Are There Zander In The Us?


Zander, a predatory fish species, have traditionally been found in Europe, the UK, and western Eurasia. However, a unique occurrence has resulted in the presence of zander in two lakes in North Dakota, namely Spiritwood Lake and Alkali Lake.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department deliberately stocked these lakes with zander, leading to their successful establishment and proliferation, particularly in Alkali Lake, which is connected to Spiritwood Lake.

Anglers interested in zander fishing in the US are advised to focus their efforts on Alkali Lake, where these fish can be caught both in open water and through the ice. The average size of zander in Alkali Lake is approximately 16 inches and 2 lbs.

Various fishing techniques, such as trolling with crankbaits and using bottom bouncers with spinner rigs, jigs, softbaits, and live baits, can be employed to catch zander. It is worth noting that canoes or kayaks are recommended for fishing in Alkali Lake due to the absence of boat launching ramps.

Conservation efforts seek to preserve the zander population through selective harvesting, with an emphasis on releasing larger fish, particularly females. It is essential to distinguish zander from walleye, as although they share similar appearances, they are distinct species. Furthermore, while zander resemble pike in size and perch in appearance, they are not hybrids of these two species.

This article aims to explore the distribution, habitat, fishing techniques, size and weight, lures and baits, boating and fishing access, teeth and characteristics, and the relationship between zander, pike, perch, and walleye in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of the presence of zander in the US.

Key Takeaways

  • Zander are primarily found in Europe, the UK, and western Eurasia, but there are populations of zander in two lakes in North Dakota, Spiritwood Lake and Alkali Lake.
  • Zander fishing in the US is best done in Alkali Lake, where anglers can catch zander in open water or through the ice using various lures and baits.
  • Conservation efforts should include selective harvesting to preserve the zander population, with fish under 20 inches being kept and larger fish, especially females, being released.
  • Zander are not a hybrid between pike and perch, but they have similarities to pike in size and perch in appearance. They are also often referred to as pike-perch in North America.

Distribution and Habitat

Zander are primarily distributed in Europe, the UK, and western Eurasia. Populations are also found in two lakes in North Dakota, Spiritwood Lake and Alkali Lake, where they were stocked by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in 1989.

Zander are known for their ability to migrate long distances. Their presence in the North Dakota lakes is thought to be a result of natural dispersal from nearby water bodies.

Zander prefer habitats with clear, well-oxygenated water. They are often found in lakes and reservoirs with rocky or gravelly bottoms. They are also known to inhabit areas with submerged vegetation, as it provides cover for them to ambush their prey.

Understanding zander migration patterns and their specific habitat preferences is important for conservation efforts and managing their populations in these lakes.

Fishing Techniques

Fishing techniques for this particular species are best implemented in Alkali Lake, focusing on open water or ice fishing. When targeting zander, anglers can utilize various lures and baits, similar to walleye fishing techniques. Trolling with crankbaits or using bottom bouncers with spinner rigs have been proven effective methods for zander fishing. Jigs and softbaits are also recommended lure choices.

When fishing in Alkali Lake, it is advisable to use canoes or kayaks as there are no boat launching ramps available. For ice fishing, brightly colored jigs or noisy rattle baits can attract zander. It is important to note that zander are predatory fish with numerous teeth, so using thin fluorocarbon instead of wire is recommended.

Overall, practicing these best practices and tips will enhance the angler’s success when targeting zander.

Size and Weight

The average size and weight of zander in Alkali Lake has been observed to be approximately 16 inches in length and weighing around 2 lbs. Zander growth rates in the lake have shown a steady increase, indicating a healthy population.

Over time, the zander population in Alkali Lake has exhibited positive trends, with individuals consistently reaching the average size and weight mentioned. This suggests that the lake provides suitable conditions for zander to thrive and grow.

These growth rates are important indicators of the overall health and sustainability of the zander population in the lake. Monitoring zander population trends and growth rates allows researchers to assess the impact of various factors on their population dynamics, such as fishing pressure or changes in habitat conditions.

By understanding these trends, conservation efforts can be tailored to ensure the long-term viability of zander in Alkali Lake.

Lures and Baits

Lures and baits commonly used for zander fishing in Alkali Lake include:

  • Crankbaits
  • Spinner rigs
  • Jigs
  • Softbaits
  • Live baits like minnows or shiners on a slip bobber rig.

These lures and baits have proven to be effective in attracting zander in this particular fishing spot.

Trolling with crankbaits or using bottom bouncers with spinner rigs is a popular method among anglers.

Jigs and softbaits are also good lure choices for zander, as they mimic the natural prey of these fish.

Additionally, live baits such as minnows or shiners on a slip bobber rig can be effective, especially when other lures are not producing results.

Anglers fishing for zander in Alkali Lake are recommended to use these lures and baits to increase their chances of success.

