Walleye vs Sauger

Just recently I moved out to Missouri for a new job, and I haven’t done much fishing since early September. I haven’t done any posts for quite a while because of all the work involved with relocating. So it was very nice to get back to fishing again, and after I had settled into my new place in KC, I decided to pull the trigger and buy a fishing license and head out.

One of the biggest differences for myself is the presence of giant catfish within driving distance in Missouri. In upstate New York, one can maybe hook onto a channel catfish approaching 40lbs, but you’d be hard pressed to land anything that would offer a fight that would really test your physical strength (as opposed to your equipment strength).

After doing my research, I went to the Missouri River the other day, home to giant Blue Catfish. While I didn’t hook any or even get a nibble, I did manage to catch a fish I’d normally throw back without a second glance. Being in a completely new state made me take a longer look at what I caught on a nightcrawler less than 3 feet from the shore.

This fish is a sauger. It’s a close relative to a walleye. So close that the two species can interbreed and create Saugeye, a sterile hybrid. Thus the difference between the two species is very subtle. Plenty of anglers will go by coloration in determining the species. The general consensus is walleye are golden colored while sauger are more blueish with blotches, but it’s not a guaranteed method of distinction. The truth to the matter is walleye can have the same blueish/gray color and sauger can have faint blotches like this one I caught. The more appropriate way to identify the two is by checking the dorsal fins. The sauger(and saugeye) will always have a mottled pattern of spots on the dorsal fins. The walleye will not.

I’ve caught dozens of walleye in the mohawk river before. Most of them I’ve thrown away without checking. Perhaps a couple were sauger? Who knows. So next time you catch a walleye, look at it’s dorsal fins. Because you never know…you might have caught a sauger instead.


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