Sander canadensis


Image of a sauger fish
Joseph R. Tomelleri. Used with permission.

Percidae (perches) in the order Perciformes (perchlike fish)


A slender, spiny-rayed fish with 2 separate dorsal fins and a large mouth, the upper jaw extending about to the hind edge of the eye. The hind edge of the bone just ahead of the gill cover is strongly saw-toothed, and the tail fin is dintinctly forked.

Can be distinguished from the closely related walleye using these characteristics: Sauger has distinct dark blotches or “saddle marks” on sides; has dark spots on the first dorsal fin; first dorsal fin lacks dark blotch near the base of the last few dorsal spines; scales are present on cheek; any white blotch on the lower lobe of the tail fin is absent or reduced. Sauger are generally smaller than walleye.

Sauger occasionally interbreed with walleye where their ranges overlap to produce “saugeye.” The hybrid shares characteristics of both parents, making identification difficult.


Total length: 12-15 inches; weight commonly 2 1/2 pounds, with maximum to 4 pounds.

Habitat and conservation

Mostly in the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and suitable tributaries, as well as the Eleven Point River in southern Missouri. Found mainly in flowing water and often swift current. Most active during low light periods or during daylight in highly turbid water.
More tolerant of turbidity than walleye


A variety of fish, crustaceans and insects.

iamge of Sauger distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Occurs principally in large, free-flowing streams.


This game fish is more restricted in distribution than the walleye, though it is the most abundant of the two species in the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Elsewhere, the walleye generally predominates. In our state, it is exclusively a fish of flowing waters.

Life cycle

Walleye can live 7 to 10 years. Spawning occurs in early spring, often at night. In the Iowa portion of the Missouri River, the adhesive eggs were deposited over rubble shoals, especially where filamentous algae existed.