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Montana Animal Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Sauger - Sander canadensis

Species of Concern

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S2

Agency Status


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General Description
The Sauger is native to Montana east of the Continental Divide. It inhabits both large rivers and reservoirs, but is mainly a river fish. In the spring, Sauger broadcast their spawn over riffles in rivers. Sauger are a highly prized sport fish and in some areas outside Montana are also commercially fished. Their major food items are insects and small fish.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Sauger jaws and the roof of the mouth have large canine teeth. The body is almost round in cross section. The anal fin has 2 spines and 11 to 14 (usually 12 or 13) soft rays. The body often has a grayish hue with dark blotches.

Species Range
Montana Range

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Western Hemisphere Range


Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 8564

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Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Spawning is often accompanied by migration upstream and/or into tributary streams in the spring. Long migration occurs in the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers.

Sauger inhabit the larger turbid rivers and the muddy shallows of lakes and reservoirs. They spawn in gravelly or rocky areas in shallow water and seem to prefer turbid water.
Food Habits
The young eat aquatic insects and crustacians. Adults feed mainly on fish. The very young feed on zooplankton. Young-of-the-year in the Missouri River are largely piscivorous.

A large, vital spawning and feeding migration has been observed to occur from the lower reaches of the middle Missouri River to an area between Fort Benton and Morony Dam. The Tongue and Powder rivers are vital spawning areas for the Yellowstone River population.

Reproductive Characteristics
Sauger spawn from mid-April to May at water temperatures of 50 degrees F., with peaks early in May in a middle Missouri River study. They are sexually mature at 3 to 4 years. Eggs are cast over the bottom and incubate in 12 to 18 days at 50 degrees F.

  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
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    • Billington, N. 2006. Montana Sauger Genetic Characteristics; Final Project Performance Report.
    • Billington, N., Koigi, N., Sloss, B., Franckowiak, R. P., Xiong, J. 2006. Genetic variation and Hybridization with Walleye in Montana Sauger Populations Determined by Protein Electrophoresis and Microsatellite Analysis.
    • McDonald, K. 2003. Sauger telemetry in the Powder and Tongue Rivers, Project Performane Report, February 23, 2003 through December 31, 2003
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Citation for data on this website:
Sauger — Sander canadensis.  Montana Field Guide.  Montana Natural Heritage Program and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  Retrieved on May 26, 2016, from