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Nov 3, 2009 11:07 PM

Walleye? Wherefore art thou, Walleye - in the Great PNW?

I'm a transplanted Mid-westerner but have lived here in Puget Sound Country most of my life.
Of course no one here amongst the Salmonids' lovers know anything about Walleye, even though it can be fished for in Lake Roosevelt and the Columbia River down to Kalama now.
I can't find it on a menu or in a store, anywhere in Washington or Oregon.
I know that Walleye is a game fish and must be imported from Canada or sourced from a sanctioned Native American Tribe. So what's the problem?
If you haven't had Walleye, you haven't had fish, kids.
I can't get out to fish for my own anymore, so help the old boy out and tell me what rock I haven't looked under yet!

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  1. PugetPete, You'll have to cook it yourself. Mutual Fish often stocks Walleye. They also have sun fish and fresh water perch available.

    1. PugetPete, get a train ticket or start up the car!

      There is a fish house with two locations in Portland that rocks the midwest fishfry:

      One in SW, south of downtown, on Corbett, one in SE on Hawthorne (which, for a visitor, is a better and more interesting location). They use rice flour, so most of the menu is gluten-free.

      Take a deep breath and steady yourself Pete, they have BOTH walleye AND perch. Personally, I prefer their Willapa Bay oysters, but I only lived in Chicago for 5 years, which probably wasn't enough to develop a hankering for wallleye and perch.

      Warning, if you are not a Green Bay Packers fan, don't go there when a game is on... ;o)

      1. Lol, This post made me laugh--my Iowan husband fishes for them on the Columbia/Moses Lake, so I know about the cult of Walleye. I've even been on a Minnesota fishing trip. Anyway. I've seen Walleye on the menu at Matt's in the Market once or twice, but the menu changes daily, so you should call rather than just heading there.And like Leper said, Mutual Fish has them.

        1. "Great PNW" is a first. thank you.
          We live in the PNW and admire the Brats and the deep-dish of the "Great Northwest" greatly. If your vintage is right, you may remember: "Schmidt: The beer that grew with the Great Northwest." When they speak of Schmidt's origins in "the Great Northwest,", they are talking about Minnesota, which, with the other states of the heartland, were, in fact "the northwest." Everything beyond (except the San Fransisco area) was considered the Great American Desert. Later immigrants settled the Pacific Northwest, but always respected "Great Northwest" to belong to its rightful originators, who still find it meaningful, "The Supermall of the Great Northwest" notwithstanding...

          1 Reply
          1. re: mrnelso

            The PNW: Where walleye grow huge and no one fishes for them.

          2. For the most part, they are kept out of the commercial fishery bounty. That said, the tribes use gill nets in the river and walleye are often a by-catch. Depending on where the nets are at that point in the year, I have seen walleye show up in some of the local higher end grocery stores. The fish are advertised as Columbia River fish and based on the large size, I believe them.

            There are quite a few people in the NW with freezers full of walleye. Walleye waters include the entire Columbia from the Canadian border down to Kalama. I've heard reports of walleye caught lower in the river, but I've only fished as far down as Kalama with any luck. Banks Lake, Moses Lake, Potholes, Scooteny, Billy Clapp all have solid walleye populations. Every year there are walleye fishing tournaments on many of those bodies of water. Not sure where you are in the Puget Sound, but there is a Western Washington Walleye Club where you might be able to find more info, or drop by Even if you can't get out, might not hurt to know the people who are!

            12 Replies
            1. re: WineandPoker

              Thanks WineandPoker and everyone else who answered, it really helps!
              It's funny, I lived in Moses Lake for a couple of years back in the late 60's, pretty much bored to death, and there were Walleye about even then so I hear (they were migrating downstream Columbia River System). Nobody I talked to then ever mentioned them. Trout and Bass, Perch and Crappie were the order of the day.
              Well, called Mutual, they had Walleye in stock so I'll be able to give me ol' Ma a nice Walleye dinner purty soonish! She fed the last salmon I made her to the cat (everyone else thought it was great).

              1. re: PugetPete

                I'm glad you were able to find your fish!

                I'd like to stick my neck out and ask you - what is walleye like? I've never had it. Are Pacific Northwesterners missing out by not having it on menus all over the city?

                1. re: evergreengirl

                  I am a native born Northwesterner I had my first walleye about 20 years ago. I have had basically all of the white meat fish cooked about every way. I think that walleye is probably the best tasteing whitemeat fish there is. I like it better than halibut or cod. it has a great texture and mild flavor. I am sure that part of it depends on what river they were caught in and what time of the year.

