By JOHN WISSE|
COLUMBUS, Ohio - As anglers await the arrival of spring fishing season there are good opportunities to enjoy saugeye fishing during winter.
The saugeye is a hybrid fish produced from the crossbreeding of a female walleye with a male sauger. Saugeyes are found in more than 50 Ohio lakes and often caught during winter by anglers fishing in the tailwaters below a lake dam. These fish also readily feed in cold temperatures, but can be caught anytime of the year.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife began experimenting with initial releases of saugeyes in Deer Creek Reservoir in Pickaway County and in Pleasant Hill Reservoir in Richland County during the early 1980s. The success of these experimental releases eventually led to expansion of Ohio's saugeye management program.
Today, saugeyes are raised by the Division of Wildlife at its Hebron, Senecaville, and St. Marys fish hatcheries. Yearly production ranges from five to ten million fish annually. Saugeyes are released annually into more than 50 inland lakes.
"The success in raising saugeyes at our hatcheries depends largely on temperatures and precipitation levels experienced during spring since these fish are raised in outdoor ponds. Climatic conditions have a direct affect on algae production in these rearing ponds, which in turn affects production of zooplankton that is the primary food source for these fish in their early stages of growth," said Ray Petering, head of hatchery operations for the Division of Wildlife.
Saugeyes are reared in hatchery ponds from early April through early June. When stocked, the fish measure only 1 to 1 1/2 inches. But by October, these same fish will measure six to ten inches and by their second year will range in size from 12 to 16 inches. The daily bag limit statewide is ten saugeyes per angler, either singly or as part of the same daily bag limit that includes a combination of saugers and walleyes.
The saugeye is a bottom-dwelling fish commonly taken in the tailwaters by anglers using lead-head jigs tipped with a minnow or shiner and bounced along the bottom. Since these fish are light-sensitive, the best fishing action occurs during early morning and evening hours on overcast days. Fishing action in the tailwaters below a dam is best about one week following a water discharge from the lake.
While most saugeyes will average one to three pounds, some of the older fish are much larger. On March 29, 1993 Daniel D'Amore, of Swanton, caught a saugeye weighing 12.42 pounds while fishing in Lake Logan in Hocking County. His fish qualified as a new state record, and an all-tackle world record as recognized by the International Game Fish Association.
Anglers looking for some top spots to go saugeye fishing this winter should try Hoover and Alum Creek reservoirs near Columbus, Pleasant Hill Reservoir, Atwood Lake, Paint Creek Lake, Caesar Creek Lake, and the Great Miami and Muskingum rivers