About the time hunters are heading to the woods for deer gun season, some hardy anglers are preparing their equipment for sauger fishing.
When the weather starts cooling significantly, maybe even getting lousy, that’s when sauger fishermen begin their season. It almost seems the worse the weather, the better for sauger fishing.
Sauger are a slightly smaller cousin to the walleye, and primarily are a river fish. They can be caught anywhere, anytime in rivers and streams, but the best fishing comes with cold weather. Sauger congregate below dams, and that’s the best time to catch them. Most people don’t start fishing for sauger until the water temperature has dropped to the 40’s.
Often I’ve picked ice out of the eyes of my rod when fishing for sauger. They seem to love the cold water and cold, winter weather.
Sauger can be unpredictable. An angler can head out before daylight and have only two or three bites during a day-long effort, and another time, fish can be caught by the dozens -- although the limit is six.
Sauger are long and thin with dark backs, brassy sides, dark spots and a pale belly They have a forked tail with a pale streak at the bottom edge. Some sauger have a black spot on their body near where the pectoral fin attaches.
Most people can’t tell a sauger from a walleye. Their shape is similar, but the sauger usually is smaller. The best way to tell the difference is by looking at the dorsal (top) fin. The sauger has spots in this fin, and the walleye does not.
Sauger are found in some large lakes, but mostly in streams, and often may be in the same water with walleye. Sauger prefer cloudy, moving water, and can be caught in streams, such as the Ohio River throughout winter months.
Indiana’s state record for sauger is a six-pound, one-ounce fish taken from the Tippecanoe River by Mark Bigger back in 1983, and the world record is an eight-pound,12-ounce fish caught in 1971 in North Dakota.
Some anglers use minnows for sauger, other use jigs, and some use a combination. For me, it’s whatever seems to work.
They bite much like their cousins--the walleye. Often you feel a light “tap, tap, tap”, and sometimes you can sense the fish has taken the bait or lure into its mouth, but hasn’t attempted to swallow the bait or swim away.
Fishing usually is best on the Ohio River when the water level is near pool stage, and the water is relatively clean with little or no floating debris.
While sauger can be caught from the bank, a boat can enhance the chances of catching fish. A boat provides more options for finding the fish. Where you find one, you probably will find more.
In Indiana, good fishing can be found below the Cannelton and Newburg dams as well as the area around the Falls of the Ohio. In the north central part of the state, the Tippecanoe River is a good stream, and stocking and restoration work has been done on the sauger population in both the East and West forks of the White River.