by | Apr 24, 2017 | 0 comments

“We really pounded the saugers today!”

Well, that could mean several things: 1) You really caught the mother lode; 2) you banged bottom with heavy lures to trigger strikes; or 3) both!

Saugers are often plentiful in dirty rivers, or in deep, dark holes immediately below dams on large rivers like the Missouri or Mississippi. Where the water is clearer and shallower, not so muWhat Makes Sauger Different?

As a species, saugers are extremely light-sensitive, doing everything they can to avoid high light penetration levels and areas, almost like aquatic vampires. Thus they often dig down deep into the most cavernous depths available, lying belly to the bottom, praying that the sun doesn’t come out and give them a headache.

Saugers have distinctively dark, splotchy markings on their bodies, and black spots on their dorsal fin. The traditional white-tipped tail found on walleyes is absent. When you see one for the first time, it looks like a walleye in disguise—perhaps an adaptation to deep, dark environments.

Saugers are, however, more than deep-dwelling, pint-sized versions of their larger cousin, the walleye. They are ferocious little beasts that feed aggressively when provoked; yet for some odd reason, they seldom grow to anything resembling walleye size.

Tactics for Catching Sauger

The easiest way to catch saugers is to vertically jig using a large, heavy jig of ¾- to 1-ounce—occasionally larger. Could be soft plastic. Could be hair or feathers. Mostly, folks tend to also tip the jig with a minnow to sweeten the deal with scent and taste, helping fish to locate it in the murk.

It makes sense to use a heavy jig to get down to 30 or 40 feet, where necessary, plunging into the sauger zone.  A heavy jig maintains feel and control in the abyss. Especially where there’s some current to deal with.

But what about the small size of the fish’s mouth, being that the average sauger may only be a pound or less? Can they even fit a big jig between their lips and into their mouths?

Somehow or other, they manage to do so, no problem. Probably because saugers tend to pounce and pummel a passing jig as it hops on and off bottom, drifting downcurrent.
So basically, it’s pretty much like you’re fishing for small walleyes in deep, dingy water, using a big jig. Doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

Occasionally, you’ll find lakes that produce fairly large sauger of 3 to 4 pounds, like Sakakawea or Fort Peck along the Missouri River. The same waters also produce the odd hybrid crossbreed between sauger and walleye, appropriately named saugeyes. These critters are also pretty light sensitive, tending to feed at night, in muddy water, or deep down below.

You’ll catch your fair share of decent, 2- to 3-pound sauger on the Upper Mississippi, and especially the Illinois River in west-central Illinois. But again, the average fish tends to be on the puny side. Go up to Lake of the Woods and dangle a baited line through the ice, and you’ll likely catch a bunch.

They’re fun. They’re feisty. And they eat about as well as walleyes … as long as you don’t mind taking numerous small bites. It might take several fish to put together a meal. And if your spouse or kids expect to eat, too, you’d better bring home your limit. Otherwise, someone’s getting mostly potatoes and onions for dinner.

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