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By Jim Corey
When the subject
of Saugeyes comes up in my shop, fishing chatrooms, or on message boards,
one of the most confusing topics is: "Do Saugeyes reproduce or not?" Most
anglers have formed their beliefs on this subject from "what they've heard"
because there has been little or no effort on the part of State Fisheries
Departments and DNR's to educate the angling public. Even questions directed
to Game Wardens and Park Rangers brought conflicting responses when I tried
to get some answers for myself. Since Ohio was in the forefront of
the experimental Saugeye stocking programs and much of the original research
was done here, I decided to go to the source and find out for sure.
Ohio State University,
Department of Bio Sciences did much of the original experimentation and
controlled and evaluated the data gathered in the first Ohio stockings.
Some of the data that they used was collected from earlier stockings done
in Kentucky and Tennesee.
popular belief, Saugeyes can and do reproduce both with either parent species
and with other Saugeyes. The most informative study that I have been able
to find on the subject was done by M.C. Hearn in 1986, titled "Reproductive
viability of Walleye-Sauger hybrids". It was published in the Progressive
Fish-Culturist 48:149150.(now the North American Aquaculture Journal)
Part of the
confusion lies in the fact that all Saugeyes are not created equal. Of
the eggs resulting from the cross of a male Sauger and a female Walleye
(F1 Hybrids), some will turn out to be true Triploid Saugeyes (sterile
hybrids), while others from the same egg mass will not develop eggs or
even show recognizable gender differences. Still others will develop with
the ability to produce viable eggs. In the study done by Hearns, the eggs
from Female F1 Hybrids (Saugeyes) were fertilized by milt from male Saugers.
The results were 38% "swim-up-fry". This term means that, out of the total
eggs produced by this single cross, 38% lived to complete the swim to the
surface necessary for Walleye/Sauger/Saugeye fry to break the surface tension
of the waters' surface and take that mouthfull of air needed to fill their
swim bladders for the first time. They then performed the same experiment
with one male and one female F1 Hybrid (Saugeye) and, when Saugeye-to-Saugeye,
the % of swim-up-fry was 46%, 8% better than when the Saugeye eggs were
fertilized by milt from a parent species.
is caused when the body of water where the Saugeyes are stocked has no
proper spawning habitat. Naturally, no reproduction can take place in such
waters. In different bodies of water the survival rate of Walleye fry to
adulthood may range from 1% to 10%, depending on predation and other factors.
That figure is basically the same for stocked Saugeye fry. With Saugeye,
however, only a small percentage of the fish that reach adulthood will
be capable of producing viable eggs. Then, of course, if those eggs aren't
deposited in the proper spawning areas, under the right conditions, and
fertilized with milt from that equally small percentage of male Saugeyes
who are virile, the whole point is moot.
In the right
body of water, with the right conditions, Saugeye can and do reproduce,
but in a limited way, and not in a way to sustain a population without
I hope that
this helps clear up some of the confusion about one of the most exciting
additions to the gamefish species available to anglers across the country.
Other studies of interest are:
"Comparative survival, growth, and reproductive development of juvenile
Walleye, Sauger, and their hybrids reared under intensive culture conditions."
J.A. Malison, D.L. Johnson, and S.A. Schell. 1982 North American Journal
of Fisheries Management 2:381-387
"Reproduction of Saugeyes (Fx Hybrids) and Walleyes in Normandy Reservoir,
Tennesee." F.C. Fiss, S.M. Sammons, P.W. Betolli, and N. Billington, 1997.
North American Journal of Fisheries Management 17:215-219
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