Walleye and Sauger are two of the tastiest freshwater fish out there. Anglers around the Great Lakes and beyond love these guys for their fighting spirit and delicious, flaky meat. But how do you identify Sauger vs. Walleye? Where do they live, and what’s the difference between them? We cover all these questions and more in this short, jargon-free guide.
Difference Between Sauger and Walleye
At first glance, both these fish look pretty similar. They’re closely related, and have the same basic body shape. However, there are a few telltale signs to look out for:
- Body Color: Sauger are a brassy color with large dark blotches. Walleye are a solid golden color all across their upper body.
- Dorsal fin: Sauger have dark spots on their top (dorsal) fin. Walleye don’t have spots, but their last two spines are solid black.
- Tail: Walleye have a white patch on the lower fin of their tail. Sauger tails are the same pattern all over.
- Size: Walleye are larger than Sauger. Most Sauger max out at around 15 inches. Walleye often hit double that.
Bonus Round: Saugeye
When Sauger and Walleye inhabit the same waters, they sometimes cross breed. This produces hybrid “Saugeye” which look a little like both their parents.
They have dark blotches, like Sauger. They also have a white lower tail, similar to Walleye. In short, if your fish looks like a mixture of the two species, it probably is.
Sauger vs. Walleye Habitat
You don’t normally have to worry about Saugeye throwing a wrench into the works. The reason for that is simple: Walleye and Sauger tend to hang out in quite different waters.
Walleye usually live in large, deep, cool lakes or reservoirs. They like clear water and rocky or gravel bottoms. This is how they earned their nickname “Gravel Lizards.”
Sauger are mostly found in rivers and streams, although they do also live in lakes. They like fast currents, but they prefer to stay out of them most of the time. Sauger usually hide in deep, murky pools with sandy or muddy bottoms.
Sauger and Walleye are both great fish to catch. On top of that, they both taste delicious. Hopefully, you now have a better idea of where both species live. More importantly, you’ll be able to tell them apart next time you catch one.
Which one do you prefer to catch, Sauger, Walleye, or Saugeye? Which one do you think tastes best? Do you have any other way of telling them apart? Let us know in the comments below!
March 11, 2023 Mar 11, 2023
It would be nice if you had an actual picture of both fish side by side so people could actually see the difference.
Replied on March 13, 2023 Mar 13, 2023
The easiest way to tell Walleye apart from Sauger is to look at their coloring. Both Walleye and Sauger share the greenish-bronze hues, but Sauger has dark blotches along its whole body and spots on its dorsal fin. If you find these distinctions, you’ve got a Sauger on your hand.
I hope this helps, Skeddy.
All the best!
December 13, 2021 Dec 13, 2021
Sauger and saugeye both fight hard like a channel cat. The walleye fights like a white crappie. When caught with heavy striper tackle , they feel like a rag on the line. All are great table fare.
Replied on December 13, 2021 Dec 13, 2021
Thanks for your insight, first-hand experience and advice are always welcome.