Sauger is a freshwater fish that is somewhat similar to walleye. They are popular to fish among the midwestern regions of North America. They can be caught east of the Appalachian mountains ranging from the southern United States and all the way up into southern Canada.
If you’re new to fishing sauger, we’re going to cover all the things you need to know to help you catch more fish.
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Known to look very similar to walleye, sauger have a cylinder-shaped body with dark-colored blotches along their sides. They have sharp canine teeth and spiny dorsal fins.
Sauger also tend to be smaller than walleye. Your average sauger tends to reach sizes around 8 to 15 inches. They usually weigh less than a pound, though world record-sized sauger may reach upwards of 8 pounds.
Where to Catch Sauger
Sauger can regularly be caught in large rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. They are a migratory species so you will catch them in a lot of different habitats. Most commonly sauger are caught in rivers. They prefer turbid, slower-moving, deep rivers. The Ohio River and its tributary rivers are extremely popular for fishing sauger.
What Do Sauger Eat?
The primary diet of adult sauger include smaller fish, leeches, and crayfish. Channel catfish, freshwater drum, and gizzard shad are regularly eaten by adult sauger. Smaller sauger usually eat insects and invertebrates.
Sauger Seasonal Patterns
In the fall look for sauger at points where two rivers meet. If an area has shallow water, and plenty of woody cover, this can be an ideal location. Other ideal locations include gravel bars, sandbars, or holes. If your fishing reservoirs, look in waters ranging 25 to 40 feet deep. Sand or gravel bottom areas are good spots to look in.
The same spots that work in fall tend to be productive for catching sauger in winter as well. In rivers, that is confluences with shallow areas and woody cover. They can also be caught in tailwaters. Holes below dams ranging from 15 to 40 feet deep are ideal spots to look. They tend to reside in the deepest section of holes.
Springtime is the spawning season for sauger. They usually move upstream to spawn in gravel or sandy bars downstream from locks and dams. You can also regularly find them along eddies or other places that provide current breaks such as debris or rocks.
In the summertime, it’s usually best to fish deeper waters. Early in the summer look near deep gravel bars and holes away from shore. In the later parts of summer look downstream from tailwaters looking for drop offs and holes near confluences.
Best Time to Catch Sauger
The best sauger bite will generally occur early in the morning or late evenings. Try fishing right when the sun is rising or just before the sun is setting. This can often be the most productive opportunity to catch them.
Sauger Equipment Recommendations
Rods and Reels
For sauger, you can productively use a spinning rod and reel or baitcasting gear just fine. We recommend a medium-heavy rod around 6 or 7 feet in length. This will work great in most situations.
Lures and Baits
Many anglers have a lot of success using jigs for their sauger fishing. Twister grubs and bucktail jigs are very commonly used. In muddy conditions, lighter colors like white, chartreuse, or orange tend to work well. In clearer waters, you can use darker colors like black. You may also want to tip your jig with minnows to make them even more enticing
Jigging spoons are also a good choice when sauger are in deeper waters in the summertime. Cast them in deep holes or near drop-offs.
Deep diving crankbaits also work when the sauger are in deeper sections of water. Try to use one that imitates a shad or a minnow. Work them near deep gravel bars, drop-offs, and holes.
For live bait, minnows and nightcrawlers tend to work well. You can also use smaller fish like shad.
Sauger are known to be short strikers, which is why stinger rigs are so effective. A stinger rig is essentially just a second hook (often a treble hook) attached to the end of your line. Try vertical jigging a stinger rig in tailraces, where sauger tend to hold.
You can also use a drop shot rig, which is a trailing leader with a weight at the bottom of your hook and bait. Drop shots are good because you can adjust the level of your bait off the bottom. They wouldn’t be ideal in areas with fast currents, but you can use them in slower moving pools when fishing for sauger.
You can use monofilament or braided line to catch sauger. Something around an 8 to 12-pound test line is a good option. Sauger have very sharp teeth though so you need to make sure your line has a good amount of abrasion resistance to handle the job. Many anglers use a strong fluorocarbon leader to avoid line breaks.
For sauger fishing, a size #1, 1/0, 2/0, or 3/0 can work well depending on the kind of bait you are using and the size of the fish. Octopus hooks are commonly used, but some anglers will also use treble hooks when fishing deeper waters.
Tips to Catch More Sauger
Fish Early or Late
If you want to catch sauger near shore try fishing just as the sun is rising, or just before the sun is setting. They will usually come near shore to feed during this time, so it presents a good opportunity to catch them.
Learn to Fish the Flows
In high flows, sauger tend to stay out of the current. Fish them behind lock walls or along trees, and other debris where they can escape the current. In low flows, they move into deeper flats. You can also find them holding in deep waters along walls.
Touch the Bottom
In certain areas, sauger may hold near the bottom, so you need to bring your lure down to their level. Touch the bottom and hold for several seconds and use a slow retrieve to entice the sauger to give chase. If you work it too fast you may not get any bites.