Sauger can be distinguished from the very closely related Walleye by the dark round spots in lines between the rays of the spiny, front dorsal fin, and the absence of a white spot on the bottom lobe of the caudal (tail) fin which Walleye possess. Sauger are typically one to three pounds, but the record is 17 pounds. While they are usually smaller than Walleye, size is not a valid way to tell them apart.
After emergence in 12 to 18 days, the larval sauger will drift down stream before they gain the ability to swim horizontally and start feeding. Then they tend to stay in side channels feeding on zooplankton, invertebrates and insects. As they grow, smaller prey fish become the larger portion of their diet. They become sexually mature between two and five years, and live up to eight years.
Decline of Sauger Populations
For years Montana planted about 4 million walleye fry and 200,000 fingerlings. The walleye are popular for fishing but not great at natural reproduction in this area which is outside their native range. The drought five to ten years ago had a major impact on the fishery.
Testing shows the Sauger to be 100% pure. Sauger eggs that Wyoming collects can be raised in warm water hatcheries in Montana before being returned to the Bighorn Lake. The gill netting surveys indicate good fishing ahead.
Did You Know?
Long before the Bighorn River was tamed by the Yellowtail Dam, the roiling waters through the canyon were feared. During spring snowmelt, the water turned into a raging torrent, a combination of whirlpools, rapids, and eddies. Conversely, the river through the canyon had a reputation for being placid by late summer, when dry heat and lack of rainfall turned it into a sedate stream. More...