SCIENTIFIC NAME: Stizostedion canadense
CHARACTERISTICS: The sauger is a large species of the family Percidae prized for its sport fishing character and its flavor. Cylindirical in body form, the sauger has a large horizontal mouth and well-developed pointed teeth. The back and top of the head are mottled brown to golden olive, the lips are less mottled and appear distinctly speckled, and the lower sides and venter are white or light cream. Four dark saddles traverse the back and may be expanded along the sides to produce large lateral blotches, while the back and sides are variously speckled with pigment. The lining in the eye behind the retina appears silver, a trait characteristic of the genus and presumably an adaptation for night feeding. Membranes of the spiny dorsal fin have distinct spots that sometimes appear to be banding, while the soft dorsal fin and caudal fin rays are definitely pigmented, producing delicate banding. The sauger can be distinguished from the walleye, Stizostedion vitreum, by its fewer (17 to 20) soft dorsal rays (19 to 22 for the walleye), by lacking a pigment concentration at the spiny dorsal fin base, and by having the lower lobe of the caudal fin mottled, compared to a white tip for the walleye.
ADULT SIZE: 10 to 18 in (254 to 460 mm). The state angling record (5 lb, 2 oz) was caught in the tailwaters of Wilson Dam on the Tennessee River in 1972.
DISTRIBUTION: The sauger is widely distributed throughout Canada and the Mississippi River basin and introduced in Atlantic slope tributaries. In Alabama it is known only from the Tennessee River drainage.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Life history information is summarized from Becker (1983). The sauger is found in quiet backwaters over sand, mud, or bedrock substrates, usually at tributary mouths and in deeper tailwaters over rock and rubble substrate downstream of dams. Spawning occurs from April through May in a variety of places with the tailwater areas providing good spawning habitat, as observed in the sport catch during this time of the year. Individuals taken on hook and line are generally 2 pounds or less, but may reach 5 pounds. Small sauger feed on microcrustaceans and aquatic insect larvae, while large adults feed almost exclusively on fish, including young walleye and saugers, white bass, crappies, yellow perch, and, in northern states, trout-perch and burbots.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Smith described the sauger in 1834.
Stizostedion means interpreted by Rafinesque (1820) as Greek for pungent throat, referring to the large canine teeth lining the jaws and roof of the mouth.
Canadense means Canadian.
The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.
ADDITIONAL COMMON NAMES: In the southeast, anglers also call sauger: sand pike, jack salmon, and spotted trout, according to Cloutman and Olmstead in Fisheries (Vol. 8, No. 2).
Read the Hooking Mortality Report from Tennessee Tech University.
Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move a sauger or any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.