                  1. re: evergreengirl

                    I find it a very average, mild tasting whitefish. *ducking* It's a small fish so you don't get the nice big steaks or filets you do with halibut. Some of the stuff my husband catches in Moses or Potholes is downright muddy, but that's not how it usually is. I do think it's better than cod but not in the same league as halibut.

                    1. re: christy319

                      Potholes and Moses Lake walleye get the "muddy" and "mushy" characteristics a couple times each year. Compared to the other walleye waters in the Northwest, Potholes and Moses Lake are very shallow so the water gets warmer than the other bodies. Also, there are a couple native bug hatches that the walleye spend time feeding on by digging through the mud. That contributes to the muddy flavor. If you soak filets in milk in your refrigerator for a day, the muddy flavor should disappear and the flesh will regain some firmness.

                    2. re: evergreengirl

                      Good Walleye has a sweet, delicate flavor, it's sometimes called Midwesterner's lobster and I prefer it over that. However, restaurants will often substitute other fish for Walleye figuring nobody will note the difference. Dead wrong in my case. No matter what food product you name, you'll have detractors and aficionados. It really depends on preparation. I've had HORRIBLE halibut but a lot of people think it's great because it doesn't taste "fishy" or has few bones. I've had wonderful cod, mediocre cod and downright miserable cod. (I'm Scandinavian, so lutefisk has crossed my lips, literally and figuratively) Done right, Walleye is wonderful stuff to me, but maybe not to everyone. I don't advocate it in every menu, but you'd think it would be in a couple just due to it's popularity in a lot of the country. If I can get a decent "Philly" cheese steak or crayfish etouffe in Seattle, I'd think you should find Walleye, somewhere. And yes, where it comes from has a bearing on any fish, farmed catfish as opposed to wild caught, farmed salmon vs wild, etc. often have off flavors due to environment and diet. I'd rather eat ocean caught halibut than that caught a half mile from Victoria's sewer outfall too.... I'd say personally, the next or other "best" fish to Walleye to me is Mahi Mahi, hands down.

                      1. re: PugetPete

                        You say yo like crawfish I have had them at 2 places one is in Snohomish downtown by the bridge I don't remember the name though. They do crawfish every friday night southern style. The other place i like is The Alligator soul in Everett does a southern crawfich feed a couple of times a year

                        1. re: hickdolphin

                          I can't remember the name of that spot in Snohomish either, but if you let them know ahead of time, you can also buy live crawfish in bulk to do boils at home. (In addition to growing up in the Midwest, I also went to college in New Orleans and crawfish boils are now a necessity!). I just use a turkey fryer with a seafood basket to do them. You can also get them live at Pike Place. I was surprised to learn that Washington and Oregon rank among the largest exporting crawfish states in the nation. They are different than Louisiana crawfish...bigger and not as sweet up here, but still work great for boils and plenty of the heavily spiced cajun crawfish dishes, whether etoufee, gumbo, etc.

                          1. re: WineandPoker

                            If we are exporting where are they heing grwon in WA and OR? Are there some crawfish farms around the state?

                            1. re: hickdolphin

                              Lakes Washington and Sammamish, at least, have resident populations of crawfish. In fact, I think I've heard there is an ecological issue brought about by introduction.

                        2. re: PugetPete

                          I grew up on walleye in the midwest (go figure). Growing up, it was typically fried (light flour / cornmeal breading) and I still think that is the best prep, but that may partially be sentimental. It is a very delicate white fish which should definitely have a slightly sweet flavor. As the fish grow larger, that sweetness disappears and while still good for frying, you start to notice subtle taste differences if prepared other ways. Growing up, we rarely saw fish over 14 inches in length. Fishing the Columbia, its rare to see a fish that aren't considerably larger than that. Roosevelt is still a good place to catch lots of small fish. Now, I certainly eat more halibut than walleye and just based on the differences in preparation, I don't think its really fair to compare them. Halibut is a much denser fish and requires much different preparation. Fried halibut, IMO, is a crime.

                          1. re: WineandPoker

                            I LOVE Walleye - my mom likes it even more. We live in Los Angeles, but my brother lives in Hayward, WI (Muskee capital of the world) and we visit a couple times a year. IT is usually lightly breaded and fried and you can get it in po boy-type sandwiches as well.