The Rodney Dangerfield of the perch family, the sauger provides excellent angling opportunities during the early spring, despite the lack of respect shown its way.
Saugers are a close relative of the walleye, often inhabiting some of the same waterways. They are especially at home in major river systems, venues that provide some of the fastest early season action. Here are a few sauger-related items you should know:
- Appearance. Saugers are quite similar in appearance to walleyes. However, they have more mottling on their sides, markings that extend below the lateral line. The sauger lacks the walleye's trademark white tip on the tail, and doesn't have the black splotch at the rear base of the spiney dorsal fin.
- Growth. In many river systems the sauger grows fast, but does not live long. It's not uncommon for a sauger to reach 12 inches in length by the end of its second year. The price paid for this rapid growth is an equally fast physical breakdown, i.e., early death. Hence, saugers don't attain great size in many systems. This is particularly true on waters within the southern portion of the sauger's range. Saugers in northern waters like those in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas often enjoy greater longevity and size.
- Tactics. Many of the same tactics that take river walleyes also work on sauger. This includes the classic jig-n-minnow, jigging spoons and blade baits.
- Location. While saugers and walleyes use the same basic areas, saugers often show a preference for more turbid water. River portions that are consistently muddy often host higher populations of saugers than walleyes. Also, in clearer water saugers are often caught at greater depths, where the water is darker.
- Nature. Saugers can be delightfully aggressive. I've had early spring days where I've caught hundreds of fish during the course of the outing.
- Food. From a food standpoint, saugers equal walleyes as table fare. Since they tend be prolific in the waters that support them, saugers tend to be a sensible fish to harvest.