Of all of my wonderful memories of Christmas days gone by the ones that stand out the most in my mind are when my dad and his best friend would whisk me away to the Ohio river and we'd spend all day sauger fishing. I don't know if it was because we were catching so many fish or because we didn't have enough sense to realize exactly how cold we were, but we could stay out there for hours.
Just downstream from the dam at Cannelton it seemed the sauger supply was never-ending. The flow of water around a dam in the fall and winter always draws the sauger in close. Since this year has been extremely dry in Kentucky, when the rain starts falling over the next couple of months it will be a great sign that good sauger fishing times have arrived.
We always used bright colored jigs with lead heads and twisting tail grubs. Sauger very closely related to walleye, and like walleye they prefer brighter colors such as chartreuse, orange, white, or bright patterns and they don't usually stay where there's too much sunlight getting deep in the water.
You'll need some weight on your line to help hold your rig close to the bottom of the river. Experiment with the size of your sinker to adjust for the current and how long your bait hovers in an area before it's pulled out of that sweet zone, and don't forget to take extras because you may lose a few.
We'd let the rig bump the bottom then reel it back up 10 or 12 inches. By combining the ripple of the water with a slow up and down movement of the rod, experiment with the presentation that helps you boat that sauger.
There are days however when trying artificial rig after rig just doesn't produce like you wish it would. You can try small minnow-looking crank baits or soft plastics which sometimes work. But for the days when all else fails, don't forget to take along some minnows. They just might save the day!
A good medium action rod and line somewhere in the 8 to 12 lb. test range is all you'll need, just enough to handle the weight you're using on your line and to land your fish.
Don't forget about safety if you're fishing around a dam. Be aware of the currents and how fast they are moving you if you're not securely anchored. You don't want to find yourself in a bad position that you could have easily avoided.
If you haven't tried sauger, I will tell you that it's in the top group of my favorite fishes with a slightly sweet, not-too-fishy taste that reminds me a little of roughy.
If you haven't tried sauger fishing, the weeks and months ahead are choice. Hopefully, Kentucky will pick up with a more normal weather pattern and sauger fishing will really start to kick in. If you decide to try it and hit one of those days that you can't pull 'em in fast enough, just remember to say thanks to my dad.