: How to catch saugeye?

Scott Richardson
05-21-2003, 08:23 PM
We have a 900 acre lake near here with incredible saugeye. It holds the state record of 9 pounds, 10.5 ounces. DNR recently netted one 11 pounds, 1 ounce, another over the state record and one just a meal shy of it. Needless to say it's worth taking time to learn to pattern them year around.

We use jigs and minnows and crawlers, spinner rigs and crawlers, Lindy rigs and cast crankbaits. There are no long flats to troll.

The electroshocking surveys take place at night and only reach fish about 6 feet down. But, I've noticed they seem to be shallower than one would expect even in bright daylight.

I know some states, particularly Ohio, have been stocking saugeyes extensively and for a long time. I was wondering if people who have experience with them could share some of their insights on locations, behavior and tactics.

05-21-2003, 08:27 PM
Same as Walleyes!!! from the ones that I have caught.

05-21-2003, 08:47 PM

Our Saugeyes (Illinois) are predominantly river fish... So, we pattern them like Walleye.... However, I believe you will find they tend to hold to the bottom closer (yes it's posssible) than pure Walleyes (just my opinion). They also seem to be more current sensitive, more active when there is some current... My impression is that they act more like Sauger than Walleye. But, as I said, this is all "anecdotal" and based on my experiences and impresions. And, as far as the MOST successful pattern... green dynamite, short fuse fished "fast"!!!!

Well ...
05-21-2003, 08:49 PM
Most of my experience is on deeper lakes. Generally the saugers will be the next level down from the walleyes. If there is no "next level down" because the lake is too shallow, then they will pretty well mix with the walleyes, but at the deeper end of what the walleyes are inhabiting.

We catch them using the same tactics we use for walleyes and it works fine ... bottom bouncing and vertical jigging.

05-21-2003, 09:28 PM
Many people fish for them like they were walleyes and for good reason, it seems to work. However I've caught them in clear, shallow,(4-6ft.)water in the middle of a hot, cloudless, windless, summer day. This was in a res. Don't ask me. Thats not the first pattern to come to mind for most any fish. I'm no fish bio, but I think saugeyes, being a hybrid, respond to the water conditions in less predictable ways. It seems that most info on saugeyes is river oriented where their habits seem to be more predictable. Could probably say that about most river fish. Reservoir saugeyes can sometimes seem to turn up anywhere at anytime. Blades work well.

05-22-2003, 04:08 AM
S-Eyes ...

I live on Indian Lake, Ohio (5800 acres) a shallow canal Res. They primarly stay glued to the bottom and when Active move onto one to four feet humps, points & shore-lines to feed. The smelt/dink size under 16"es can usually be caught easily in deeper water on blades, jigs & etc along with a occasional larger neutral Eye. Our Bass Anglers catch more of the Gals than the guys that fish for them like Walleye or Sauger. I usually find mostly the Eater size 16-21"es on top of the humps & the gals 5 to 9 lb on the edges of the break-lines or shorelines when Active. I like to use PBs w/cranks for locating & then flatlining sinking R-traps with boat control for working the breaks for the gals.

Here's a interesting article by a I-friend:
Shallow water, deep bodied saugeye... "Go Thin to Win!" by Jim Corey

There's no one simple answer to your Q, as their are a multitude of Methods & Apps used to chase these toothy critter & vary from lake to lake .. I've been chasin' them since our lake since it was converted from Walleye to Saugeye for over 10 years now.

"Just Remember" that the way to communicate with the fish is to drop them a line ;-)

05-22-2003, 05:02 AM
I'm sure someone will get them dialed in at the GNWC state championship Scott. You are coming out to watch the weigh-ins aren't you? I'll take you out in the boat for a while if you want to shoot some photos and maybe fish a little.

05-22-2003, 06:04 AM
I was born and raised on the same lake that Erie is talking about, and lives on. So this shallow lake is the only one I know how to fish. It is a ball to chase them down and find them. There are holes, in our lake that range between 12 and 16 ft. That is what we refer to as the nursury. This is also the gravy spot to catch these fish and as Erie said they are small. The bigger fish look for structure. On this lake it my be a differance in the bottom of 6 inches or less. They also use the skinny water a lot. I would guess this has to do with an easy meal. This past Sunday I was trolling in 2.5FOW at 4mph along the pad lines. What I found was 3 moving stumps. They are a fun fish to go after and are a close cousin to the Walleye. But are in many ways very, very different. Good luck in your chase of these great toothy fish.

