in deeper waters.

Do yellow pickerels make good pets?

Most yellow pike fish (walleye / yellow pickerel) are caught wild, but they can be found in aquariums across North America.

As with most fish kept in an aquarium environment, yellow pike fish require regular maintenance and excellent care to stay healthy. Whether you choose to keep them at home is entirely up to you.