Sauger vs. Walleye: All You Need to Know
May 23, 2019 | 2 minute read
Reading Time: 2 minutes

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

A chart showing how to identify Sauger vs. Walleye. Illustrations of Sauger and Walleye are shown on the right, with text on the left explaining how they are different. The text reads "1. Body color: Dark blotches or solid gold. 2. Dorsal Fin: Black spots or dark read spines. 3. Tail: Patterned or white lower fin. 4. Size: Sauger are smaller than 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

A boy holding a Walleye on a fishing boat on Lake Erie.
Walleye usually prefer large, open waters, most famously Lake Erie.

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!

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