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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Do Muskies Eat Walleyes?

In June 2007, Muskie Magazine published an article I wrote about my underwater observations photographing muskie.  In the last paragraph of that article I shared some conclusions I had made regarding muskie preying on walleye.  I said at the time that I believe muskie routinely prey on walleye and cited many of my own observations that led me to believe that.
In the last ten years, I’ve witnessed additional muskie behavior underwater and while humbling, I think it’s only fair that I set the record straight and tell you why I now believe I was wrong about my original conclusions.  
Here are the facts:
I have never once seen a muskie actually capture a walleye.  Certainly, when walleyes are around, a muskie will show interest as they do in all fish they encounter that might be regarded as potential prey.  I often saw muskies following walleyes-a term I called ‘stalking” or “targeting”.  On occasion, I had seen muskies “rush” a walleye in what could only be considered an attack.  The muskies were always unsuccessful.  The conclusion I made from these observations is that while I saw only misses, they must be successful most of the time when targeting walleye.  I now think that I completely misinterpreted those observations.  
Today, ten years after I wrote the article, I have a different idea of what I really saw.  I’ve had almost a decade more to observe many more muskies interact with other fish and I feel I’ve learned a great deal.  I’ve now seen a great many “misses” and still not a single successful capture. Today, I’m convinced that muskies actually eat very few walleyes.  The reason for this will seem counter intuitive to everything you know about muskie, but it’s a conclusion that seems well supported.  I don’t believe muskie are very efficient predators… at least not of walleyes.  In reviewing my underwater video of muskie attempting to prey on walleye, they fail time and time again because of many huge disadvantages they have.  Walleyes on the other hand, seem to be uniquely designed for the purpose of evading muskie.  Walleyes have excellent vision and are always keenly aware of the location of any nearby muskie.  It’s nearly impossible for a muskie to actually “sneak up” on a walleye.  My videos show that walleyes are speedy and agile and they escape with very little effort at all.  Muskie, it has to be said, are rather clumsy.  They have some speed but only for very short bursts.  Their long bodies are difficult to turn and they lack the mobility to out maneuver walleyes.  They have good vision that they use to their advantage in low light when preying on perch or suckers, but it’s no match against a walleye’s vision.  The videos that I’ve taken underwater show how positively feeble and overmatched muskie are when attempting to chase down a walleye.  In short, walleyes seem specifically designed by nature to possess the exact traits needed to evade muskie.  
It’s not surprising that walleye fisherman sometimes have muskie attack their catch as they’re reeling it in.  Only a walleye already hooked and struggling on a line would be incapable of escaping a muskie attack.  When this occurs, it’s easy to assume that muskie must eat walleye all the time.  I came to the same false conclusion myself.  But now I think only walleyes that are compromised ever become prey for muskie.
For people who appreciate or even revere the muskie, it almost seems blasphemous to suggest that muskies have any shortcomings whatsoever, but I think they do.  I now believe that muskies don’t eat many walleyes, not because they wouldn’t want to, but because they’re unable to.  At last, the mighty muskie has met his match and it’s the wily walleye.