Plants and Animals

Sander canadensis Sauger

species photo
John Lyons

Key Characteristics

The sauger is an elongate, cylindrical fish from the perch family with large canine teeth. The main distinguishing characteristics are the rows of distinct, ducky spots on the first dorsal fin and the black spot at the base of the pectoral fin.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: E - Endangered (legally protected)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: S1 - Critically imperiled


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Alpena 1 1923
Bay 1 1926
Delta 6 1998
Houghton 3 1976
Huron 3 1929
Mackinac 1 1943
Menominee 1 1970
Monroe 2 1996
Newaygo 1 1932
Ottawa 1 1919
Presque Isle 1 1984
St. Clair 3 1983
Wayne 3 1993

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Sauger occur in lakes, reservoirs, and large rivers, and prefer turbid waters. They generally prefer waters where temperatures in the entire water column are within their temperature preference.

Specific Habitat Needs

Turbid waters needed in: Great lake, pelagic, midwater; River (5th-6th order), pool; River (5th-6th order), run.

Natural Community Types

  • Great lake, pelagic, midwater
  • River (5th-6th order), pool
  • River (5th-6th order), run

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

Overfishing and environmental degradation are often blamed for the sauger's decline (Rawson and Scholl 1978). However, these reasons are not always agreed upon. Evers (1994) suggests that due to the sauger's tolerance of turbidity, their population declines are not likely related to habitat degradation. There is also debate as to whether competition with walleye has aided in sauger declines. Management targeted towards restoring and/or preserving spawning and other critical habitats is needed.

Active Period

Spawning from first week of May to fourth week of June

Survey Methods


Survey Period: From first week of November to fourth week of October

Gill nets

Survey Period: From first week of November to fourth week of October


Survey Period: From first week of November to fourth week of October


Survey Period: From first week of November to fourth week of October


Survey References

  • Murphy, B.R. and D.W. Willis, eds. 1996. Fisheries Techniques, 2nd ed. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda. 732pp.

Technical References

  • Bailey, R.M., W.C. Latta, and G.R. Smith. 2004. An Atlas of Michigan Fishes. Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, No. 192, Ann Arbor. 215p.
  • Derosier, A.L. 2004. Special Animal Abstract for Sander canadensis (Sauger). Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing, MI. 3pp.
  • Evers, D.C. 1994. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife of Michigan. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. 412pp.
  • Rawson, M.R. and R.L. Scholl. 1978. Reestablishment of sauger in western Lake Erie. American Fisheries Society Special Publication 11:261- 265.
  • Scott, W.B. and E.J. Crossman. 1973. Freshwater fishes of Canada. Bulletin 184, Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Ottawa. 966pp.
  • Smith, C.L. 1985. The inland fishes of New York State. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany. 522pp.
  • Smith, P.W. 1961. The amphibians and reptiles of Illinois. Illinois Natural History Survey, Carbondale. Bulletin No. 28. 298 pp.
  • Trautman, M.B. 1981. The Fishes of Ohio. Ohio State University Press, Columbus. 782pp.

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