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The sauger is a freshwater fish. The walleye and the sauger are close relatives. Saugers though are usually smaller and they tolerate rough water better than the walleye. They are distinguished from the walleye in appearance by their spotted dorsal fin, by no white spot on the caudal fin, by their rough skin over their gill and by their darker more brassy color.

The average sauger caught by an angler is 1 pound with the world record being 8.1 pounds.

Saugers can be found in rivers whereas walleyes are found more in lakes and reservoirs. The sauger is considered a delicious food. Its highly praised in its taste.

Even though saugers and walleyes are similar, the dark blotches on the sauger will really separate the two.

Saugers have very light sensitive eyes. Because of this they prefer a deep and murky environment. They avoid shallow, clear water. The only exception to this is during low light periods.

The sauger has a tubular shaped body which enables them to stay and hold tight to the bottom in fast water as opposed to the walleye who has a pear shaped body. Sauger’s and walleyes are often found together but the sauger will usually be in deeper water in a swift current. Walleyes are in shallower water with breaks to it. In rivers, sometimes the opposite is true. The sauger may be found in shallower water than the walleye. Clearly some overlap occurs.

In river environments that are big, during the late fall and winter, large amounts of sauger can be found in the first few miles that are below big power dams. This provides anglers with a terrific open water place to fish for them. And this is where they tend to stay throughout the winter. In this location, the sauger will actually go to depths of 50 feet where there is a comfortable current for them.

Besides this spot in the river, lots of the fish go to shallower places that are downriver from the dam. In this place there are current breaks in the main channel. They usually go around objects in the water such as pilings, riprap shorelines or markers. And then they head down to deeper water.

The commonality seems to be that the sauger prefers fairly deep water that has some current, not a roaring current, but some current. They like to be on the bottom holding on.

sauger range

Additionally, if a sauger finds a hole such as in a channel they may remain there during spawning time rather than moving all the way upstream to the dam. They like to spawn near rocks, gravel and sand. If the water temperature rises up to close to 40 degrees F, the sauger will move from the holes up towards the edges of the holes, finding a gravel flat and then spawning once the water reaches around 50 degrees F. They spawn deeper than walleyes and also in a faster current.

Angler’s have a hard time catching the sauger because it likes to go so deep. The traditional shallow cast won’t catch one of these fish, particularly during daylight. The exception is the anglers that cast from the shore below big power dams. They tend to have good luck catching the saugers. This is particularly true if it is during low light conditions when the fish moves to shallower water. And when they move to shallower water its often towards shore.

It is believed that anglers would catch more saugers from a boat if they dangled a vertical bait or lure directly under the hull of the boat and all the way to the bottom. Sure they will lose a few lures but they will catch a lot more saugers too. One reason anglers prefer to fish from shore is this, they don’t want to lose a lot of lures coming of the ripraf, rocky bottom.

But for those that go out in a boat, bouncing a lure along the bottom while drifting in the current will surely bring about a sauger or two. Large lures are often used as saugers are not intimidated by them.

In discussing the difference between the sauger and the walleye, it must be mentioned that they also have a slight variation in their eyes. Saugers are even more light sensitive than walleyes. This is why saugers prefer deeper and murkier water than walleyes. Also saugers thrive in turbid environments.

For anglers to note, in lakes and reservoirs, sauger tend to bite much better than the walleye during the day. Because they prefer the deeper water, the best time to catch them is in the late morning or late afternoon because the light is how they like it to feed during those times. Twilight is not a good time to go sauger fishing.
The sauger is a beautiful fish to catch and a fun one to fish  for.  


Ontario Fishing Magazine