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walleye, walleyes, jigging, jig, jigs
Saugers at Night
By Sam Anderson

I've never been much of a night fisherman, My theory has always been that if you can't catch them during the day, you won't take them at night either.  I know though, that there are a few people out there who fish for saugers day and night, with some of their best catches coming under the cover of darkness.  In fact, some of the best fisherman around have taken their biggest saugers at night. 

That in itself is reason enough for me to make a few night trips for saugers every year.
The thing I like the most about chasing saugers at night is the simplicity of it.  This is one time of the year when the fish are close to shore and accessible to anglers who prefer to fish from shore.  Sure there are plenty of opportunities for trolling, but the action that can be experienced while wading or standing on the bank is very enjoyable. 

The walleye is king in the Upper Midwest when you talk to many anglers about what kind of fish they like to pursue.  One fish that is closely related to the walleye is the sauger.  The sauger is a "cousin" to the walleye and the meat is very similar to that of a walleye, but this camouflaged commando of the deep is different in other ways. 

First of all, the walleye and the sauger are similar in shape.  Both of these fish are "cigar shaped" and to the novice they are sometimes mistaken.  They both like similar "haunts" and they are often times caught in the same general area.  The saugers are usually found in the river systems and some anglers have reported catching saugers in takes.  But with a closer observation they discover that the takes are part of a river system.  Saugers are also referred to as "sand pike" and many times they are caught adjacent to sand.  The walleye in comparison can be found in river systems takes and close to sand flats. 

With all these similarities in mind you should also realize that there are differences.  The physical appearance of a sauger is noticeable.  They have mottled colored sides that gives them the camouflaged pattern.  They have the ability to blend into their environment, especially the bottom structural patterns.  Their dorsal fin ( top fin) is even camouflaged, it has a system of polka dots.  In comparison the walleye doesn't have any of these physical characteristics.  Likewise the sauger doesn't have that distinctive white spot on their tail that the walleye has. 

The sauger likes to hide and wait in ambush of its' prey.  The sauger is also found deeper than walleyes and it usually will not achieve the weight, and size that a walleye will.  In fact, most state records on saugers tell the angler that a large six pound sauger will be close to their state record.  These commandos like current.  They live out their lives in current breaks behind rocks, man made rip rap, stumps, downed trees and below dams,bends of the river, and off the tips of sand bars.  They wait an watch and when the food offering floats by they attack and retreat to the protection of the current break.
Gear necessary for wading for sauger is minimal.  One piece of gear where I won't cut corners is my waders.  The water this time of year can be cold, so I select a warm pair of waders, usually the neoprene style that insulates as well as fits tight.
Necessary lures are a few Storm Fishing Lures Storm Thundersticks and a few eighth-ounce LindyLindy Little Joe Fishing Tackle systemsFuzzy Grubs to be tipped with plastic grubs, When the saugers are active and hitting aggressively, throw the plugs.  If they're not on a strong bite, try the jigs.  All the baits that will be needed can fit into a small easy-to-carry tackle box.  Generally, if there are fish in the area, they'll hit.  Lots of tackle just isn't necessary.
One of my favorite spots to look for night-time saugers is near the entrances of a bay or harbor, especially if the entrance is narrow and there is at least seven to ten feet of
water nearby. 

The key to a productive area is the presence of bait fish such as shiners.  If minnows are in the harbor or the bay during the day, walleyes will visit at night.  Check the area to be fished during the day and see if there is an abundance of bait.  If there are lots of minnows, the odds are good that lots of saugers will visit later on. 

These fish can be very patternable.  It might take a while to get them exactly figured out, but once the best fishing time is established, the fish will feed at that time, or close to it, the next few nights. 

A change in weather is the primary factor that can throw off this timing.
The best fishing conditions are when the surface of the water is being disrupted.  Sometimes conditions can get a little miserable for fishing, but the action frequently makes up for less than balmy weather.  I've had great catches during periods of gusty winds and sleet storms.  There have been times during nighttime spring sauger excursions when the weather chased me from the water sooner than I wanted, but if the potential for action wouldn't have been so good, I probably wouldn't have been there in the first place.

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