Sauger restoration continues in Allegheny River
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today reminded anglers that the possession of the sauger species of fish is strictly prohibited and anglers should familiarize themselves with the difference between walleye and sauger.
Sauger, a close relative of walleye, were once native to the Allegheny River system but disappeared due to severe pollution in the late 19th to mid- 20th centuries. Even as water quality improved after the Clean Water Act (1972), the Kinzua Dam stood in the way of sauger naturally repopulating the Upper Allegheny River.
In 2014, DEC began a five-year stocking program in the Allegheny River and its tributaries with the goal of creating a self-sustaining sauger fishery. DEC has stocked more than 14,000, 1.5 – 2 inch fingerlings and 250,000 fry (3/8 inch) over the last three years. The fish, raised at DEC’s Chautauqua Hatchery (Stow, N.Y.), are released into the wild in early summer. Stocked waters include the upper Allegheny Reservoir, Allegheny River, Olean Creek, and Oil Creek.
Sauger have a streamlined body shape like a walleye, but have three distinguishing characteristics to tell them apart. Sauger have horizontal rows of black spots on their dorsal fin, black saddle-like marking on the sides, and are lacking a white tip on the tail. Walleye have a defined white tip on the bottom of the tail.
Similar to their walleye cousin, sauger are a highly migratory species that move into rivers and tributaries to spawn in early spring. The Allegheny River and many of its larger tributaries are popular for walleye, and anglers may encounter sauger while fishing. It is critical that anglers are aware of the program and the importance of immediately releasing any sauger that are caught.
Since the restoration program began, DEC Region 9 fisheries staff have conducted surveys in the Allegheny River and the results are encouraging. Fish from all three stocking years have been caught, indicating that sauger are surviving well in the river. The largest sauger collected during 2016 surveys was a 2 year old fish measuring 17.5 inches.
Anglers are on the front lines when it comes to knowing what is actually going on in the river. Any reports or evidence of sauger activity will greatly assist DEC in learning more about how these sauger are using the river. Anglers are encouraged to report catches or sightings of sauger to the Region 9 DEC fisheries office in Allegany at (716) 372-0645. More information and the full version of New York’s Sauger Conservation Management Plan can be found on DEC’s webpage.
— New York State Department of Environmental Conservation