What Is A Saugeye – The Truth About This Hybrid Fish

By Get Fishing •  Published: 12/10/22 •  9 min read

If you’ve ever come across a Saugeye, you may have spent a moment being confused: Is this a Walleye or a Sauger? Saugeyes get the best of both fish, and are a hybrid created when these close species cross over during spawning. Let’s take a look at what makes Saugeyes stand out as their own recognizable niche. 

What is a Saugeye

What is a Saugeye?

Saugeyes, are a hybrid species created when a female Walleye (Sander vitreus) and a male Sauger (Sander canadensis) spawn together. While not fully one species or the other, Saugeyes are often confused with their parent species. 

What Type of Fish is a Saugeye?

Like Walleyes and Saugers, Saugeyes are a perch-like fish with both spined fins and sharp teeth. They’re carnivorous and spread throughout an array of freshwater sources. Because they grow quickly, adapt to many environments, and are actually sterile, Saugeyes are usually raised in hatcheries and used to stock water sources for freshwater fishing. 

What Two Fish Make a Saugeye?

The Walleye and Sauger are the two fish that make up the Saugeye, as the name suggests. These are perch-like fish that are both carnivorous and have similarities in their preferences. But each also has distinct characteristics that anglers need to be aware of when fishing for them. 

In general, Walleyes are larger than Saugers and thicker as well, with pointed noses. Saugers are slimmer and have rounded noses. Visually, Walleyes are more of a deep olive in color and Saugers have a brassy coloration to them. 

Saugeye Habitat

Due to the hybridization between the Sauger and Walleye, Saugeyes are found in any body of water that both species frequent. They can be found in rivers, lakes, run-offs, deep pools or shallow water with rocky outcroppings.

Saugeyes will hang out in cooler water with gravel, rock, or sandy substrate. They prefer cloudy water due to a light sensitivity. When it comes to habitat, they aren’t very picky.

Where Can I Find Saugeye Fish?

Because Saugeyes are often created artificially in hatcheries and then used to stock water sources, they can be found all over North America. These fish occur naturally in the northern United States, around Michigan water sources, and throughout the Mississippi River area. They also reach into southern Canada. They tend to spread further northwest in the US. 

Some states stock them directly from the hatcheries. These states include Ohio, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa. 

What Do Saugeye Eat? 

Like the Walleye and Sauger, Saugeye love live bait. They’re carnivores and will seek out insects, invertebrates and small fish, including minnows. In their juvenile stage, they go after insect larvae and fry, but will quickly switch to hunting down any fish smaller than they are.

How to Catch a Saugeye Fish

Saugeye are easily caught using any method that mimics live prey. This can include jigging, trolling, or using slip floats with live bait. Lures that draw their attention will draw them out of the deep. Many anglers have good luck catching Saugeyes in the late hours of the day or even at night, as they’re nocturnal fish. 

Best Saugeye Fishing Lures

Mule Fishing Mule Minnow

Mule Fishing Mule Minnow

Mule Fishing Mule Minnow

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The Mule Minnow is a versatile lure that we love. Not only does it come in a variety of colors and a few different sizes, it perfectly mimics actual minnows, a favorite prey of the Saugeye. Check out the Minnow 2.2 and 3.2 as an option for tempting larger Saugeye. 

Z-Man Diesel Minnows

Z-Man Diezel MinnowZ Swimbait

Z-Man Diezel MinnowZ Swimbait

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Diezel Minnowz are a great option to any tackle box, as they’ll attract quite a few different species of fish with their realistic design. These Minnowz are mate with ElaZtech, an extremely durable material that will last through multiple fishing trips. Minnowz are available in larger sizes for going after even bigger fish. If you also fish saltwater, consider adding a pack of these to your gear. 

Rapala Husky Jerk

Rapala Husky Jerk

Rapala Husky Jerk

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The Husky Jerk is designed to draw attention, and it’ll definitely do that on the end of your line. The Husky Jerk’s paint job is impressively realistic, but also comes in other eye-catching designs. A rattler in the body of the lure amplifies sound as the lure moves through the water, guaranteeing to catch a Saugeye’s attention and alert it that this is a prey fish. Husky Jerks are great for jigging and trolling in Saugeye territory.

What Kind of Gear Do You Need for Saugeye Fishing?

Saugeyes are known for their sharp teeth, and although they don’t bite quite as aggressively as other notorious species, you’ll still need a rod and line that can handle the fight. Saugeye get pretty big and you never know if you’ll find a trophy fish on your hook, so it’s better to be prepared. 

