Saugeye (Stizostedion vitreum x S. canadense)


The saugeye is a hybrid fish resulting from the interbreeding of walleye and sauger. It occurs naturally, although infrequently, where the two species mix together.

Most populations are produced in hatcheries and are usually stocked in locations where neither parent species has been able to maintain a population. In some literature, it is identified as Stizostedion vitreum x S. canadense, which refers to a cross between a female walleye and a male sauger. The meat of the saugeye is similar to that of its parents, making it excellent table fare.

Identification

The body of the saugeye is more similar to that of a walleye than to that of a sauger, although the dorsal fin is sometimes spotted (it is on the sauger and is not on the walleye). It also has saddlelike markings on the back and the sides, as the sauger does, and the caudal fin has a white border on its lower lobe, as that of the walleye does. The saugeye also has a dark blotch on the membranes of the spiny dorsal fin. The body may have a yellowish cast.

Size/Age

This fish grows rapidly and has the potential to reach the intermediate sizes, although not the overall size, that walleye typically attain. The all-tackle world record is a 12-pound, 13-ounce fish from Ohio. Typical saugeye are about 15 inches in length and they normally range from 10 to 24 inches.

Spawning behavior

Unlike some hybrid species, saugeye are not sterile and do have the ability to produce offspring with either parent stock. Spawning occurs in tributaries or in tailwater areas when the temperature is between 40° and 50°F.

Food

Small fish are the primary food for saugeye. Shad are especially favored in many lakes and rivers.

Distribution

The saugeye has been introduced to waters in the United States from western Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee to the eastern Dakotas and southward to Oklahoma.

Habitat

Like their sauger parent, saugeye are more tolerant of muddy or turbid water than are walleye and seem better suited to impoundments that receive a high rate of water exchange (which increases turbidity). The introduction of saugeye to new waters, however, is still in its early stages.

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