The sauger, sometimes called the "sand pike," is a relative of the walleye. It has a similar shape but is smaller than its more common cousin.
General description: Sauger are long and thin, with dark backs, brassy sides, dark spots, and a pale belly. They have a forked tail with a pale streak on the bottom edge. Some sauger have a black spot on their body near where pectoral fin attaches.
Size: Sauger are usually less than 3 pounds and 18 inches in length. The Minnesota record sauger, caught in the Mississippi near Winona, weighed 6 pounds, 3 ounces.
Color: Gray or brown on their backs, sauger have an orangy metallic sheen on their sides, light undersides, and black spots.
Sauger spawn in spring in water 2 to 8 feet deep. The female lays 15,000 to 40,000 eggs for each pound of her body weight. Young sauger hatch after 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the water temperature.
Young sauger eat zooplankton and insect larvae. Adults also eat fish, leeches, and crayfish.
People eat sauger, as do larger predatory fish such as muskies.
Habitat & Range
Sauger prefer cloudy, moving water. In Minnesota, they are found mainly in lakes along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border and in Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake and other large northern lakes. They also frequent the Minnesota, Rainy Mississippi, and St. Croix rivers.
This fish is often mistaken for a walleye. You can tell the difference by looking at the dorsal (top) fin. The sauger has spots in this fin and the walleye doesn't.