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Jigging works for summer saugeye

By DICK MARTIN • Sep 1, 2018 at 8:00 AM

The Ohio Division of Wildlife had a good idea when they decided to start stocking saugeye into many Ohio lakes and reservoirs, this is for several reasons. One, these hybrids between a walleye and a sauger thrived in lakes with often murky water like Charles Mill near Mansfield where walleye would not do well. Two, given a lake with a good forage base of gizzard shad or plentiful panfish they grow with hybrid vigor sometimes going from fingerlings to husky fish of five pounds in just three years. Three, and this is the one that counts, they're just as good eating as their relatives, the walleye and sauger. Fry some fillets golden brown in a skillet of olive oil or canola oil an you'll reach for seconds and thirds.

To make consistent catches of saugeye it's important to know their habits and while they're similar to their relatives in many ways, they differ in at least a few. The fish will lay up in deep water during the day, and come twilight fan out to forage in shallow water at night. So, use a fish finder whenever possible and then it's "seek and ye shall find." If an angler has a lake map, he or she should concentrate on good bottom structure. Saugeye love old road beds, the foundations of sunken houses, ancient stump beds, and humps off points with good bottom structure whether it be stones or downed trees. Find these and you're likely to find fish.

One of my personal favorite lake for this tasty fish is Pleasant Hill Lake. It receives good stockings of fingerlings and has a decent forage base. I always try to arrive there before daylight and when I do I'll work the marina docks which exist in just a few feet of water. As the day brightens I'll move over to the swimming beach, first casting near shore, then gradually moving out to deeper territory. Finally, I'll turn to much deeper territory near the dam and spots near the lodge. It's a plan that works most days.

How do you catch a meal of these tasty predators? They'll hit on a variety of offerings, but in late summer and early fall , jig fishing works very well. I still remember an evening spent jig fishing on Atwood Lake near New Philadelphia with a friend who guides occasionally on this fertile hotspot. He fishes almost strictly with black or dark brown jigs and tips them with a leech. "I love leeches" he said. " They're tough and wiggle non-stop when I head hook one on a jig, which gives them great eye appeal. And being so hardy, it isn't unusual to catch several fish on a single leech."

He orders his leeches from live bait dealers he's found by Googling, and keeps them in an aquarium with a couple of pumps and air stones. When he wants to fish he nets out a couple of dozen and keeps them in a container while fishing. On this trip, we started predictably on deep holes he'd found, drifting over them again and again and vertically jigging out quarter ounce offerings. Then as dusk fell he moved down to a swimming beach and we spent more time drifting back and forth long its length. End result was a good catch of saugeye and one dandy channel cat that gave my light rod a real workout. "I don't know what it is about sand beaches that they like, maybe they're hunting sand shiners or small fish." he said.

Some fishermen do their jigging with ordinary jigs holding twister tails,either casting them near shore and letting them bump bottom on the retrieve, or vertically jigging them over structure. They work, especially in colors like chartreuse, yellow, white, and black and a little experimenting will show which color they favor on a given day. But veterans know that a little extra flavor will make a fish hold on that crucial extra second or two, and the favorite flavoring is a bit of nightcrawler or a small minnow on the hook, or again a leech.

Where to fish for saugeye would entail a list too long to be printed here, but again readers can Google up the Ohio Division of Wildlife's web page, make their choices and find maps of any lake selected. Your choices will range from Alum Creek, Caesar Creek and Charles Mill to Indian Lake, Buckeye Lake, and Rocky Fork. Lots of places, lots of fish, and plenty of time to make a good catch.

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• South Bass Island will hold its annual Put-in-Bay Island Wine Festival on Oct. 6. It's a good time to sample foreign, domestic, and island wines while enjoying good food all day long. Visitors can tour the Put-in-Bay Winery and participate in a silent auction. Admission comes with a free souvenir wine glass. There's also an Oak Harbor Apple Festival on Oct. 13 and 14 that draws at least 25,000 visitors each fall. It's worth a visit.

• Squirrel hunting has always been a popular sport in Ohio. According to the Division of Wildlife, 23.7 percent of those who responded to their survey hunted squirrels last year. They harvested a season average of 3.6 fox squirrels and 3.3 greys. About 70 percent hunted private land, and 16 percent hunted both private and public, with a further 13 percent hunting public land only.

• Anglers and boaters looking to launch at the Mazurik Boat Access should be aware that the boat ramp and parking lot area will be temporarily closed beginning Monday, September 10, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The ODNR Division of Wildlife will be sealcoating the parking lot beginning at 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10. The project is scheduled to be completed by 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13. During this time, no vehicles will be permitted on the access. The Mazurik Boat Access is located at 8957 East Northshore Blvd, Lakeside Marblehead, 43440. Boaters looking for a public access ramp are encouraged to visit East Harbor State Park, located at 1169 North Buck Road, Lakeside, 43440. This improvement project is made possible by monies generated from the Boater-Angler Fund, a state tax on fuel that motorboat users pay to provide better access to Ohio’s waterways.


Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.

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