Boating and Fishing Access

Boating and fishing access in Alkali Lake can be facilitated through the two improved boat ramps available for public use at Spiritwood Lake. These ramps provide convenient access for anglers to launch their boats and explore the waters of Alkali Lake in search of zander. However, it is important for anglers to be aware of the fishing regulations in place to protect the zander population. Practice selective harvesting by keeping fish under 20 inches and releasing larger fish, especially females, to ensure the sustainability of the species. Additionally, kayaks are recommended for fishing in Alkali Lake, as there are no boat launching ramps specifically for this purpose. Kayak fishing allows anglers to silently navigate the waters, increasing their chances of success in catching zander.

Conservation and Record

Conservation efforts in North Dakota focus on preserving the zander population by implementing selective harvesting methods and promoting the release of larger fish, particularly females, to maintain the sustainability of the species. Selective harvesting practices involve keeping zander under 20 inches in length and releasing larger individuals to allow them to reproduce and contribute to the population. This approach ensures that the zander population remains healthy and abundant in the lakes.

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Additionally, trophy zander catches, such as the North Dakota and US record zander caught in Spiritwood Lake, serve as a testament to the success of these conservation efforts. Anglers are encouraged to practice catch and release, especially with larger fish, to protect the future of zander fishing in North Dakota.

Through these conservation measures, zander populations can thrive and provide sustainable recreational opportunities for anglers.

Comparison to Walleye

Zander and walleye, although similar in appearance, are distinct species of fish that share the same order, family, and genus, having diverged approximately 12 million years ago. While zander and walleye may look alike, there are notable differences between them in terms of taste and behavior.

In terms of taste, zander and walleye are often considered to be excellent food fish with a similar flavor. Both species have firm, white flesh that is mild and delicate, making them popular choices for culinary purposes.

When it comes to behavior, zander and walleye also exhibit some differences. Zander are known for their predatory nature, with plenty of teeth for catching and consuming their prey. On the other hand, walleye are known for their ambush hunting technique, often hiding in wait before striking their prey.

Overall, while zander and walleye may share similarities in appearance, their taste and behavior set them apart as distinct species of fish.

Teeth and Characteristics

The teeth of zander, including their long, fang-like upper and lower canines, are sharp and pointed, allowing anglers to use thin fluorocarbon instead of wire for fishing.

Zander are known for their predatory behavior, and their teeth play a crucial role in capturing and consuming their prey. These teeth enable zander to grasp and hold onto their prey securely, making them efficient hunters.

The sharpness and pointedness of their teeth also allow anglers to use thinner fishing lines, such as fluorocarbon, without the need for wire leaders. This not only makes fishing for zander more convenient and practical, but it also provides a more natural presentation for the bait or lure.

The teeth of zander exemplify the adaptive nature of this species and contribute to their success as formidable predators in their habitats.

Relation to Pike and Perch

Zander and perch, although distant relatives belonging to the same family of fish, are not related to pike. The relationship between zander and perch is often misunderstood due to their similar appearance and belonging to the same family. Some people have speculated that zander could be a hybrid between pike and perch, but this is not scientifically proven. The hybridization debate surrounding zander is an interesting aspect of their evolutionary history. It is believed that zander and walleye, despite their similarities, are separate species that diverged about 12 million years ago. This evolutionary separation has led to slight differences in their appearance and behavior. Understanding the evolutionary history and relationship between zander, perch, and pike can provide valuable insights into the fascinating world of fish species and their adaptations.

Zander Perch
Distant relatives Distant relatives
Predatory fish Omnivorous fish
Teeth with fang-like canines Small, pointed teeth
Resemble pike in size and perch in appearance Compact body with vertical stripes
Not related to pike Not related to zander and walleye

Zander and Walleye Differences

One important distinction between zander and walleye lies in their historical relationship and evolutionary divergence. While zander and walleye share the same order, family, and genus, they are two different species of fish. Zander and walleye used to be one species that separated about 12 million years ago.

In terms of differences in behavior and feeding habits, zander and walleye exhibit some variations. Zander are known to be more aggressive predators compared to walleye. They have a voracious appetite and are often found in deeper waters, preying on smaller fish and crustaceans.

On the other hand, walleye are known for their more cautious and stealthy hunting techniques. They tend to ambush their prey, often positioning themselves near structures or in areas with low light conditions.

These differences in behavior and feeding habits contribute to the unique characteristics and ecological roles of zander and walleye in their respective habitats.


In conclusion, zander, a predatory fish species primarily found in Europe and western Eurasia, have also been introduced to two lakes in North Dakota, Spiritwood Lake and Alkali Lake. Conservation efforts, such as selective harvesting, are being practiced to preserve the zander population.

Anglers can use various fishing techniques and lures to catch zander, with Alkali Lake being the ideal fishing location.

It is important to note that zander and walleye are two distinct species, although they may appear similar in appearance.

Overall, the presence of zander in the US adds to the diversity of fish species in North Dakota.

About the author

Kimberly is an experienced angler and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for all things fishing. She has been honing her skills on the water for over 7 years, mastering various techniques and tactics for both freshwater and saltwater fishing.

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