What do you get when you mix a walleye’s penchant for growing big with a sauger’s fondness for dirty water? The saugeye–a hybrid created by crossing a female walleye with a male sauger. Often confused with their parental species, saugeyes typically have dark brown backs with darker saddle–shaped markings like a sauger, and a white tip on the lower tip of the tail like a walleye. Saugeyes also have a continuous black blotch at the base of the dorsal fin, while sauger have rows of distinct black spots. These mud-loving fish are gaining popularity with fishery managers looking for stocking options and anglers seeking fast action and big fish. Here’s a look at where and how to catch saugeye
Rod: 6- to 7 1/2-foot fast-action spinning rod.
Reel: medium-capacity spinning reel with a long-casting spool.
Line: 8- to 12-pound-test mono.
Saugeye are more tolerant of warm water than walleyes, and are particularly suited to life in turbid reservoirs. While they usually don’t reproduce with another saugeye, they are not a sterile hybrid and are capable of reproducing with either parent stock. Saugeyes often run upriver in winter and spring, stacking in tailwaters below dams. As the water warms in late spring, many disperse back downstream into shallow, turbid reservoirs. In muddy reservoirs without much current, riprap areas along the face of the lower dam may attract and concentrate spawning saugeyes when the water temperature reaches the mid-40F to mid-50F range. Later in the season, prominent structures meeting the old river channel are key spots. Focus on the drop-off edge, but don’t be afraid to fish shallow flats, particularly if the water’s muddy.
Most classic walleye rigs and presentations work for saugeyes, but jigs tipped with livebait are particularly effective. Starting at ice-out, drift minnow-tipped jigs close to the bottom. Like saugers, saugeyes often ignore a bait presented more than a few inches off the bottom, so use enough weight to maintain bottom contact. As fish move into their summer locations, drift jigs tipped with a piece of night crawler across rocky points and reefs. Numbers of fish have been caught by trolling crankbaits around points above the thermocline. In other regions, shorecasting weighted minnowbaits just before dark has produced enough state-record-class fish to quickly become the favorite big-fish technique.