Walleye and sauger have many similarities. For this reason many people ask about their differences. Let’s answer, what’s the difference between a walleye and a sauger?
Walleye and sauger are different species although from the same family and genus. Walleye is the S. vitreus species and sauger is the S. canadensis species. Adult walleye grow almost twice and long and weigh ten times more than sauger. Sauger can be found in cooler, deeper waters than walleye.
This article will compare their tastes, textures, cooking methods, costs, mercury levels and whether one can substitute for the other in recipes. In addition, I’ll do a side-by-side comparison of their habitats, appearance and compare their nutritional value.
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Walleye vs Sauger: Habitats, Size, Weight and Appearance
How can you tell a walleye from a sauger?
To tell the difference between a walleye and sauger is to check their body, dorsal and tail fin markings. Sauger has dark patches on their sides. Walleye have dark saddles on their upper backs. Walleye have a white spot on their lower tail fin which sauger doesn’t have. Sauger has dark spots on their dorsal and tail fins walleye doesn’t have.
Other ways to tell the difference between a walleye and a sauger:
- Sauger are more brassy looking on their sides due to the dark blotches mixed between the golden colors.
- Adult walleye weigh up to 20 pounds. Adult sauger weighs about 2.5 pounds.
- Adult walleye average 22 inches long. Adult sauger average 12 to 13 inches long.
- The scales on the sauger gill flaps are rougher than the scales on the walleye’s gill flaps.
Walleye and Sauger Scientific Classifications, Families, Species
Walleye are from:
- Family: Percidae
- Genus: Sander
- Species: S. vitreus
- Common nicknames: Yellow pike, yellow pickerel.
Sauger are from:
- Family: Percidae
- Genus: Sander
- Species: S. canadensis
- Common nicknames: Sand pike, river pike, spot fin pike, sand pickerel.
Walleye and Sauger Habitats
- Walleye are native to Canada and North America. They can be found in Canada, the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, the Mississippi River basins from Canada, New York down south to Alabama and Arkansas.
- They can be found in lakes, reservoirs and rivers.
- Walleye prefer large, shallow lakes and are rarely found in brackish waters.
- Sauger are native to Canada and the United States. They can be found from Quebec and Alberta in Canada down south to northern Alabama and Louisiana in the United States. West over to Wyoming and Oklahoma.
- They can be found in rivers and large lakes with deeper water.
- Sauger prefer cooler, deeper waters and natural rivers with deep, moderate currents.
Sauger can be found in water 10 to 115 feet deep while walleye are rarely found deeper than 40 feet.
Walleye and Sauger Appearance
Walleye and Sauger Colors
- Sauger have a dark upper back and dark patches on their sides with golden color. Sauger can look less brassy depending on their home. The under belly is whitish.
- Walleye have a dark, olive green back with olive green to golden sides. The coloring on the sides fades towards the white belly. There are five dark bands crossing over the back and upper sides.
Sauger have dark blotches on their sides. Walleye have dark bands on the upper sides and back but not on their sides. Sauger have dark splotches on their tail and dorsal fins. Walleye doesn’t have dark spots throughout their dorsal or tail fins.
- Sauger has two dorsal fins. The front dorsal has about 12 spines and the second dorsal has 10-13 soft rays.
- Walleye has two dorsal fins. The front dorsal has about 12 spines and the second dorsal has 10-13 soft rays.
Sauger and walleye have two dorsal fins, the first with spines and the second with soft rays. The sauger dorsals have dark splotches while walleye doesn’t.
- The sauger anal fin has soft rays with no spines.
- The walleye anal fin has soft rays with no spines.
Sauger and walleye only have soft rays on their anal fins.
- The sauger tail fin is slightly forked.
- The walleye tail fin is slightly forked.
The lower rear tip of the walleye tail fin is white. The sauger’s tail fin has dark splotches throughout without a white tip.
- The sauger mouth is large but doesn’t extend past the eye line. The sauger lower jaw protrudes less than a walleye.
- The walleye mouth is large but doesn’t extend past the eye line. The walleye lower jaw protrudes.
Walleye and sauger have sharp teeth inside their mouth.
- Sauger have dark splotches throughout their sides, dorsal and tail fins.
