The Largest Walleye Ever Caught in Michigan was an Impressive Trophy

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: September 19, 2023
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Michigan is well-known for having some of the best lakes in the country. Of course, it’s hard to measure up against a state that has borders on four of the five Great Lakes. Many anglers enjoy the waters in Michigan, catching all sorts of amazing fish, including the walleye. Discover the largest walleye ever caught in Michigan and find out how big it was, who caught it, where it was caught, and much more!

Typical Size for the Walleye Species

Fried fish. Breaded walleye fillet. Garnish with broccoli and green vegetables.

Walleye is a popular game fish and pan fish.


The walleye fish (Sander vitreus) goes by many names. Some people know them as the yellow pike or yellow pickerel. The fish’s name stems from a certain tissue in its eyes, the tapetum lucidum. This helps the walleye see in areas with low light, but it also gives them pearlescent eyes.

The walleye is a popular freshwater fish that is native to North America. People enjoy catching them because they can be a challenging target. Also, the species tastes good, so it’s a good fish to catch and consume at the end of the day.

The average walleye reaches a size of between 10 and 20 inches long, but the largest ones exceed 30 inches. These creatures also vary quite a bit in terms of their overall weight. Some of them barely get over 1 pound throughout their lives, but others can weigh 20 pounds or more.

The average adult walleye between 3 and 5 years old will measure between 8 and 12 inches and weigh between 1 and 5 pounds. However, fish that reach over 5 years of age can measure between 10 and 20 inches while weighing between 3 and 10 pounds or even more!

Usually, walleyes live in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. They prefer cool and cold water rather than warm water. These fish can live in shallow or deep water, but they are more frequently found in deep waters. The species has a wide distribution.

Walleye Description

The walleye species has a long, somewhat thin body. They have an olive to gold coloration, with the darker color on their dorsal side turning into a golden color on their sides. The species has five dark spots called saddles that extend from the dorsal end down their sides.

The species has two dorsal fins, one behind the head and one closer to the start of its tail. These fish are known for having sharp teeth in their mouths and reflective eyes. Still, these fish are easily confused with other species.

What Was the Largest Walleye Ever Caught in Michigan?

Walleye fish closeup held over the water caught in Ontario, Canada

Walleye are medium-sized fish at best.

©Harlan Schwartz/

The largest walleye ever caught in Michigan weighed 17.19 pounds, and it had a length of 35 inches. The fish was caught in 1951 by a man named Ray Fadely. He used a live minnow as bait and presumably pulled it in using a hook and line.

It is easy to think that the biggest walleye was found in one of the Great Lakes. However, this large fish was caught in the Pine River in Michigan. The record has lasted for several decades.

About Pine River

The Pine River is a body of water that was once called the South Branch Manistee River. The body of water flows for 53.6 miles in the state. The largest walleye ever caught in Michigan was captured along the river in Manistee County.

The U.S. Forest Service declared a part of the river a National Scenic River. Walleyes are not the only fish that people seek out in this river, though. Some of the other fish that anglers seek out in these waters are:

  • Rainbow trout
  • Brown trout
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Brook trout

These are just some of the other fish people pursue when they travel to this river. This unassuming river managed to produce the largest walleye ever caught in Michigan!

Was Michigan’s Record-Setting Walleye the Biggest in the Country?

Walleye are among the most popular gamefish in North America.

Walleye are among the most popular gamefish in North America.


No, the largest walleye ever caught in Michigan is not the largest one ever caught in the country. That honor belongs to a walleye caught by a man named Mabry Harper. This angler caught the fish in Tennessee in 1960, and it was 25 pounds according to the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.

The fish also measured 41 inches long and had a girth of about 29 inches. A game warden named Hames Spurling oversaw the weigh-in.

However, this record is not without some controversy. The original record was accepted. Yet, in 1996, an individual from the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Game claimed that the fish was not as large as the record suggested.

As a result, the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame vacated the record. The organization launched a massive investigation into the record-setting walleye. Some of the evidence in the case included pictures of the fish taken in front of a vehicle while held by Mrs. Harper. Another picture featuring Mr. Harper was shown. Also, an affidavit signed by the game warden was produced for the occasion. Eventually, the record was reinstated. The 25-pound, 41-inch fish remains the record-setting fish for Tennessee and the country.

The largest walleye ever caught in Michigan was a large fish, but it was not the largest member of the species ever caught. Even more surprisingly, the largest fish in the state was pulled out of a river rather than one of the Great Lakes. Michigan’s record was set rather long ago in 1951. Perhaps the future could see a new angler catching a record-setting walleye.  

The photo featured at the top of this post is © FedBul/

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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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