Walleye vs Sauger – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare

Walleye and sauger have many similarities. For this reason many people during my Health Coaching sessions ask about their differences. Let’s answer, walleye vs sauger, what’s the difference?

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. Sauger can be found in cooler, deeper waters.

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.

Walleye vs Sauger: Habitats, Size, Weight and Appearance

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 differences: Walleye compared to 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.

Habitats and Saugeye and Walleye Fishing

Fishing Tips

  • 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.
  • They prefer large, shallow lakes and are rarely found in brackish waters.

Sauger Habitats

  • 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.
  • To catch shuteye, they can be found in rivers and large lakes with deeper water.
  • They 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. All this information may help some with some fishing tips to help catch saugeye, sauger and walleye.

sauger and walleye photo comparison
top Walleye<br>bottom 2 Saugers


Walleye and Sauger Colors

  • Sauger and saugeye have distinct dark blotches on their flanks with golden color. They 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.

Dorsal Fin

  • Sauger walleye have two dorsal fins. Their front dorsal fin has about 12 spines and the second dorsal fin has 10-13 soft rays.

Walleye sauger dorsal fin: The sauger dorsal fin has dark splotches while walleye doesn’t.

Anal Fins

  • Walleyes and saugers anal fins have soft rays with no spines.

Tail Fins

  • Walleyes and saugers tail fins are slightly forked.

Walleye will have a white-tipped tail. The sauger’s tail fin has dark splotches throughout without a white tip.


  • Walleyes and saugers mouths are large but doesn’t extend past the eye line. The sauger lower jaw protrudes less than a walleye.

Both fish have sharp teeth inside their mouth.

Distinguishing Marks

  • 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. Their eyes are large, pearlescent and opaque. Their caudal and anal fins have white colored tips.

Body Shape

Both bodies are long, thin and round.

Their 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.

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 grow larger than the average sauger.


  • Sauger lives up to 13 years.
  • Walleye lives up to 10 years.


Sauger consumes the following:

  • Insects
  • Worms
  • Small fish
  • Catfish
  • Fish eggs
  • Small minnows

Walleye consume the following:

  • Insects
  • Worms
  • Small fish
  • Yellow perch
  • Minnows
  • Frogs
  • Crayfish
  • Large invertebrates

All the information may help you when fishing.

Tastes and Textures

One of the main reasons people chooses a particular fish to eat is its taste or caught when fishing. When comparing the two fish, sauger vs walleye, which one tastes better?

Walleye and sauger have a similar mild to sweet taste. At times both fish may have a slight fishy flavor depending where they were caught. Both of them have a firm texture which is smooth and flakey. 

For some people walleye may have a slightly fishy flavor but it’s not overpowering. The texture is firm but delicate and flakey.

The sauger texture is firm and flaky. They can taste somewhat fishy depending which waters they were caught.

I wanted to get the opinion of real people like you by conducting some original research. Therefore, I reached out to some clients, members of food groups and readers. I asked, which one tastes better?

  • 49% said they preferred the taste of walleye.
  • 39% said they preferred the taste sauger.
  • 12% said they had no preference.

I also participated in my own blind taste test. I cooked each one with the same seasonings and methods. The results of my taste test were consistent with the above poll.

Check out the differences between a white perch in my recent article, What’s The Difference? We Compare.


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 or find the type called for in the recipe when fishing.

Also if you’re walleye fishing or sauger fishing, you may ask, can I substitute one for the other?

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
  • Snapper
  • Grouper
  • Tilapia
  • Catfish
  • Halibut

The best sauger substitutes are:

  • White perch
  • Tilapia
  • Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Snapper
  • Sole fillets
  • Lake trout
  • Branding

When substituting either one 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 grilling1.


The costs for fresh fish will vary depending on how they are caught when fishing and where they are sold. When purchasing any type, be sure to check the label to see if it is wild-caught or farm raised. Therefore, which fish costs more?

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.

To conduct more original research, 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:

  • fresh walleye fillets
    • $17.50 per pound

I checked Doorganics online and found the following costs:

  • Wild walleye fillets
    • $23.98 per pound

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 consumed2. 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, which one has more mercury?

Sauger and walleyes have similar levels of mercury. Both 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 before fishing for the current recommendations3.

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 Nutrition

Both are excellent sources of healthy fats, protein, B vitamins and minerals. Both fish contain the following nutrients:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Niacin
  • Folate
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • B6
  • B12
  • B5
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Calcium
  • Zinc

Walleye provides the following nutrients per four raw ounces:

Nutrient Walleye
(4 ounces, raw)
Calories 105
Fat 1.4 g
Saturated fat 0.3 g
Cholesterol 98 mg
Protein 22 g
Omega-3 0.40 g
B-6 0.1 mg
B-12 2.2 mcg
Thiamin .30 mg
Riboflavin .18 mg
B-5 0.8 mg
Niacin 2.6 mg
Folate 17.0 mcg
Iron 1.4 mg
Potassium 441 mg
Magnesium 34 mg
Phosphorus 238 mg
Calcium 124.7 mg
Zinc 0.7 mg
Selenium 14.2 mcg

Nutrient Resources45

Both fish contain a good number of vitamins and minerals. Keep reading below to find out how the nutrients provided benefit health.

When I go shopping for fish, I’ll buy either one that’s available to take advantage of their nutrients.

Walleye and Sauger Health Benefits

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids provided by both of them 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 ((National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease)).

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.


Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium which helps reduce fluid build-up. The result keeps systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower ((American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure)).

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 water6.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure7.

B Vitamins

The B vitamins provided include the following:

  • B1 (thiamin)
  • B2 (riboflavin)
  • B3 (niacin)
  • B5
  • B6
  • B9 (folate)
  • B12

B vitamins help support the following:

  • Digestion.
  • Brain function.
  • Energy levels.
  • Red blood cells.
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Nerve function.


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 vessels8.

Calcium also helps the following:

  • Build and maintain strong bones.
  • Muscles need calcium to function properly.
  • Improve nerve function.


Both of them provides 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 ((National Institutes of Health: Magnesium)).

Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels balanced and stable. A recent study researched 22 studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased diastolic and systolic blood pressure9.

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 studies10 show selenium may help to protect the following:

  • Cognitive issues
  • Heart disease
  • Thyroid
  • 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 both fish. A saugeye is typically larger than a sauger and smaller than a walleye.

Therefore, walleye saugeye and sauger are very similar.

In addition to informing my clients about walleye and sauger, I have researched, purchased and consumed both fish for 20 years prior to, during and after writing this article. 

If you have any questions about this article don’t hesitate to email us. You can find an email on our contact page.

Read Next – More Fish vs Fish Articles!

Rock Bass vs Largemouth Bass – What’s The Difference?

Rock Bass vs Smallmouth Bass – What’s The Difference?

Sea Bass vs Cod – Is One Better? Let’s Compare

Herring vs Sardines – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare

Mahi Mahi vs Halibut: What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare

  1. Sea Grant North Carolina: Fish Flavors and Substitutions []
  2. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish []
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake []
  4. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, walleye, pike []
  5. USDA: Fish []
  6. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach []
  7. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure []
  8. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure []
  9. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis []
  10. National Institutes of Health: Selenium []

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