Walleye, Sauger or Both?



If I was being honest I didn’t expect a fish on that cast let alone this fish. Henry Fatino and his buddy John had wanted a taste of streamer fishing Friday to broaden their fly fishing repertoires.

We had gone through an introductory checklist of casting and techniques and I’m not sure if it was a genuine cast behind me or Henry just working out some line, but the next thing was Henry saying he was tight on a fish. Kelly Galloup’s articulated Barely Legal had done the trick.

“Holey Smokes, it’s a walleye.” rattled through my head, and a walleye not half a mile from Bull Shoals Dam.

I posted the images on facebook and had a buddy, photographer Eric Thue, pop asking questioning whether it was a walleye or a sauger. It was a logical question: the two look remarkably similar and Henry’s fish lacked the distinctive white patch on the lower tailfin.

And then of course I discovered there is also the walleye-sauger hybrid known as a saugeye. 

Walleye are though by many to be a northwoods fish but these toothy predators are native to Arkansas waterways including the White River. Arkansas natives, of a certain age, would know them by their local name “Jack Salmon”.

And they grow big: the world record comes from Greer’s Ferry lake at 22lb, and Norfork and Bull Shoals regularly yield fish 10lbs to 15lbs. I’ve cleaned 17lb and 13lb from Table Rock as well, and they are extremely tasty. Saugers, a new species to me, are cousins to the walleye and while they don’t grow as big, are reputedly even tastier than the “Walters”.  Saugeye and the result a hybrid between a female walleye and a male sauger, wit the State record clocking in touch over 9lbs.

So where did all this leave the Aussie fly guide: texting the images to our weekend staffer and Fish and Game warmwater biologist Paul Port

Looks like a walleye to me. If you look close the bottom of its tail its orange “white tipped”. its just a dark specimen because it’s been living in clear water. Sauger will have dark saddles across the back as well and a blotchy dorsal fin.

So ends the mystery but the learning is always fun _ Thanks Paul