- Walleye has dark bars or saddles running from the upper sides over the back. Walleye’s eyes are large, pearlescent and opaque. Their caudal and anal fins have white colored tips.
- The sauger body is long, thin and round.
- The walleye body is long, thin and round.
The walleye and sauger have a fusiform shape body which helps them swim through the water quicker and through fast currents.
- The scales on the sauger cheeks are rough.
- The scales on the walleye cheeks are smooth.
The scales on the sauger gill flaps are rougher than the scales on the walleye’s gill flaps.
Walleye and Sauger Size and Weight
- Sauger averages 12-13 inches long and weighs 2 1/2 pounds.
- Walleye average 22 inches long and weigh up to 20 pounds.
Walleye weigh much more than sauger and are about 10 inches longer as full adults.
Walleye and Sauger Lifespan
- Sauger lives up to 13 years.
- Walleye lives up to 10 years.
Sauger consumes the following:
- Small fish
- Fish eggs
- Small minnows
Walleye consume the following:
- Small fish
- Yellow perch
- Large invertebrates
Walleye, sauger and other fish are known for being a part of many diets like keto or heart healthy.
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Walleye and Sauger: Tastes and Textures
One of the main reasons people chooses a particular fish to eat is its taste. When comparing the two fish, does sauger tastes like walleye?
Walleye and sauger have a similar mild to sweet taste. At times both fish may have a slight fishy flavor depending where the fish was caught. Sauger and walleye have a firm texture which is smooth and flakey.
What does walleye taste like? Walleye have a mild to sweet taste. For some people walleye may have a slightly fishy flavor but it’s not overpowering. The texture is firm but delicate and flakey.
What does sauger taste like? Sauger has a mild to sweet taste. The texture is firm and flaky. Sauger can taste somewhat fishy depending which waters they were caught.
Check out the differences between a walleye and white perch in my recent article, Walleye vs White Perch: What’s The Difference? We Compare.
Sauger and Walleye Substitutions
When preparing recipes for dinner you may have one fish already in the refrigerator ready to be used. In addition, it’s not always possible to locate the type of fish called for in the recipe. If you have some walleye, you may ask, can I substitute walleye for sauger?
Sauger and walleye can substitute for each other due to their similar mild to sweet tastes and firm textures. Due to saugers smaller size, their fillets will be smaller than walleye fillets. Therefore, more sauger fillets will be required to equal the weight called for in the recipe.
Other walleye substitutes include the following:
- Yellow perch
The best sauger substitutes are:
- White perch
- Sole fillets
- Lake trout
When substituting sauger or walleye always stick to the following:
- Same size and weight.
- Stick with similar fillets, whole fillet or cross section.
- Stick with skinless or skin when the recipe calls for one.
- Texture is more important for certain cooking methods. Like using a firmer texture when grilling 10.
How To Cook Sauger
Popular ways to cook sauger:
- Deep frying
- Pan frying/Stir fry
Sauger flavor pairings:
- Honey mustard
- Potato flakes
- Bread crumbs
- Black pepper
- Fresh dill
- Olive oil
How To Cook Walleye
The most popular cooking methods for walleye are:
- Pan frying
Walleye flavor pairings:
- Olive oil
- Fish dill
- Pickle juice
- Black pepper
How Much Sauger and Walleye Cost
The costs for fresh fish will vary depending on how the fish are caught and where they are sold. When purchasing any fish, be sure to check the label to see if it is wild-caught or farm raised. Therefore, which fish costs more, walleye or sauger?
Walleye cost more per pound than sauger. The average cost for fresh walleye fillets is $20.42 per pound. The average costs for fresh sauger fillets are $15.36 per pound.
I checked online at Walleye Direct and found the following prices:
- Wild, walleye fillets
- $19.80 per pound
- Wild, sauger fillets
- $15.36 per pound
I checked Whyte’s Fishery online and found the following prices for white perch and walleye:
- fresh walleye fillets
- $17.50 per pound
I checked Doorganics online and found the following white perch and walleye costs:
- Wild walleye fillets
- $23.98 per pound
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Sauger and Walleye Mercury Levels
The EPA and The Food and Drug Administration have issued warnings and suggestions regarding mercury levels in fish and how often they should be consumed 11. This is especially important for the following:
- Pregnant women
- Developing children
- Young infants
They established a list of the following:
- Best fish
- Good choices
- Fish to avoid
Therefore, does sauger or walleye have more mercury?
