Walleye Vs. Sauger

Walleye Vs. Sauger

Walleye Vs. Sauger

How can you tell the difference between these two fish? At first glance they look so similar especially to the untrained eye. In this article I am going to explain to you their differences and hopefully give you a better understanding of these two popular predatory fish.

What Is A Walleye?

A Walleye is Freshwater Perciform fish which is native to most of Canada and the Northern United States. The name “Walleye” comes from its pearlescent eyes caused by the reflective tapetum lucidum (a layer of tissue) which allows the fish to see well in low light conditions. This also gives their eyes an opaque appearance almost like they are blind.

What Is A Sauger?

A Sauger is a Freshwater Perciform fish that resembles its close relative the Walleye. Saugers can be found throughout Canada and the United States. Saugers are known for their fighting spirit and are incredible at swimming through a current and navigating rough waters.

What Are The Differences?

Now that you know what the two fish are I am going to explain to you some of the differences and how to tell them apart a bit easier:

Tail Fin

A Sauger’s tail fin will have the same pattern all over it, where as Walleyes have a white patch on the lower portion of the bottom tail fin. This is an easy spot to look for and a great way to tell the two of them apart!

See the white patch on the Walleyes tail


Saugers have more of a brassier colour with large dark splotches where Walleye are a solid golden colour all across their upper body. Walleye can however change drastically in colour depending on the water body they are in. The clearer and shallower the water is the lighter in colour the Walleye gets. The deeper and darker the water is the darker the Walleye gets. Their diet can also play a factor in their colour change as well. You can also check the cheek scales, on a Sauger they will be rough compared to that of a Walleye that will be smooth.


Saugers are consistently smaller than Walleye with Walleye being double the size of Saugers who typically stop growing after about 15 inches. Walleye will often hit twice this size.

Dorsal Fin

Both Sauger and Walleye have translucent dorsal fins but can usually be distinguished apart. Saugers will have dark splotches on their dorsal fin where as Walleye don’t have the splotches but their last two spines are solid black.

See how the last 2 spines are solid black


Saugers are found in large rivers with deep pools as well as larger lakes. They prefer high turbidity, low channel slopes and low stream velocity waters that tend to have silt or sand at the bottom of them. Due to their migratory tendency they will encounter various types of habitats. Quiet back waters over sand, mud and silt that are at  the mouth of a tributary is also a favourite with Saugers. These guys also prefer deeper water than their relative the Walleye.

Walleye prefer large shallow lakes, rivers and reservoirs and typically avoiding waters with strong currents. No matter their location Walleye prefer packed sand, rocky bottoms or gravel. This is how they earned their nickname the “Gravel Lizard.”

What Do They Eat?

Walleye are predatory game fish that will eat other fish such as Yellow Perch and minnows, insects, leeches, snails, cray fish and salamanders. Young fry consume plankton and other microorganisms. When food is scarce they will eat anything they can catch which sometimes includes small mammals entering the water.

Saugers will feed on a variety of invertebrates and small fish depending on the time of the year and size of the Sauger. Baby Channel Catfish and Freshwater Drum are a Saugers main food source during the spring time. During the summer months they generally feed on Mayfly larvae and then Freshwater Drum and Gizzard Shad during the fall.


What happens when a female Walleye breeds with a male Sauger? That’s right you get a Saugeye! These hybrids share the qualities of both the Sauger and the Walleye and tend to be larger and faster than their parent species. You might be thinking that this complicates things even more but they are actually quite easy to identify and tell apart by their two very distinct features:

1. They will often have dark splotches/ patches on their body and dorsal fin just like that of a sauger.

2. They will have white on the lower tail fin just like that of a Walleye.


                             Average Weight                 Average Length                 World Record

Walleye              1-3 pounds                           12-20 inches                        25 pounds Old Hickory Lake, Tennessee, August 2nd. 1960

Sauger               0.5 -1 pound                         11-13 inches                        8 pounds 12oz Lake Sakakewea, North Dakota, October 6th. 1971

Saugeye            1-2 pounds                            12-18 inches                       12 pounds 13oz Clendening Reservoir, Ohio, November 19th. 2001



In conclusion I hope this gives you a better understanding of these amazing fish and hopefully this article will help you tell them apart the next time you catch one of them. Even if you can’t tell them apart and are still not sure, at least you caught a fish, so I would say that is still a win in my books!





Walleye Versus Sauger, What Is the difference?

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