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What is a Sauger?

By J. Leach
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The sauger, or Sander canadensis, is a perciform freshwater fish that is a type of pike perch, and is found in North America. Perciformes, a term that means perch-like, make up the largest groups of vertebrates. Pike perches are from the Percidae family, and have elongated bodies with two dorsal fins. The walleye and sauger are the two types of pike perches found in North America.

The body of the sauger is cylindrical. Its coloration ranges from brown to golden olive tones, and is marked by spots and speckles. Its underside is usually a whitish-cream color. It can range between 10 in (about 25.4 cm) to 18 in (about 45.72 cm) long. The fish can weigh up to five lbs (about 2.27 kg), but most of the fish caught by anglers tend to be less than two lbs (about .91 kg).

The walleye is quite a bit larger than the sauger, and it prefers calmer waters, like lakes. Saugers, on the other hand, usually live in rivers that are silty, sandy, or contain gravel. Besides size and water preferences, the sauger can also be differentiated from the walleye because it has spots on its fins.

Saugers are carnivorous fish. They will prey upon smaller fish in rivers. They will also eat insects that get too close to the water’s surface.

The fish reach sexual maturity by the time they are two to five years old, and usually spawn in April or May. Their mating instinct is triggered by a rise in water temperature and, because of this, they have been known to spawn as early as February in some areas. Saugers tend to prefer large tributaries for spawning and will travel long distances to reach a preferred area.

When it is time, the female lays her eggs on the bottom of the river. The male then fertilizes them. After about 10 to 12 days, the eggs hatch and the fish, in their larval stage, will drift down the river. During the larval and juvenile stages of life, they tend to eat zooplankton and small invertebrates. By the fall, they are usually large enough to eat other fish.

It is possible to mate a walleye with a sauger, and hybrids have been known to occur. These tend to carry features of both fish, but generally have the spots that are characteristic of the sauger. This can further complicate identifying what type of fish an angler has caught.

The population of this fish has been on a steady decline. This may be caused by a combination of over-fishing as well as a loss of habitat. It should be noted that the migratory nature of the fish also makes it difficult to calculate the exact population.

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