It's been a tough winter for ice fishermen, though that may change any day now. It's been a very good winter, however, for saugeye anglers who haunt roiling water beneath Buckeye Lake and river dams.
Saugeye anglers are having a bumper year with some taking limits of very nice fish, and plenty more picking up at least two or three. But it's an iffy business, as most kinds of angling are, and a good catch is dependent on several factors.
One is simply water. Saugeye migrate upstream at night and they don't like scraping their bellies on riffle rocks, so while a very few may appear below a dam on any given morning, the big bunches come up after the dams release water. That surge of fast moving liquid not only stirs them to migrate, it gives extra depth for easy upstream access. So, if you can find out when gates will be open and fish the next morning, you'll have much better odds.
Water clarity is important, too. If there have been heavy rains, as has happened often this winter, water flowing through the gates might look like coffee with plenty of cream. No point in fishing, then. If it's only slightly murky, go ahead and fish with something bright, maybe white, orange, or yellow. Another law of nature is that saugeye lie very close to bottom below those dams. If the water is four feet deep and you're fishing just 24 to 30 inches down, you won't catch much. It's got to be nearly in their face.
Lures vary little for these tasty walleye-sauger hybrids. A few like to fish with lightly weighted little sinking Rapalas, and that's OK, though costly if you hang up often. Some use weighted little vibrating spoons, too, but most favor inexpensive quarter ounce doll flies (jigs), sometimes just one, sometimes with another on a short side line six inches above. And if the water is fairly rapid, they might go to half ounce jigs or flies. Colors are almost traditional, white, chartreuse, yellow, even black if the water is clear.
Some saugeye anglers like to cast quartering across the stream, let it sink to near bottom, then retrieve slowly, striking at any tap or sudden resistance. Others prefer to use a float, tossing it out with a sinker on the jig, and adjusting the float until the lure will ride at proper depth. That's fine, too. But it's always a good idea to add a little taste appeal to the hook, a bit of worm or minnow if you can get some, or at least a little ball of fish scented Berkley Power Bait. Anything that makes them hold on a bit longer is always good.
Where to go is easy, too. Charles Mill Lake and Pleasant Hill Lake have been producing well lately, especially Pleasant Hill, which has turned up limit after limit of saugeye to those anglers who get there at dawn. But it's a little rigorous getting down to fishing country. Charles Mill has plenty of access, good parking, and only a short walk to casting territory.
Columbus has a whole spate of good walleye hotspots, dominated by Deer Creek. But Alum Creek has good saugeye action after water is released and good access. And Greigs Reservoir and O'Shaughnessy have fair access and better than decent fishing. Further east in District 3, anglers have been taking some good fish near the Beach City Reservoir, and Atwood Lake's tailwaters offer good access and some fair fishing. It gets a little tougher below Tappan, but this spot is worth a look.
Don't forget Wills Creek in District 4, another place with fairly limited access, but some excellent saugeye and walleye. And territory just below various dams on the Muskingum River. Some of the best saugeye fishing I've yet enjoyed came below Ohio River dams, especially the one near Wheelersburg and you can often enjoy a bonus of hard fighting hybrid stripers. It adds up to hot action on cold waters, and for many, the only game in town right now.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org n Five Marion residents were charged with a total of 114 wildlife violations recently in Marion County Municipal Court, following an investigation into an alleged regional poaching ring. Marion County Wildlife Officer Bill Runnels and others have confiscated the remains of more than 30 buck deer, 14 raccoons, two wild turkeys, and one beaver. If convicted, the suspects face possible fines and jail time. The violators may be required to pay restitution for illegally taken animals, at a minimum of $400 per deer, $300 per turkey and $50 for each furbearing animal. Firearms used in the violations may be ordered forfeited.
Fly fishermen will have two shows to enjoy this winter, one the Greater Cincinnati Fly Fishing Show held on Feb. 10 at The Receptions in Fairfield. Details are waiting atwww.buckeyeflyfishers.com. The second event is the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo March 10 and 11 at the Macomb County Community College Sports and Expo Center in Warren, Mich. For vender information, contact email@example.com.
The winds of change are blowing in the ODNR. Sam Speck, director of the Department of Natural Resources, is being replaced by 40-year-old Sean Logan, the youngest director in ODNR history. Steve Gray, chief of the Division of Wildlife, also is stepping down, planning to retire April 1. Gray, who began his career with the DOW as a law enforcement officer in 1976, has been the chief since 2003.
A Hunter Education Course will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday. Call Steve Back at 419 752 0169 or Bo Issac at (419) 744-2015. The course consist of hunter saftey, gun handling saftey, survival, bow hunting and gun hunting.