Stock your tacklebox with eye-catching lures, some live bait options, and a strong line. A decent spinning reel will also go a long way in making sure you get a smooth cast and draw.

What is a Good Saugeye Fishing Rod?

Temple Fork Outfitters Professional Walleye Medium-Light Fast Action Spinning Rods

Temple Fork Outfitters Professional Walleye Medium-Light Fast Action Spinning Rod

Temple Fork Outfitters Professional Walleye Medium-Light Fast Action Spinning Rod

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TFO’s Walleye Lightweight is a great option for anglers who like to try out a variety of settings and species. This rod will hold up against larger fish, but also give you great option with smaller species as well. The cork grips make for easy handling and the body is make of lightweight but durable materials such as graphite, foam, and carbon fiber. 

What is a Good Saugeye Fishing Reel?

Lews American Hero Spinning Reel

Lews American Hero

Lews American Hero

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This is a lightweight reel with great, smooth action. Anglers love how easily it casts, especially in those tight spaces. The reel is made with aluminum and graphic for a lightweight but durable body. No matter what species you’re fishing for, you can’t go wrong with the American Hero. 

What is the Best Fishing Line for Saugeye?

Berkley Trilene XT 10 lb Monofilament Fishing Line

Berkley Trilene XT 10 lb Monofilament Fishing Line

Berkley Trilene XT 10 lb Monofilament Fishing Line

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Berkley’s 10 lb Trilene Line is perfect for Saugeyes. These fish grow quickly, and you never know how big the Saugeye on the end of your line will be. By using a durable, strong line that’s also abrasion resistant, you’re guaranteed to keep reeling them in one another another. 

When Do Saugeye Spawn?

Most Saugeye are actually bred in hatcheries since they’re a sterile fish. In nature, these fish are created when Walleyes and Sauger happen to spawn in the same area. Walleye and Sauger spawn in spring and early summer, over rocky substrate. 

How Big Do Saugeye Get?

Saugeyes take after the Walleye side and will grow large, up to 12 inches on average. They can reach over 20 inches in length and up to 10 lbs. An average and decent-sized Saugeye can be anywhere from 10-15  inches and 2-4 lbs. 

How Fast Does a Saugeye Grow?

Like both Sauger and Walleye, Saugeye grow quickly. They hit the juvenile mark very early on and begin consuming small prey fish within months. Like the Sauger, though, the size a Saugeye reaches may be dependent on the water source they’re living in – the smaller the contained area, the smaller the fish.

What is the World Record Saugeye Fish?

The world record Saugeye weighed in at 12 lbs, 13 oz. caught in Ohio by Fred Sulek

What is a Trophy Saugeye?

A trophy Saugeye is considered any fish over 20 inches and weighing close to 10 lbs. 

What Color is a Saugeye?

When it comes to coloration, the Saugeye is a true hybrid. Like the Sauger, Saugeyes have spots and bars on its spiny dorsal fin. It’s also a darker coloration closer to that of the Walleye without the brassiness. Saugeyes have dark brown “saddles” over their backs and black blotches at the base of their dorsal fin. Like the Walleye, they also have a white spot on the lower tips of their tail. 

What is the Lifespan of a Saugeye?

Saugeye will live shorter lifespans in their natural habitat, and like their two parent species can reach anywhere from 8-12 years of age. 

Are Saugeye Fish Good to Eat?

Both Saugers and Walleye are considered delicious freshwater fish, and this fish is no exception. They have firm, white meat that’s also a bit sweet. These are great eating fish. 

Is Saugeye the same as a Walleye?

The Saugeye is similar to, but not the same, as the Walleye. As a hybrid of the Walleye, they share a lot of the same features. Saugeyes are on the larger side, with wide heads and girthy bodies. They have the same spiny dorsal fin and a white spot on their tail that works as a way to tell them apart from Saugers. Saugeye and Walleyes have the same diet and preferences when it comes to habitat. 

Is Saugeye the same as a Sauger?

The Sauger is similar to, but not the same as, the Saugeye. It is a parent fish of the Saugeye, which is generally larger than the Sauger. These fish share the same spiny dorsal fin, but Saugeye are darker in coloration. Like the Sauger, Saugeye have small black dots on their dorsal fins–but they also have bars of dark coloration, which the Sauger lacks. Compared to the Walleye, Saugers are smaller and lighter in color. 


The Saugeye is truly the best of both worlds when it comes to a hybridized fish. It’s easy to see why hatcheries breed them and why many states stock them in water sources. A fun fish for anglers to catch, you’ll never know what’s on the other end of your line when you catch a Saugeye–it could be just an attractive juvenile, or an absolute monster of a fish. 

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