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Sauger Management and Fishing in Pennsylvania

Prepared by R. Lorantas, D. Kristine and C. Hobbs
PFBC Warmwater Unit

2005 (stocking numbers updated after 2005)

Goal: Maintain or create robust sport fisheries through preservation and enhancement of essential habitats, judicious stocking, and through harvest management of wild populations and populations maintained by stocking.

Sauger occur and are indigenous to rivers, streams, and lakes of the Ohio River drainage. The Ohio River drainage includes the Ohio River, Allegheny River and Monongahela River drainages. Sauger are also indigenous to the Lake Erie drainage, however they are infrequently encountered in Pennsylvania’s portion of Lake Erie. Sauger occur in reservoir and lake (lentic) habitats although they predominate in river and stream (lotic) habitats. Sauger are very infrequently encountered outside of their native range, some have been reported from the Susquehanna Drainage, none have been reported from the Delaware or Potomac river drainages. The current state record sauger was taken from the West Branch Susquehanna River in 2001.

Sport harvest limits and stocking represent the most widely applied techniques used by fishery biologists in Pennsylvania to sustain and enhance sauger sport fisheries. Several of Pennsylvania’s inland waters are stocked with sauger to sustain good fishing. Why are some waters stocked and others not stocked; some stocked with fingerlings and others stocked with fry? All stocking plans originate from sampling and assessment of individual waters by fishery biologists. Biologists examine habitat suitability, forage fish density and presence of other gamefish. These characteristics guide biologists in making stocking decisions. Not only do they guide species specific stocking decisions, they also guide the lifestage (fry vs. fingerling) to be stocked. Stocking of sauger is restricted to locations within their native range and carried out to enhance or restore depleted populations or maintain populations of the species in man-made reservoirs. Sauger survival and abundance has been observed to be greater in turbid rivers and reservoirs. Since 1993, fingerling sauger have been stocked into Pennsylvania waterways (Table 1). Water quality improvements have accommodated substantial increases in river sauger populations in western Pennsylvania in the past 30 years. Lorson and Smith (2004) note presence of one fish species in sampling activities at Maxwell Dam (Washington County) on the Monongahela River, in 1968; surveys in 2003 have yielded the presence of 26 species, including sauger, and numerous individuals of those species. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is committed to sustaining continued improvements in water quality that enhance sportfishing.

Year Fingerling Fry
1993 10,650 0
1994 15,120 0
1995 0 0
1996 17,200 0
1997 0 0
1998 29,620 0
1999 6,600 600,000
2000 2,000 0
2001 11,450 0
2002 7,265 0
2003 1,000 0
2004 18,624 0
2005 0 0
2006 62,858 0

Latest Stocking Information

With respect to harvest restrictions, Pennsylvania maintains a closed season from mid-March through the first Saturday in May to accommodate sauger spawning. The minimum size limit for sauger is 12 inches with a maximum of 6 in daily possession. It requires approximately 2.4 years for a sauger to attain the minimum size limit (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Average length of sauger, walleye, and saugeye collected by fisheries biologists in assessment gear in Pennsylvania (March - June).

Figure 1

Catching sauger can be accomplished from the shoreline of a river or reservoir or from the deck of a boat. Both casting and drifting are popular methods. A live minnow or night-crawler alone, or used in combination with a jig or spinner is effective. Whatever your bait choice, locations depicted on maps on this site will enhance your success. In addition, surveys carried out by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission illustrate the number of fish caught per angler hour in medium reservoirs (Fig. 2), large reservoirs (Fig. 3) and rivers (Fig. 4). Although creel surveys have not encompassed the entire year, sauger catch rates are highest in spring over the months covered for all resource categories. On rivers catch rates show an increase in fall (Fig. 4). Once an angler catches a sauger, they are interested the fishes weight and age. Data collected by fishery biologists and summarized in Table 2 indicates average values for each length. Sauger populations began to recover in the late 1970’s in western Pennsylvania and sauger populations and fishing success has continuously increased since then.

Figure 2. Average catch per angler hour of sauger from medium size Pennsylvania reservoirs.

Figure 2

Figure 3. Average catch per angler hour of sauger from large size Pennsylvania reservoirs.

Figure 3

Figure 4. Average catch per angler hour of sauger from Pennsylvania rivers.

Figure 4

Inches Pounds Years Inches Pounds Years
4 0.1 < 0.2 10.5 0.3 1.5
4.5 0.1 < 0.2 11 0.4 1.8
5 0.1 < 0.2 11.5 0.4 2.1
5.5 0.1 < 0.2 12 0.5 2.4
6 0.1 < 0.2 12.5 0.5 2.7
6.5 0.1 < 0.2 13 0.6 3.1
7 0.1 0.2 13.5 0.7 3.5
7.5 0.1 0.3 14 0.8 4.0
8 0.1 0.5 14.5 0.8 4.6
8.5 0.2 0.7 15 0.9 5.3
9 0.2 0.9 15.5 1.0 6.2
9.5 0.2 1.1 16 1.1 7.6
10 0.3 1.3 16.5 1.3 10.2



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