Years ago, I frequently fished the tailraces below a river dam for sauger. When I first lstarted fishing this area, I was rather clueless to the proper methods of fishing it. This particular tailrace had a pier below it, and during the late fall and winter months it was usually filled with anglers. My first approach involved finding an available spot on the pier, and slowly dragging a heavy jig across the bottom. As I looked down the pier, I noticed an angler pulling in sauger with every cast. “The bite is on!” I thought to myself. Both anglers on either side of him also started pulling in fish with every cast. For the next half hour or so, the three “lucky” anglers continued to pull fish after fish over the pier while the 15 of us down from them caught nothing. I began to wonder why the only fish being caught was at this far end of the pier. As the evening progressed, the next group of anglers down the pier began to catch fish. This trend continued until finally, I felt a distinctive tap on my jig and hooked my first fish of the evening. It was almost dark by then, and I caught a limit of fish within an hour. I fished this pier alot that winter, and found that the fish behaved the same way every day. One day I arrived early and had the pier to myself. I dropped my jig to the bottom at the end where I first saw fish being caught that day. This end was very deep! I checked the depth all the way down the pier and found that it became progressively shallower. I reached the spot on the pier where I caught my limit, and found out that it was only 5 feet. Something clicked on that day. I realized that these fish were moving shallower as the daylight decreased. I applied this knowledge to reservior and lake saugeyes and have found that the same holds true.
Saugeyes seem to seek out a certain amount of light, and to understand this amount of light, we must think like a fish and imagine being in their under water environment. Picture a bright calm sunny day and the time is around 1pm. The location is the deep end of the lake, near the dam. The sun shines brightly through the water column. During a moment like this, saugeyes will tend to be feeding in deeper water, possibly 20+ft deep, and relative to how deep the surrounding water is.
Now lets consider a different location, same time, same day, and the same lake. This time our saugeye is located in a shallow feeder creek, about 5 feet at the deepest spot. It rained hard the previous day and the water is very muddy. The muddy water counters the powerful sunlight and gives the saugeye the perfect lighting for feeding time.
Our third example is the same lake and at the feeder creek. On this particular day the creek is clear and the sky sunny. Around 4pm, a front approaches. The sky suddenly becomes darker and the wind roughens the water’s surface. Rain begins to fall on the surface, making it even harder for light to penetrate. The front darkens the water once too bright, and feeding time begins!
This last example is the same lake and on a shallow bar, roughly 8 feet. The sky is partly cloudy and the wind is calm. The time is 3pm. Overhanging trees line the shoreline, creating lots of shade and blocking out the sun. The saugeye move to this shaded area to feed.
To break this down, consider these 6 factors; Time of day, cloud cover, wind, shade, precipitation, and water clarity. When thought out carefully, these factors can help you decide where to fish at the right times and the right conditions. Keep track of weather reports for the day you plan to fish and the days previous as well. With the proper game plan, and if you’re willing to be mobile throughout the day, all day catches are even possible.
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