General rule of thumb
05-22-2003, 06:51 AM
"Saugeyes don't have thumbs!"

"Although live bait is a great way to target Saugeyes, you will tend to catch smaller average sizes than with most artificials. The mass, not the size, of the lure or bait is what is sensed by fish through the use of their lateral lines. A 1/4 ounce jig with a minnow or plastic tail moves and disturbs more water due to it's larger mass than a similar sized live bait. Live bait seems to be your best bet in extremely tough conditions such as cold fronts. I take live bait to every tournament I fish, as a backup, but rarely use it. I would bet on well chosen and presented artificials to out produce live bait at least 80 % of the time for Saugeyes."

05-22-2003, 07:09 AM
Saugeye vs Walleye by Jim Corey

The one thing about Ohio Saugeyes that seems to hold true is that they are DEFINITELY not Walleyes, Lol. The techniques used up on Erie are poor producers on the inland lake Saugeyes. Those techniques can however, be adapted to work very well. The main difference between the habits of the two seems to be that a Walleye can suspend and still be actively feeding, making open water trolling a great producer, while when Saugeye suspend, you may as well go home. They are much more bottom related than Walleye when active. "Belly-to-the-bottom" is what they seem to prefer. Trolling produces when the bait or lure is kept in a strict zone, sometimes only inches from the bottom or digging. The thing that makes drifting a poor inland lake method is the habit of the Saugeyes to use specific contour depths on given days or times. If you find fish at 9 feet somewhere on a lake, the odds are that 9 feet is where you should be targeting and I mean 9 feet, not 7 or 11. With the irregular bottom contours of our inland lakes, drifting only puts your bait near the fish when you happen to cross that specific depth contour. Erie Walleyes often gather in schools miles long and can be staggered throughout the water column from the bottom to very near the surface.The high percentage presentations for our inland Saugeyes center around more depth specific methods like jigs, jigging spoons, bladebaits, bait rigs, bottom bouncers and harnesses, or contour trolling close to the bottom. Another difference is the Saugeyes apparent preference for shallow water. There are more huge Saugeyes caught accidently by the Bass anglers here than by Saugeye fishermen These 8#+ fish can run the banks in water less than a foot deep, in August, with little or no wind, and in bright sunlight. If the food is there, the Saugeyes can be there too, regardless of the light penetration. (This doesn't seem to hold true in some of our deeper inland lakes where the Saugeyes can be caught in 60 feet of water or more. In these lakes the Saugeyes seem more apt to move shallow at night and follow more traditional Walleye patterns.) Of course Walleyes can do this too but I believe that they are more easily turned off by light penetration than are Saugeyes. Saugeyes also seem much harder to pattern and predict than Walleyes. When Walleyes are holding off rocky points on the windward side of a lake Saugeyes might be cruising in 2 feet of water, in back bays, over mud bottom along the edges of lilly pads. When Walleyes are in deep water and need finesse presentations, Saugeyes might be best approached by speed trolling (up to 5mph) over shallow flats less than 3 feet deep. After saying this, I will say also, that the Saugeye's most dominant chacteristic is their ability to make fools out of fishermen. I have seen them, on occasion, come to the top and slam jerkbaits over 20 feet of water or more. I have seen them tailwalk like Muskies and roll over and over like Channel Cats. They drive me crazy but I love 'em!

Repro Man
05-22-2003, 07:53 AM
Here is some more information from Ohio. You will also find them on reef spawning areas and in the streams at spawning time. Eye Chaser

I posted this on Walleye Central in answer to a question and thought I'd post it here too FYI:

