Sauger Fish 101: What is Sauger and How to Catch It

By Last Updated: October 13th, 2023Categories: Fishing

Sauger fish, a species of the perch family, is definitely a great fish to catch.

What do we love about it? Maybe it’s the marine-like juicy meat that conquers our appetite and it’s everywhere. When it’s largely spread in the US, we can fish for it in almost any river, large or small. We can fish for it and have a great feast by the day.

FYI: What Is Sauger

Sauger lives in fresh water and is part of the perciform family. It’s the relative of walleye, another popular and common perch. Interestingly, they will mate sometimes and give birth to this crossbred: saugeye.

Back to the sauger.

The sauger fish is a light-sensitive freshwater species that love to inhabit cloudy waters of mostly, rivers, then, lakes and tributaries. Compared to a still lake, they prefer fast-flowing rivers.

As bottom feeders, they remain in backwaters over sand, mud, bedrock, and vegetation to avoid light. Crayfish, minnows, wombs, and other small creatures are all on their food list.

What Is Sauger and How to Catch

Where to Fish for Saugers

Apart from the three most common perches, yellow, silver, and white perches, sauger is the one that we see in nearly half of the states.

Starting from the Great Lakes, saugers travel through the Mississippi River and reach:

  • as west as Wyoming and Oklahoma,
  • as east as New York,
  • and as south as Alabama.

Since saugers are mainly coldwater fish ( 68-82.4°F), some hot states like California, Nevada, Utah, and Florida are still penalty zone to this perch.

Description of Saugers

Compared to most perches, saugers are small. An adult can grow to lighter than 1 pound (normally, 12 to 14 ounces) and 12 inches, similar to a white or yellow perch. The biggest sauger ever caught and recorded was 8 lbs and the longest was 21 inches.

What Is Sauger and How to Catch

A sauger has the typical body shape of perch – long and deep with two dorsal fins. The first fin is spined with black spots and the second one is soft-rayed.

We can easily tell a sauger from its color:

  • It has very distinct dark blotches on its irregular bronze and olive body.
  • White spots are absent from its tail while a similar walleye has.

How to Catch A Sauger

As mentioned, saugers are afraid of the light.

So, either you choose to catch them in the evening or early morning. Also, some sauger catches have shared their experiences as well: a gloomy rainy day will make the extra effects.

Besides, spring – March to May (may vary due to the location and climate of their current habitat), is the season when saugers swim upstream to spawn.

What Is Sauger and How to Catch

Rigs for Sauger Fishing

To be honest, you don’t need any special or professional equipment to catch saugers. Leader, reel, hook, and weight can be fully flexible based on your preference.

As for the bait, you can use living prey like smaller fish, shrimp, worms, crayfish, etc. Artificial baits are useful, too. Lures are surely an option, too, just make sure it’s attractive – flashy and brightly colored.

Choose whatever you want based on your situation. Then, use a compatible hook and leader.

Skills of Sauger Fishing

Though sauger catching is available in most waters of the Missouri River, Mississippi River, and Great Lake areas, you may be unlucky in certain locations and months. To avoid that, here are some tips for you.

1. Choose the Right Waters

Check for muddy areas, vegetation, branches, and structures where saugers would mostly hide. They’re light-sensitive bottom feeders, remember?

So, some very clean waters are great spots for sightseeing and picnic but not for sauger catching.

2. Fly during Spawning Seasons

Flying fish can be pretty hard since saugers stay at the bottom of the waters most of the time. You may try it by the time they spawn. During the spawning season, the fish will move upstream and get into the shallows ( 2 to 8 feet).

3. Peak Starts in Mid-winter, Ends in early-spring

The best fishing time, according to some experienced fishermen, is the mid-winter to early spring.

  • This is the time when saugers need to get ready for spawning. They will start schooling up and then mate.
  • Also, to gather more energy, they will hunt for food in a more reckless way. In these months, you have a better chance to catch the fattest saugers.

The end of the spawning is actually not a friendly time for sauger catchers.

  • In May, most of them just finish depositing, the schooling is about to end. They disperse and start to head back to where they come from. Hence, the difficulty of catching one rise.
  • Also, during their migration, spawning, and return will burn most of their fat, making them less juicy and tasty.

One more thing, don’t forget to get a fishing license before you go catch any saugers.


Surely, sauger, as a member of the perch family, is a very good freshwater fish to eat.

First of all, they’re tasty. Their thick white fish is incredibly juicy and firm because of their aggressive nature – always moving and hunting.

Also, saugers are available all year round due to the high population and wide habitat. It can be served to the table of the areas of more than 20 states every month.

Sauger is one of the smallest perches in the family. The world record so far was kept by Mike Fischer, a great catcher in Noth Dakota, who captured the biggest sauger, 8 pounds and 12 ounces, in 1971.

Saugers are not a pike though in some states, they’re called the Canadian Pike. Saugers are a member of the perch family. We can easily tell from their body shape: slender with two dorsal fins. And most pikes have only one dorsal fin at the back of the body.

Meanwhile, saugers are small-sized fish with an average size of 10 to 15 inches and a weight of 1 pound. And pikes can be a lot larger than a sauger. Adult pikes can grow to at least 16 to 22 inches with a weight of 3 pounds.