Sauger, a close relative of walleye, were historically common in the Great Lakes, Lake Champlain, and St. Lawrence River watersheds of New York, but are now one of the state’s most imperiled fish species. DEC adopted a Sauger Conservation Management Plan in 2013 to aid it’s restoration in native watersheds, including the Allegheny River watershed. Sauger currently occur downstream of the Allegheny Reservoir in Pennsylvania, but are blocked from accessing New York waters by the Kinzua Dam.
1 year old sauger from 2014 stockingIn 2014, DEC began a 5 year stocking program in the Allegheny River watershed to establish a self-sustaining sauger population. In 2014 and 2015 about 50,000 fry (newly hatched fish) were donated each year by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and raised in ponds for about two months at DEC’s Chautauqua Hatchery. Approximately 5,500 1.5 – 2.0 inch long sauger fingerlings were stocked in the upper Allegheny Reservoir in June of each year. Follow-up monitoring has indicated that the stocked fish are surviving and growing well.
The restoration program continued this spring, with a donation of approximately 350,000 sauger fry by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Most of the fry (250,000) were raised for about 3 weeks in tanks at the Chautauqua Hatchery, while the rest are again being raised in production ponds. Tank-raised fry (approximately 3/8 inch long) were stocked in late April and early May, and for the first time there were enough fish to stock at sites throughout the upper watershed. Stocked waters included the upper Allegheny Reservoir, Allegheny River, and Oil and Olean creeks. The fry in the hatchery ponds will be held until they reach fingerling size (approximately 1.5 inches) in June and then they’ll be stocked in the upper reservoir. DEC Biologists will continue to assess the status of the stocked sauger in the fall and will begin to check for spawning aggregations of these fish next spring as they start to reach reproductive age.