“They are on the move” the man said to me, as we passed in the isle lined with displays of jigs and crankbaits. “Are you talking about the saugeye?” I asked. “Yep, they are cruising the banks just below the dam,” he replied. “Want to show me exactly where that is?” I asked. “Hah!” was his answer. So I left the small bait shop found two miles from the “secret location”, with information that was already obvious. The increase in angler population lining up along the spillway and for two miles in various locations downriver of the dam, exposed where the saugeye were offering some action.
Wading rivers and other tributaries in Ohio, especially in northern Ohio along Lake Erie, is the preferred technique to catch steelhead and walleye. Further south, the saugeye is a hybrid that is hatched and stocked by the Ohio Department of Natural Resource’s Division of Wildlife. The saugeye offers thousands of anglers the opportunity to fish for a “migrating” type of fish similar to the fish noted above, by wading and casting and as summer approaches, switch to the reservoirs.
Here They Are
Saugeye are adaptable as most hybrids. Any human-assisted species does not have a native wish of habitat, but instead, what or where they are introduced becomes their home. The saugeye has characteristics of both parent species. The saugeye prefers to run the tailwaters and tributaries of reservoirs similar to the walleye in the spring. The saugeye also thrives in lakes and reservoirs comparable to the sauger that inhabits the Ohio River.
Alum Creek, located in central Ohio, is the home of Ohio’s state record saugeye – 12.84 pounds, 28 ¾ inches. Buckeye and Indian Lakes provide the saugeye angler with fine opportunities for a catch anytime of the year. In the Eastern third of the state, Tappan and Piedmont Lakes is the preferred fishery for saugeye. The Muskingum River, which travels south over half the state’s length, is a favorite for saugeye all seasons.
The rip-rap that lines the dam’s spillways attracts saugeye early in the year and will hold fish on into early summer. Once the water warms to late spring to summer temperatures, the saugeye will disperse into the lakes. The saugeye is a fish that prefers structure as a place to hang out and to ambush its feed. To prove its adaptability, the saugeye will survive and thrive in most waters found in Ohio.
Lure Of Affection
Selecting the proper lure for saugeye is not a tough task. Since the saugeye feeds on many of the same forage fish that bass do, selecting bass-catching lures will do the trick. But, in the spring, jigs tipped with minnows are the desired setup. Fishing jigs along the rip-rap areas directly below a dam will catch most saugeye.
If spring rains have stirred the water giving it a muddy or heavily stained color, fish a jig across the bottom. Especially when fishing a tailwater directly below a dam, which is almost always muddy in the spring, focus your bait to the bottom. The muddier the water, the closer to the bottom the saugeye will be. As the spring progresses and the tailwaters stabilize, begin to tip jigs with nightcrawlers or switch to a worm harness style rigging.
Lake fishing in the spring for saugeye should be concentrated to old roadbeds and other underwater structures. The original creek channel of the lake will be the center of most saugeye action until the water begins to warm. Bouncing worm tipped jigs along these areas will produce some action. If the water is stained or remains muddy, choose a black action-tailed type lure for success. Concentrate the presentation of a black or dark colored jig to the shallower areas of the lake or river, the muddier the water, the shallower the saugeye will be.
As spring progresses to summer, saugeye will spread out in a lake. They will search out structure similar to the bass. This characteristic provides results for the angler who offers crankbaits. Casting small crankbaits, less than three inches, imitates the shad, which is the preferred feed during this time. When the temperatures begin to hit and remain in the summer temperatures of over 70°, trolling a worm harness with forward spinners through lakes and reservoirs (similar to walleye trolling) produce saugeye action.
It’s not a secret that saugeye fishing is gaining recognition by Ohio anglers. Either by talking with fellow anglers at the local bait shop or experimentally jigging and casting on your own, the chances of saugeye success is good in the buckeye state. Just as its parents, the walleye and sauger, the saugeye’s popularity comes from the exciting fishing and fillets that it provides in many of Ohio’s waters.