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Montana Animal Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Sauger - Sander canadensis

Species of Concern

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S2
* (see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status
USFWS:
USFS:
BLM: SENSITIVE
FWP SWAP: SGCN2


 

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State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
The Sauger is currently listed as an "S2" species of concern in Montana because they are at risk of extirpation in the state, because of limited and/or declining numbers, range and/or habitat, even though it may be abundant in some areas. Population losses from the reservoir sections of the Missouri River and the Bighorn River are likely permanent. Competition and hybridization from the introduced walleye is another threat to native sauger populations.
 
General Description
The Sauger is one of two native percid species 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

 


Range Comments
Sauger are one of the most widely distributed North American fishes with a historical range extending across most of central and eastern North America from the St. Lawrence-Champlain system south, west of the Appalachian Mountains, to the Tennessee River in Alabama, and northwestward to central Montana and Alberta (Scott and Crossman 1973). In Montana, historical distribution included the Missouri River and its major tributaries downstream of Great Falls and the Yellowstone River and its major tributaries downstream of the Clark Fork (McMahon and Gardner 2001). Current distribution in Montana has declined by 53% from historical levels with the largest losses occurring in tributaries (McMahon and Gardner 2001). Current distribution in the Missouri River drainage is confined to the mainstem Missouri and small parts of the previously widely occupied Marias, Musselshell, and Milk rivers

Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 8565

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density

Recency

 

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



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

Habitat
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 crustaceans. Adults feed mainly on fish. The very young feed on zooplankton. Young-of-the-year in the Missouri River are largely piscivorous.

Ecology
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.

Threats or Limiting Factors
Angler harvest, channelization, water flow fluctuations, migration barriers, loss of spawning and rearing habitat, and environmental degradation have resulted in declines in distribution and abundance of sauger populations rangewide (Rawson and Scholl 1978, Hesse 1994, Pegg et al. 1997). Similar factors have been implicated in the declines observed in Montana. Habitat loss and the presence of migratory barriers (i.e. dams, diversions) are the primary causes of the reduced distribution of sauger in Montana.

References
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Citation for data on this website:
Sauger — Sander canadensis.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from