Finicky Cold Water Saugeyes From The Shore

For some, cold wintery weather can destroy an angler’s motivation to fish. Summer is over, and the days of warm sunshine and green shorelines are gone as well and are replaced with a dull landscape. However, winter can provide excellent fishing oppurtunites. Many species of fish tend to school up at this time. If you can find them, big catches are possible. Dressing warm is absolutely important, and a good thermos full of coffee helps as well.
Presentation becomes extremely important as the temperature dips to fridgid conditions. In most cases, I’ve found that presentation needs to become slower. However, there are exceptions to this. Sometimes the fish really turn on and will strike at a more aggressive retrieve. When the fish prefer slower presentations I have found that they can become finicky. Let me rephrase that, EXTREMELY finicky. I found this out by fishing a very popular fishing hole. Two anglers down the shore from me were catching fish, yet I had yet to even get a strike. I tied on the exact same bait that they were using which was an 1/8th ounce jig with a 3 inch chartruce grub, yet I still could not get that tap on the end of the line I was patiently waiting for. My patience was dwindling, as I knew that this bite could end at any moment. If I wanted to catch anything, I had to act fast. I tried slowing down my presentation and still did not succeed. Finally, I carefully watched the angler beside me and copied his presentation, same speed, same lift, same everything. I was immediately rewarded with a sharp tap at the end of my line and instantly set the hook. I caught two saugeyes that day before the bite abruptly stopped. Attention to detail is so important this time of year, and I’ve found that I’ve had be willing to experiment with different presentations to find out exactly what the fish want. What worked yesterday may not work today. Bait size, weight, and type of bait are critical factors as well. Some days it seems they won’t bite unless I tip my jig with a minnow.

As for location, I’ve had luck around deeper water in the winter. Drop offs and large shallow areas near drop offs have worked for me. Spillways are another great option.

Winter has always been one of my favorite times to fish. Not the most comfortable time, but at times it has been very rewarding.

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An Opinion on Weather and Saugeyes

“The best time to fish for saugeyes is when you have time to go”. I agree with this statement, as I have caught fish on sunny days, rainy days,  and during all different types of barometric pressure. My best catches usually occurred when I had the time to fish every day and was able to stay in tune with the bite and be on the water when that hot bite comes along.
However, over time I did observe some patterns relating to weather. I didn’t find these observations to always be true, but I found them to be true often enough that I always take them into consideration. One condition I always consider is the passing of a weather front, cold fronts especially. In the spring, cold fronts sometimes have a drastic effect on fish. However, I have at times noticed some good fishing BEFORE the front arrives. Also after ice out and in the spring, I’ve noticed positive changes during any time that the weather becomes warmer, especially if it lasts for a few days. 

In the fall and winter, it seems that the opposite occurs. I’ve enjoyed some good bites right before a cold front, during cold fronts, and the days following cold fronts. I’ve fished in some nasty weather during the fall and at times it really seems to get the fish fired up. My rule of thumb for fall fishing is the nastier and colder the weather, the better the fishing gets. 

One last thing I want to mention is out of the ordinary weather. I remember one fall season where it rained excessively. It rained so much that there was flooding everywhere. One spot that I frequently fished was so flooded that the lake water rose almost 10 feet. This spot was a feeder stream on a reservior. I was absolutely disgusted with this and was sure that the fall season was ruined, as everyone I knew was not catching anything anywhere. After a few days I returned to this spot and couldn’t believe what I saw. The water was sparkling and boiling with baitfish. There had to of been millions of them! The fish were there with them, and completely stacked! I immediately threw out a jerkbait and got a strike on the first cast and reeled in a healthy 18 inch saugeye. The next cast was successful as well. I got bit on almost every single cast, only keeping the best fish and ended up with a nice limit of 18-24 inch fish. This was by far the hottest saugeye bite I ever experienced and it lasted for almost a month.

The best time to fish is when you have time to go, but I do always consider weather conditions especially when my time is limited. Fishing at prime times can help and put more fish on the stringer.

 For updates on future posts, like our facebook page Masters of Saugeye.