Saugeye Reproduction
By Jim Corey

Contrary to popular belief, Saugeyes can and do reproduce both with either parent species and with other Saugeyes. The most informative study that I have been able to find on the subject was done by M.C. Hearn in 1986, titled "Reproductive viability of Walleye-Sauger hybrids". It was published in the Progressive Fish-Culturist 48:149150.(now the North American Aquaculture Journal)
Part of the confusion lies in the fact that all Saugeyes are not created equal. Of the eggs resulting from the cross of a male Sauger and a female Walleye (F1 Hybrids), some will turn out to be true Triploid Saugeyes (sterile hybrids), while others from the same egg mass will not develop eggs or even show recognizable gender differences. Still others will develop with the ability to produce viable eggs. In the study done by Hearns, the eggs from Female F1 Hybrids (Saugeyes) were fertilized by milt from male Saugers. The results were 38% "swim-up-fry". This term means that, out of the total eggs produced by this single cross, 38% lived to complete the swim to the surface necessary for Walleye/Sauger/Saugeye fry to break the surface tension of the waters' surface and take that mouthfull of air needed to fill their swim bladders for the first time. They then performed the same experiment with one male and one female F1 Hybrid (Saugeye) and, when Saugeye-to-Saugeye, the % of swim-up-fry was 46%, 8% better than when the Saugeye eggs were fertilized by milt from a parent species.
Further confusion is caused when the body of water where the Saugeyes are stocked has no proper spawning habitat. Naturally, no reproduction can take place in such waters. In different bodies of water the survival rate of Walleye fry to adulthood may range from 1% to 10%, depending on predation and other factors. That figure is basically the same for stocked Saugeye fry. With Saugeye, however, only a small percentage of the fish that reach adulthood will be capable of producing viable eggs. Then, of course, if those eggs aren't deposited in the proper spawning areas, under the right conditions, and fertilized with milt from that equally small percentage of male Saugeyes who are virile, the whole point is moot.
In the right body of water, with the right conditions, Saugeye can and do reproduce, but in a limited way, and not in a way to sustain a population without stocking.
The best source that I know of for information on Saugeye can be gotten from the Ohio State University, Department of BioSciences.

Other studies of interest are:

"Comparative survival, growth, and reproductive development of juvenile Walleye, Sauger, and their hybrids reared under intensive culture conditions." J.A. Malison, D.L. Johnson, and S.A. Schell. 1982 North American Journal of Fisheries Management 2:381-387

"Reproduction of Saugeyes (Fx Hybrids) and Walleyes in Normandy Reservoir, Tennesee." F.C. Fiss, S.M. Sammons, P.W. Betolli, and N. Billington, 1997. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 17:215-219

Jim Corey

05-22-2003, 08:32 AM
One common gripe that us hardcore saugeye anglers have is the "Here today ~ Gone tomorrow" nature of a saugeye once it reaches that magic 18"-19" size range. The bigger ones are extremely nomadic critters -- both up & down the lake, and deep vs shallow, but always relating to some form of structure along the way. I am not aware of any saugeye-specific baits/lures/tactics that would not be used for walleye... given all the normal variables such as depth, temp, clarity, etc.

If I was granted 7 straight days of stable weather on a walleye lake (one that I was familiar with), I can usually put together a pattern on the 1st or 2nd day and have it hold for the rest of the week. Not so with saugeye. The pattern you hammered the big ones with today will usually change tomorrow. One notable exception would be the late fall/early winter bite prior to first ice.


05-22-2003, 12:12 PM
a Good S-Eye Viewpoint from a I-Friend:

I've spent some time chasing them, but not as much as you have. Spend more time on the big lake now, even though it's 2+ hours away. Here's a little synopsis of what I know/think I know about S-eyes:

The same fish (species) act at least a little differently in different bodies of water. Mostly has to do with what and where the eatin' is. Boat traffic, water temp and clarity (relates to baitfish holding), structure, etc all play factors. You will think I'm crazy (or full of BS), but I think predation (or lack thereof) has at least a minor role in how saugeye in different lakes relate to structure and their patterns. I think this holds true in lakes like Alum and P-Hill, where muskies abound. Natural selection (refer to C. Darwin) tells us that the weak/dumb of a specie get "weeded out" by the stronger/smarter (in simple terms). Even though the surviving saugeye's really won't reproduce the dumb ones (ones with a lifestyle that lends them to an early death by a muskie) won't be around long enough to get caught by an angler. Alum's improving water clarity makes it really easy for muskies (sight feeders) to get fat on 8-16" 'eyes. IL (and Buckeye) saugeye are at the top of the food chain (at least after their first year or so). They tend to roam shallow water more (plus there is more of it on those two lakes).
I seem to do better at these lakes (Alum/P-Hill) with bouncers/spinners trolled on main lake structure to cover water on fish tight to the bottom (summer-daytime). Big depth changes changes make it tough to conture troll cranks with much success (it can be done). There is usually a shallow bite in the evening to cast cranks or pitch jigs to.Then you have your fall/spring times at Alum on shallow flats or riprap shallow crank bite (relates to food availability). Everybody has to eat, even if it's a dangerous venture!
It sure would be nice if you could troll open water for a suspended fish bite like on Erie!

"Just Remember" that the way to communicate with the fish is to drop them a line ;-)

Scott Richardson
05-22-2003, 07:27 PM
Great information, thanks! Have any of you tried night fishing for saugeye? If so, what worked?

