Walleye Vs Sauger: Complete Guide On The Differences & More

by Thavius | Last Updated:   April 11th, 2022
Walleye Vs Sauger: Complete Guide On The Differences & More


Amateurs anglers have to learn several things at the beginning of their fishing journey. One of the most interesting of these things is learning about the differences between a walleye and a sauger.

Several anglers can’t distinguish between these two species of fish due to their identical appearance. So, you might easily find yourself wondering if you’ve caught a walleye or a sauger the first time you catch one of them. As your favorite adventure guide, I’m here to prevent such a situation.

In this article, I will state the notable differences between a walleye and a sauger. I will also add some interesting facts about both fish and teach you how to catch them.

What Is a Walleye?

How To Ice Fish For Walleye

The walleye is a freshwater fish that is native to North America. It has opaque, silvery eyes that point forward like it’s staring at a wall. This makes it easy for the fish to spot prey that dwell at the bottom of the water. Since walleyes can see clearly in low light conditions, they tend to become more active at dawn, dusk, and generally, when there is little light penetration in the water.

During the colder months, walleyes are known to reside in the deeper parts of the water to avoid the cold. They then return to the shallower parts during spring and fall. Walleyes are hugely popular in Minnesota and the state regards itself as the Walleye Capital of the World. Other names that the fish is called include yellow pike and yellow pickerel.

Learn how to ice fish for walleye successfully as a beginner

What Is a Sauger?

walleye vs sauger

The sauger is a freshwater fish that is identical to a walleye and it has a pointed body that allows it to navigate through water swiftly. Depending on the size of the and the season, it can feed on a variety of prey from channel catfish to mayfly larvae. Saugers are mostly found in rivers, unlike their cousins, but they tend to migrate to lakes from time to time.

Additionally, saugers prefer pools that contain sand and silt substrates and areas that shelter them from the river current. Saugers stay away from runs and rifles. Though saugers mostly reside in pools that are up to 1.5m deep, you may also find smaller schools in shallower pools. Saugers don’t grow as large as walleyes, but they are just as exciting and tasty. They are a huge favorite of anglers in the Great Lakes region.

What Are the Differences Between a Walleye and a Sauger?

As you already know, walleyes and saugers have similar features. It’s time to learn the differences between the types of fish.

Body Color

Depending on their habitat, both walleye and saugers are known to have varying colors. The popular golden walleyes are found in the Northern part of Manitoba. Walleyes in the North usually have a yellowish gold or dark olive green color. You will find a solid or uniform pattern that features a brassy yellow flex in the scales of these fishes.

However, walleyes in the prairie lakes of Southern Manitoba come in lighter colors compared to their northern counterparts. They are known as Prairie Gold Walleye. The greenback walleyes are another popular variation of the Manitoba walleye. They live in the famous Lake Winnipeg and feature an emerald green shimmer. They also appear much whiter than the golden-colored walleyes found in the north.

Saugers in Northern Manitoba are also known to have a darker, gold-like appearance. Their features are also easily distinguishable. On the other hand, saugers in the south have a lighter appearance and it’s harder to distinguish between them.

Dorsal Fin

The easiest way to check if you are holding a walleye or a sauger is to look at the dorsal fins. Both walleyes and saugers have two dorsal fins that are located on their backs. The difference between both sets of dorsal fins is that the fins on saugers feature small dark spots. You won’t have any problem identifying this as walleyes have no black spot at all.

Tail Fin

Another feature that can help you distinguish between the two fish is the markings on their tail fins. When you look at the lower tail fin of a walleye, you will see a white patch on it. This patch may cover the lower half of the tail or it may just be a small dot. Regardless of the dot’s size, it is always a great identifier since it can only be seen on a walleye. You won’t find it on sauger tails.

Size

Another effective way to distinguish between sauger vs walleye is to understand their size difference. The length and weight of your catch can tell you what fish it is as walleyes are known to grow much larger. A small walleye can be the same size as a grown sauger. On average, a walleye can be between 10 to 20 inches in length but a full-grown walleye can be up to 34 inches long.

