GENETIC ANALYSIS OF PUTATIVE WALLEYE AND SAUGEYE IN RIVERS NEAR FORT WAYNE, INDIANA
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A saugeye is the progeny of a female walleye (Sander vitreus) and male sauger (Sander canadensis). In the United States, hybrid saugeyes are considered important for recreational fisheries and as a potential food source. Saugeyes grow exceptionally faster than their non-hybrid parents and are more tolerant of a broader range of water conditions. They are also of interest to anglers due to their increased growth rate and ease to catch. Rather unexpectedly, biologists have recently observed fish that they believe to be saugeye in the Fort Wayne Rivers even though only walleye have been stocked in the area. The fish in Hurshtown Reservoir are believed to be walleye and the identification of those in the Three Rivers is unknown. A potential source for saugeye in the Fort Wayne Rivers is St. Marys State Fish Hatchery in Ohio. This research aims to determine if the fish found in the Fort Wayne Rivers are walleye or saugeye using microsatellite analysis. Microsatellites at seven loci were genotyped for 20 reference walleye, sauger, and saugeye as well as 21 unknown fish caught near Fort Wayne. Of the fish caught near Fort Wayne, three are from Hurshtown Reservoir and 18 are from the Three Rivers. Assignment tests of genotypes were completed using model and non-model based cluster analysis. Genotypic variation clearly resolved the two parent species from their hybrid offspring. Sixteen of eighteen Sander (unknown species) caught in Fort Wayne Rivers between 2018 and 2019 were determined to be first generation saugeye. The other two were walleye found in the Maumee River downstream of Hosey Dam. The three Sander caught in Hurshtown Reservoir were verified to be walleye. Sauger have never been stocked in the Fort Wayne Rivers and connecting waterways. Therefore, it is not likely that the saugeye found in the analysis are from natural reproduction. It is speculated that saugeye are swimming to Fort Wayne from hatcheries within the Maumee watershed. There are many potential sources for walleye in the Fort Wayne Rivers.