05-23-2003, 05:13 AM
My lake is a Zoo with all Breeds of Yahoos in the Summer/daytime ~ throw in a over-abundance of spring hatched shad, the mayfly hatch, craws along the rocks & you have the makings of a 5 minute mid-nite food-feast, where the S-Eyes just swim around with their mouths open & then find a place to take a safe siesta till they get hunger pains again:), well close to that & I think you get the picture. I like to troll R-Traps on the breaklines after dark with boat control - Zs, Ss, & Circle trollin' - workin' the inside lines. It seems that in the summer after dark it's a 50/50 ratio with the Cats that also like to munch down on the breaklines & luv a R-Trap flutterin' down off a hump break. Sometimes overcast rainy days are fair with the lack of Yahoos, but then you have WBs/white bass crashin' the party on the outside speed line. Spring & Fall are the times to chase the Gals ~ summer is luck for me on my home lake

da old fart,

PS .. I think the Dink/Smelt size bite is 24/7 - 365 :)

PSS .. I have noticed that when the early heavy mayfly hatches come off in June that if I go out at dawn & shortline SSR7s off PBs @ a 2' pull that I can pickup a couple of Gals by trollin' the windward mayfly mats till the sun comes up & they sink down with full bellies.

"Just Remember" that the way to communicate with the fish is to drop them a line ;-)

Greg W
05-23-2003, 08:30 AM
Great question. I fish Pleasant Hill Lake(Ohio) ocassionally, but am really geared up for Erie.

Most of the guys fishing P Hill for saugeyes will typically drift worm harnesses and jigs tipped with worms around the beach area for eater size fish.

Once in a while, a 24" or better fish comes in with the eaters, but it is the exception and certainly not the rule. The bigger fish that I know of have come from guys trolling big cranks for Muskies in the shallower part of the lake, or from down below the spillway during the spring migration.

Like your lake, the dnr has information that there are record class fish here(and many other Ohio waters), only a matter of time before someone else in Ohio catches another.

Good luck,
Greg W

05-24-2003, 06:29 AM
i want more HELP!

Scott Richardson
05-24-2003, 07:14 PM
Thanks for the input, guys. I just got back from Evergreen. Caught four but only two made the cut. All small. Spinner rigs and nightcrawlers. Caught a small one using a plstic worm when the yellow bass got to be a nuisance.

When I get back to work on Tuesay, I will post a story Ted and I did with Mark Brumbaugh, a wonderful guy who catches saugeye in his home state of Ohio.

Meanwhile, keep the input coming. I think more and more states are going to stock saugeye in reservoirs because they dont go over the dam in high water in as great of numbers as walleyes. Biologists credit the same characteristic that some have already noted, they are far more structure oriented year round that walleyes are.

Thanks again. Hope you all have a great Memorial Day weekend.

Scott Richardson
05-27-2003, 10:59 AM
Here's the article I promised. We did this a couple of years ago with mark Brambaugh.

Saugeye – The New Kid
By Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson

There’s new name on the fishing scene making friends wherever it goes. It’s the saugeye, a hybrid cross between walleye and sauger.

Saugeye have always occurred in small numbers in nature anywhere sauger and walleye share the same water. But, the saugeye’s range has spread across the Midwestern United States and into the West thanks to intensive stocking
efforts during the past decade.

The surge in saugeye came after ground-breaking research in Ohio that indicated saugeye, unlike walleye, thrive in turbid water typical in lowland reservoirs in the Central United States.

Gary Isbell, fisheries chief for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said Ohio began experiments with saugeye in the late 1970s. Scientists soon discovered saugeye did very well everywhere they were stocked compared to mixed results from similar stockings of walleye. Biologists theorize saugeye inherited the sauger’s ability to survive in dingy water. At the same time, saugeye have a capacity to capitalize on a variety of forage early in life. As a result, growth rates are rapid. Ohio’s saugeye record is 12.4 pounds.

Another advantage - unlike walleye, saugeye tend to stay put in reservoirs that experience high-water episodes during floods, said Tom Mosher, fisheries research coordinator for the Kansas Department of Natural Resources. Mosher coordinated a just-completed multi-state saugeye study and is currently writing the final report.

Recent radio-tracking in Ohio indicates that the saugeyes who escape over the dams will tend to stay put in the tailraces. This creates fishing opportunities for shore and boat anglers.

With those qualities in its favor, saugeye soon replaced walleye stocking in 50 inland reservoirs in Ohio. These reservoirs will receive 6- to 8-million small saugeye each year. Once the dominant species, walleyes are only stocked in a handful of lakes today to maintain brood stocks or in spots where scientists do not want saugeye to cross with native walleye or sauger populations in large numbers. Over time, that kind of hybridization upon hybridization could diminish the genetic makeup of the offspring.

