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Walleye Fishing FAQ's

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What is the difference between a sauger, a walleye, and a saugeye?What is the difference between a sauger, a walleye, and a saugeye?
Walleye (Sander vitreus) and sauger (Sander canadensis) or sand pike are two separate, distinct species of fish. A sauger is a hybridized version of the two species.

Saugeye can occur natually where the two species co-exist, but are also "engineered" and stocked in areas determined to be suitable by state fisheries agencies. They main purpose of stocking saugeyes is to provide an opportunity for anglers to catch larger fish in areas that tend to favor sauger (turbid water), since the saugeye will generally grow larger than a pure sauger.

The following desriptions are taken from the excellent Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commisions reference "Pennsylvania Fishes," written by Linda Steiner.

Walleyes have a long, roundish body, a forked tail and sharp canine teeth in their jaws. The large eye is glassy and reflects light at night. The dorsal fin is separated into two parts, the front portion with 12 to 16 spines, the rear portion with one or two short spines and the rest, soft rays. The anal fin has one or two spines.

Walleyes vary in color, ranging from a bluish gray to olive-brown to golden-yellow, with dark-on-light mottling. Side scales may be flecked with gold. Irregular spots on the sides can join to make a vague barred pattern. The belly is light-colored or white.

One way to distinguish a walleye from its cousin, the sauger, is to look for the walleye's dark spot at the rear edge of the front (spiny) section of its dorsal fin. Also, on the walleye, the lower portion of the tail fin is whitish, and so is the bottom margin of its anal fin.

Like the walleye, the sauger has a long, roundish body, a forked tail, canine teeth and large, glassy eyes. A light-reflective coating behind the retina gives the eye a milky glow. As in the walleye, this is an adaptation to feeding at night and in dim light. On its back and sides the sauger is olive-gray to brown or tan with a brassy tinge. Its back is crossed by three or four distinct, dark saddle markings, which extend down the sides. Its belly is white. It has two separate dorsal fins, the first with 12 or 13 spines, the second with two spines on its front end. The dorsal fins have small dark spots that form lengthwise rows. This characteristic is absent in walleyes. The sauger does not have a white tip on its lower tail, as does the walleye. There is no dark blotch at the back corner of the sauger's first dorsal fin, which the walleye has. The sauger does have a dark blotch at the base of its pectoral fin, which spills onto the fin itself. The sauger is generally a smaller fish than the walleye, reaching three to five pounds and 15 to 20 inches, but normally weighing only a pound or so. Female saugers of all ages are larger than the males.

Saugeyes have variable body markings and coloration, but generally look like the sauger, with saddles and blotches more subdued. In saugeyes, membranes of the spinous dorsal fin have distinct spots similar to those of a sauger. A black blotch is also usually present at the posterior base of the spinous dorsal fin, like the walleye. In saugeyes, a white spot is usually present at the tip of the lower caudal fin, also similar to walleyes

Kansas Wildlife and Parks publishes an excellent PDF document to aid in identification:

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