Is it pickerel or walleye? Some fishermen say it depends which side of the border you're on

Friday was National Go Fishing Day and the debate over the proper name for the pickerel or walleye fish has started once again. It seems it depends on which side of the border you live on.

‘They’re the same fish,’ says Garey Murray, a Windsor fisherman

Is it the walleye or the pickerel? According to many, it depends on who you ask. (Darrin Di Carlo/CBC)

"You like potato, I like potahto. You like tomato, I like tomahto. Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto, Let's call the whole thing off!"

The lyrics from George and Ira Gershwin's, song, "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off!" is well-suited to summarize a decades-old debate over the correct name for the pickerel fish, also known as the walleye. 

Friday was National Go Fishing Day and that debate has started once again. 

"They're both the same fish. It just depends on which side of the border you're on," said Garey Murray, a Windsor-Essex resident and leisure fisherman. 

Based on the opinions of many local residents, the name depends on whether you are Canadian or American. 

National Go Fishing Day sparks the question: Are they called 'walleye' or 'pickerel' fish?

CBC News Windsor

2 months ago
It's been an ongoing debate in the fishing community for years. Is it a walleye or pickerel fish? CBC News cast out the question to some local anglers on this National Go Fishing Day to find out have to say about reeling in one of these beauties. 1:38

'It's the walleye'

Gord Ellis, senior editor for Ontario OUT of Doors Magazine, said the actual name for the fish is walleye.

"When I started looking into it, it's the actual name of the fish because of the eye, it gathers the light," said Ellis. 

Ellis agreed the debate over whether the fish is called walleye or pickerel has been around for over 40 years. He said pickerel is a colloquial term in Canada and it has been entrenched in Canadian culture for years. 

"Canadians are proud. We hold onto our things dearly and I think pickerel is considered one of those things that are kind of an identifier," said Ellis. 

Gord Ellis, senior editor for Ontario OUT of Doors magazine, says it is a 'walleye' fish because of its eye. (Darrin Di Carlo/CBC)

The debate becomes confusing, however, because the pickerel fish is an actual fish. 

"It's like a small pike," said Ellis. 

"It is just one of those fish that for whatever reason, people take ownership of it and of that name," he said.

Canadians call it pickerel

Tony Grosse, a Windsor resident, said he calls the fish a pickerel, just because it's what Canadians call it. 

"Americans call it walleye, most Canadians call it pickerel," said Grosse. 

While Grosse and Murray both share the same opinion, Ellis makes it clear that it just depends on what you grew up with. 

"The name walleye is not an American name, it's just what they're called," said Ellis. 

With files by Darrin Di Carlo


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