Sauger and walleye have similar levels of mercury. Sauger and walleye are listed on the FDA’s best choice of fish regarding mercury levels.
If you’re pregnant, breast feeding or has a young child, Always check with a physician prior to eating new foods or changing your dietary habits.
If you’re consuming fish from the best list, The FDA recommends eating two to three servings per week total for adults.
Mercury warnings can change over time or affect only a particular area or state. Please check with your local EPA and FDA for the current recommendations 12.
If you’re interested in the differences between a king mackerel and an Atlantic mackerel, check out my article, King Mackerel vs Mackerel: What’s The Difference? We Compare.
Walleye and Sauger Nutrients
Sauger and walleye are excellent sources of healthy fats, protein, B vitamins and minerals. Both fish contain the following nutrients:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Walleye provides the following nutrients per four raw ounces:
(4 ounces, raw)
|Saturated fat||0.3 g|
Both fish contain a good number of vitamins and minerals. Keep reading below to find out how the nutrients provided benefit health.
Walleye and Sauger Health Benefits
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
The omega-3 fatty acids provided by sauger and walleye help keep arteries healthy and are considered heart healthy. The omega-3s may help with the following:
- Lowering triglycerides.
- Reduce inflammation.
- Reduce plaque buildup.
- Keeping bad cholesterol low.
- Keeping good cholesterol high.
- Help keep the heart rhythms more normal.
DHA and EPA, two of the fatty acids, are associated with lowering blood pressure and improving the health of blood vessels 15.
Studies suggest omega-3s boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs. In addition, they’ve been shown to help reduce joint pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Walleye provides 441 mg per four ounces. Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium which helps reduce fluid build-up. The result keeps systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 16.
The more potassium you consume, the more sodium your body will lose. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 17.
According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure 18.
The B vitamins provided by sauger and walleye include the following:
- B1 (thiamin)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B9 (folate)
B vitamins help support the following:
- Brain function.
- Energy levels.
- Red blood cells.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Nerve function.
Walleye provides 238 mg of phosphorus. It has been shown in scientific research to help with the following:
- Promote teeth and bone strength.
- Muscle recovery after exercise.
- Muscle contraction.
- Help the body store and manage energy.
- Help the kidneys remove waste.
- Promote healthy nerve conduction.
Calcium which both fish provides is important for blood pressure and the heart.
Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure because it helps to control the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 19.
Calcium also helps the following:
- Build and maintain strong bones.
- Muscles need calcium to function properly.
- Improve nerve function.
Walleye and sauger provide approximately 34 mg of magnesium. It helps to calm and relax the whole body including blood vessels. It has been shown to help improve sleep related problems like insomnia 20.
Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels balanced and stable. A recent study researched 22 studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased diastolic and systolic blood pressure 21.
Magnesium helps control muscle and nerve function, blood sugar and blood pressure.
In the muscles and heart, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting. When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat.
Selenium is a nutrient which doesn’t receive much press. I’m unsure why many people don’t write about it more. Many studies 22 show selenium may help to protect the following:
- Cognitive issues
- Heart disease
- The immune system
What is the difference between a walleye, sauger and a saugeye?
A saugeye is a hybrid result of breeding between a walleye and a sauger. A saugeye takes on a mixture of characteristics and body markings from the sauger and walleye. A saugeye is typically larger than a sauger and smaller than a walleye.
Read Next – More Fish vs Fish Articles!
- Wikipedia: Walleye
- Chesapeake Bay Program: Walleye Sander Vitreus
- The National Wildlife Federation: Walleye
- Wikipedia: Sauger
- National Park Service: Sauger (Sander canadensis)
- Missouri Department of Conservation: Sauger
- USGS: Sander canadensis
- USDA: Sauger
- Animal Diversity Web: Sander canadensis
- Sea Grant North Carolina: Fish Flavors and Substitutions
- FDA: Advice about Eating Fish
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake
- Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, walleye, pike
- USDA: Fish
- National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease
- American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach
- Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure
- Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure
- National Institutes of Health: Magnesium
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis
- National Institutes of Health: Selenium