Sauger vs. Walleye

What's the Difference?

Sauger and Walleye are two closely related species of freshwater fish that are often confused with each other due to their similar appearance. Both species belong to the Percidae family and share many physical characteristics, such as their elongated bodies, sharp teeth, and distinct coloration. However, there are a few key differences that can help distinguish between the two. Sauger typically have darker markings on their bodies, with distinct vertical bars, while Walleye have a more mottled pattern with dark blotches. Additionally, Walleye tend to grow larger and have a more pronounced eye, which is their most distinctive feature. In terms of habitat, Sauger are more commonly found in rivers and streams, while Walleye are often found in lakes and reservoirs. Despite these differences, both Sauger and Walleye are highly sought after by anglers for their delicious taste and challenging fishing experience.


Scientific NameSander canadensisSander vitreus
SizeUp to 20 inchesUp to 30 inches
WeightUp to 4 poundsUp to 20 pounds
ColorationDark brown with mottled patternsLight olive to gold with dark blotches
HabitatRivers and lakes with fast currentsLakes and large rivers
DietSmall fish, insects, and crustaceansFish, insects, and small mammals
Popular SportfishYesYes

Further Detail


When it comes to freshwater fishing, two species that often get compared are the Sauger and the Walleye. Both fish belong to the Percidae family and share many similarities in appearance and behavior. However, there are also distinct differences between the two that make them unique. In this article, we will explore the attributes of Sauger and Walleye, highlighting their physical characteristics, habitat preferences, feeding habits, and popularity among anglers.

Physical Characteristics

Both Sauger and Walleye have elongated bodies with a similar shape, but there are noticeable differences in their physical features. Sauger typically have a darker coloration, ranging from olive-green to brown, with distinct dark spots on their sides and dorsal fins. They also have a more pronounced mottled pattern on their bodies. On the other hand, Walleye have a lighter coloration, ranging from olive to gold, with a yellowish hue on their sides and a white belly. Their bodies are marked by irregular dark blotches rather than distinct spots.

Another distinguishing feature is the eye placement. Sauger have their eyes positioned higher on their heads, while Walleye have their eyes located lower. This difference in eye placement is believed to be an adaptation to their respective habitats and feeding strategies.

Habitat Preferences

Both Sauger and Walleye are native to North America and can be found in various freshwater habitats, including lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. However, they have slightly different habitat preferences. Sauger are more commonly found in rivers with moderate to fast currents, as they are well-adapted to these environments. They tend to inhabit deeper waters, especially during the warmer months, and are often associated with rocky or gravelly bottoms.

On the other hand, Walleye are more versatile in their habitat selection. They can be found in both rivers and lakes, and are known to inhabit a wide range of depths. Walleye are often associated with structures such as submerged rocks, weed beds, and drop-offs. They are also known to prefer areas with sandy or muddy bottoms, where they can ambush their prey more effectively.

Feeding Habits

Both Sauger and Walleye are predatory fish and have similar feeding habits. They are primarily nocturnal feeders, relying on their excellent low-light vision to hunt for prey. Both species have sharp teeth and a large mouth, allowing them to capture and consume a variety of prey items.

Sauger and Walleye are opportunistic feeders, but their preferred prey species may differ slightly. Sauger tend to feed on smaller fish, such as minnows, shad, and darters. They are also known to consume insects and crustaceans. Walleye, on the other hand, have a more diverse diet and can feed on a wider range of prey, including fish, crayfish, insects, and even small mammals like mice or voles.

Popularity Among Anglers

Both Sauger and Walleye are highly sought after by anglers due to their sporting qualities and excellent table fare. However, Walleye is generally considered the more popular and prized species among the two. Walleye are known for their strong fighting ability, making them a favorite target for anglers seeking an exciting battle. They are also highly regarded for their delicate and flavorful meat, which is often compared to that of the revered European Pike-perch.

Sauger, although less popular than Walleye, still attracts a dedicated following of anglers. They are known for their aggressive strikes and can provide an enjoyable fishing experience. While Sauger may not have the same culinary reputation as Walleye, their meat is still considered tasty and can be prepared in various ways.


In conclusion, Sauger and Walleye are two closely related freshwater fish that share many similarities in appearance and behavior. However, they also have distinct differences in their physical characteristics, habitat preferences, feeding habits, and popularity among anglers. Understanding these attributes can help anglers better target and appreciate these fascinating species. Whether you prefer the darker and mottled Sauger or the lighter and blotched Walleye, both fish offer exciting fishing opportunities and a delicious meal for those lucky enough to catch them.

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