Encouraged by the Ohio experience, the Walleye Technical Committee of the North Central Division of the American Fisheries Society undertook a multi-state study of saugeye in the early 1990s. Twenty lakes were chosen in Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma to receive annual saugeye stockings.

The results have been nothing short of spectacular in many cases. For example, last October at a 900-acre reservoir in Central Illinois just north of Bloomington known as Evergreen Lake, Illinois Department of Natural Resources biologists Mike Garthaus and Gary Lutterbie led a crew that electro-shocked two saugeyes heavier than the current state record of 8 pounds, 7 ounces. One was over 9 pounds. That same 100-yard stretch of shoreline also produced several 6- and 7 pounders plus many smaller fish. Incredible as that seems, it should not have been a surprise. During the 2000 fishing season, two anglers caught fish nudging the state record at Evergreen. Evergreen produced an incredible 68 saugeye per hour from electro-shocking that night in autumn. Mosher said other lakes in the study
reached 150 to 160 per hour. "That’s a lot of fish," he said.

Kansas did "real well" in three reservoirs where "we couldn’t get walleye to stay in the lake," Mosher added. Kansas’ state record saugeye is 9.81 pounds. Marion and Chase lakes in Kansas continue to receive saugeye fry each year. Lake Guthrie in Oklahoma also saw big numbers of the hybrids.

Saugeye can spawn. However, most of the lakes in the study offer no suitable spawning habitat. Their success in developing a following of avid pursuers has convinced several states, including Illinois, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Kansas, to continue stockings. Iowa discontinued saugeye stockings because experts there thought the results did not justify the added expense of producing the hybrids over walleyes.

Saugeye have been around long enough for anglers to figure out how to catch them. They’ve discovered that saugeye behave differently than walleyes in important ways. For one, saugeye tend to be structure oriented year-round rather than sometimes roaming open water in search of baitfish. Another important difference - anglers are finding them in shallow water all day long throughout the year. Shorefishermen have no trouble finding places to
land them throughout the open-water season. During the recent winter, Isbell said ice anglers reported catching them in 3 feet of water. "The saugeyes were so shallow they would bang their head on the underside of the ice when they set the hook," he said.

Big pigs caught last year at Evergreen Lake came during summer at midday in bright sunlight while casting crankbaits on shallow points, a favorite saugeye attractor. The presence of gravel rip rap, wood or weeds improves the likelihood that saugeye will be there.

Ohio walleye pro, Mark Brumbaugh, said most of the lakes he fishes are shallow to start with. These lakes average depths of 8 feet or less. His best success comes from working shallow breaklines or small humps by vertical jigging small 1/16th or 1/8th ounce Fuzz-E-Grub jigs and minnows or ‘crawlers. Brumbaugh also works breaklines with a three-way rig consisting of a jig and a Rattlin’ Hooker by Lindy Little Joe. Mosher said Kansas anglers like to suspend small jigs under floats and cast them over the tops of points. The technique takes saugeye plus many bonus species ranging from bass to catfish. Saugeye also like blade baits jigged in fallen or standing timber.

Drifting with jigs or NO-SNAGG rigs work well on points or flats on the windy side of the reservoirs. When the breeze blows, Brumbaugh likes to work the small openings of bridges where the wind creates saugeye-attracting

Try trolling crankbaits or bottom bouncers and spinners on flats in warm water. Use trolling boards to move them to the shallows and away from boat noise.

Don’t be afraid to try big baits. One day when Brumbaugh’s usual tactics didn’t work, he happened upon an old man boating fish after fish. The trick? He was using 1 ounce jigs and 4 inch twister tails. Brumbaugh followed suit and won a Team Walleye tournament the next day. Isbell said muskie fishermen tell him saugeyes will often take 12-inch crankbaits.

Saugeyes are the new kid on the block. Join the Welcome Wagon

05-27-2003, 12:38 PM
Nice job on the article Scott. Would you be willing to e-mail me the article so we could post it on the GNWC site? Since our Illinois state championship is on Evergreen, I know we have a lot of people who are interested in getting all the info they can on Saugeye.


Scott Richardson
05-27-2003, 08:40 PM
OK...email me at walleyeangler@a5.com with your email and I will send it.

05-28-2003, 04:10 AM
Jigs ~ Glide n' Tap

"Just Remember" that the way to communicate with the fish is to drop them a line ;-)