Sauger-the missing North Platte fish

Sauger were common in the North Platte River in 1900. 

3/17/2017 7:49:04 AM

Cheyenne - Sauger were common in the North Platte River in 1900. They are a member of the perch family and look a lot like a walleye. As with their cousins the yellow perch and walleye, sauger are an excellent food fish and a valuable game fish. Sauger prefer large rivers but also occur in reservoirs. It is tolerant of turbid water and will survive in water too turbid for walleye. Their range in the North Platte River in Wyoming was probably from Nebraska to Fremont Canyon.

The North Platte River has undergone a great deal of change in the past 115 years. Development of multiple dams on the river began with the completion of Pathfinder Dam in 1909. Dams have fragmented river habitat and produced drastic changes in river flows and water temperatures. Pollution from cities and refineries also degraded water quality. In 1948, a U.S Public Health Service report offered the North Platte River from Casper to the Nebraska state line was so polluted there were doubts if recovery could ever be obtained.

Today the river continues to change. The improvement made in water quality is remarkable. Water released from the bottom of the reservoirs is cold and provides Blue Ribbon trout fisheries in the tailwaters below the dams. The river and reservoirs provided excellent fishing opportunities; however, sauger are no longer present in the drainage. This may also change.

The North Platte River below Gray Reef Reservoir is a Blue Ribbon trout fishery for 85 river miles downstream. As the river flows downstream it warms and the 61 river miles between Glenrock and Glendo Reservoir provide, at best, only marginal trout habitat. The Casper Fish Management Crew is currently evaluating this 61 mile reach as a location for sauger reintroduction. Work currently being done in the Wind River to bolster sauger numbers in that drainage is encouraging,
suggesting a reintroduction in the North Platte may be possible. 

Obtaining sauger fingerling to stock in the North Platte River will probably involve a cooperative effort between fish culturists and biologists in three states. The earliest date for the reintroduction is perhaps as soon as 2017.

(Wyoming Game and Fish (307) 777-4600)

- WGFD -

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