Meanwhile, saugers are not usually regarded as big fish as they have an average length of between 8 to 12 inches. Fully saugers can reach up a maximum length of 26 inches.

As expected, saugers are not as heavy as walleyes. On average, saugers only weigh around 1 lb and full-grown adults can have a maximum weight of 8 lbs. On the other hand, walleyes have an average weight of between 2 to 4 lbs but can reach a maximum weight of about 20 lbs.

Watch this video to learn how to properly weigh your catch:

Taste

The only thing most anglers love better than reeling in a big catch is having a tasty fish on a plate. That said, walleye and sauger have similar tastes as both fish have a deliciously flaky texture. Their tastes are also similar to that of the majority of mild white meat freshwater fish. However, you can give them a bolder taste by adding salt and lemon pepper as seasoning.

I feel sauger tastes a little sweeter than walleye but don’t let me decide for you. Try to taste them one after the other when you can. What I can guarantee is that walleye is softer than sauger. Is that a good thing? It depends on your taste.

Furthermore, both fish never disappoint as table fare. You can fry, grill, bake, or smoke them depending on your preference. However, ensure that you check out the laws guiding fishing in your state to ascertain the right season and size. This is vital for proper fisheries management.

Check out this recipe for delicious pan-fried walleye. To avoid any unwanted smells, be sure you know how to get rid of fish smell.

How To Catch A Walleye Or Sauger

Walleyes and saugers are found in the same waters and you can easily catch one when trying to catch the other. Since they also hunt in a similar pattern and have an identical fighting spirit, the same fishing method can work for both species.

Whether you are an ice angler or a regular angler, you can hunt both species with lures and little live baits. Here are the best lures that you can use:

  • Jigs
  • Softbaits
  • Crankbaits
  • Spinnerbaits

As for live baits, here are the best choices:

  • Crayfish
  • Leeches
  • Little baitfish
  • Nightcrawlers
  • Waxworms

Do Walleye And Sauger Crossbreed?

Walleyes and saugers are from the Percidae family and they carry identical genetic codes. As a result, they do crossbreed when they are in the same waters.

Research carried out on two large reservoirs in Saskatchewan, Canada showed that the two species of fish crossbreed a lot. Hence, these waters now contain generations of hybrids known as saugeyes.

Do Walleyes Eat Saugers?

A walleye is a much larger fish than a sauger and as a result, saugers are one of the fishes on its menu. The sauger just has to be large enough to fit into the walleye’s mouth.

Discover the best tips for catching yellow perch all year

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are walleyes called gravel lizards?

Walleyes are called gravel lizards because they love living in waters with lots of gravel and small rocks at their bottom.

How can you tell a walleye from a sauger?

Though walleyes and saugers have a similar appearance, certain features can help you distinguish between the two fish. Start from where you made your catch. Walleyes are usually found in lakes while saugers reside in rivers. Also, walleyes always have a white patch on the lower section of their tails while saugers are known to have black spots on their dorsal fins.

Is sauger as good as walleye?

Saugers and walleyes are both excellent gamefish. Both fish have a great fighting spirit, so you will find them fun to catch. There will also be no disappointment when you get either fish on a plate as walleye and sauger taste delicious.

What is the world record for walleye?

Though the walleye isn’t the biggest predatory fish in North America, the biggest walleye ever caught is a real monster. The fish was caught by Mabry Harper in Tennesse over 60 years ago and it weighed an astonishing 25 lbs. However, the 41-inch catch has been surrounded by several controversies that almost cost it its world record status.

What is the world record for sauger?

The world record sauger was caught in North Dakota in 1971 by Mike Fischer. It weighed 8 lbs 12.

I've been a fisherman for over 35 years. From catching small bullheads with my grandfather at his pond to catching strippers on the backwaters of the Chattahoochee, I love to get out in the wild and have a marvelous day on the water.