Fishing isn’t easy in February. Most fish hunker down in deep holes and won’t even acknowledge one of those $19.95 television lures that claim you can catch a new state record out of your kitchen sink.
What’s an angler to do? Either sit at home or head to the state’s big rivers for prime sauger fishing.
Sauger are a toothy, mottled fish that resemble their more famous cousin, the walleye. Sauger have firm, white flesh highly prized by anglers fishing for the dinner table. These fish are normally hard to locate and catch. However, sauger begin moving upriver as water temperatures drop below the 60s in the fall. They may travel 100 miles or more in a month. Sauger congregate in large schools in tailrace areas below dams as they await water temperatures to rise into the low 50s–the best temperature for spawning–in late March.
“When spawning is done, they disappear quick,” says fisheries biologist Doug Henley.
Savvy anglers know the pre-spawn months of February and March are the best times to catch a stringer of sauger.
“When they’re really stacked up, you’re going to catch a lot of fish,” says Jim Axon, assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Sauger are a bottom-dwelling fish that feed on shad, minnows, and small drum. Anglers catch sauger on 2- to 3-inch curly tailed grubs, paddle-tail shad baits, and lead-head jigs tipped with small minnows fished near the bottom. Preferred colors for baits include white, chartreuse, and other fluorescent hues.
Good places to fish include tailrace areas below Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake, and below dams on the Ohio River. Several tailrace areas are accessible to anglers on foot.
For more information on where to fish on the Ohio River, call the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife at (800) 858-1549 and ask for the Ohio River Fishing Guide. Also consult your fishing guide for information about the fish consumption advisory for the river.
Biologists and technicians spend the year determining fish populations in lakes and rivers across the state. See what they’ve learned in the 2003 Fishing Forecast. The forecast gives anglers a good idea of the best places to fish for a particular species. Call (800) 858-1549 for your own copy of the forecast, or visit www.kyafield.com on the Internet and look under the fishing section.