July 12, 2011
By Jeff Simpson
Sauger are common in many riverine environments throughout the natural and extended range of their larger cousin, the walleye. Unlike walleye, however, sauger often are ignored. Worse, they're sometimes considered a nuisance. If you've never given sauger a fair chance, here are a couple reasons to reconsider. They bite well when walleyes won't. And they bite aggressively. Before you can catch them, though, you have to find them.
When: Winter and Spring
Tackle: Rod: 6- to 6-1/2-foot medium-power spinning rod. Reel: medium-capacity spinning reel with a long-cast spool. Line: 6- to 10-pound-test abrasion-resistant mono.
Location: Big sauger in rivers don't hold with the small boys. Smaller sauger generally inhabit the deepest available pools, holes, or main-river basin areas. Bigger sauger (over 3 pounds) cruise the same haunts walleyes frequent, but arrive and feed on these spots early or late in the day, or for more extended periods on nasty, windy, precipitous days. Look for the biggest sauger at the head of structural elements like gravel bars, sandbars, points, holes, and humps. They also hold to the current side of structural elements more than walleyes do, and they inhabit areas of current that walleyes avoid.
In reservoirs, sauger inhabit flats near main-lake points in winter. Typically, they're belly to bottom on sand, gravel, or rubble in the 30- to 40-foot range. In deep western reservoirs, sauger tend to tuck into the first one or two coves of main creek arms behind major points on the main body of the reservoir. The portion of the reservoir sauger choose depends on water clarity and the proximity of prime spawning habitat in adjoining creek arms or on main-lake shorelines. The upper end of a reservoir tends to be the most turbid, but the best spawning habitat may be nearer the dam.
Presentation: The biggest sauger in any given area tend to position in or near slight to moderate current at the head of structures. If possible, position the boat by anchoring abreast of these key locations. Cast above and beyond them, dragging or popping the jig downstream and across the element, which keeps the jig in the sauger's line of vision for the longest possible time. Where current allows, positioning with a trolling motor while casting works as well or better. In reservoirs, dragging a jig across the flats usually triggers more fish. Experiment with erratic retrieves, but keep your jig moving slowly on or just above the bottom where sauger feed.