Anglers: Saugeye are biting this fall in Ohio

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Saugeye
Saugeye, a cross between walleye and sauger, can be caught this time of year in the open waters below flood control dams, or in shallow flats in ice-covered lakes or reservoirs. (Tim Daniel, Ohio Division of Wildlife, photo)

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife annually stocks 54 lakes and reservoirs with saugeye, a fast-growing and popular game fish. A hybrid cross between a sauger and a walleye, saugeye offer Ohio anglers the chance to catch excellent table fare and the occasional trophy fish. 

Three Division of Wildlife state fish hatcheries produce and stock about 25 million saugeye annually. These fish reach a catchable size in one to three years depending on where they are stocked. The state record saugeye was caught in 2004 at Antrim Lake in Franklin County. It weighed 14.04 pounds and measured 30 inches long. 

The fish are active year-round and will particularly engage with artificial lures and live bait during the fall and spring months. The fall is an excellent time to catch saugeye because they are feeding heavily to bulk up for the coming winter, said Rich Zweifel, the Division of Wildlife’s Inland Fisheries Program administrator.

Saugeye are often caught in shallow water, so be sure to consider its clarity when choosing your fishing methods. A good time to fish for saugeye is at sunrise and sunset when they are most active. 

Many of Ohio’s best saugeye lakes include the following: 

Central Ohio

Indian Lake (Logan County) is consistently ranked as a top saugeye destination. Recent fish surveys show catch rates five times higher than the statewide average. Many of these fish measure 12-18 inches. Spring fishing for saugeye in Buckeye Lake (Fairfield, Licking, and Perry counties) was phenomenal and the trend will continue into the fall. Many of Buckeye Lake’s saugeye are longer than 21 inches, which qualifies for Fish Ohio recognition. 

Northwest Ohio

Try fishing just off the beach area at Pleasant Hill Reservoir (Ashland and Richland counties) in 10-15 feet of water for saugeye measuring longer than 15 inches. Another tactic is to try fishing along the shoreline at night with a jig tipped with a live minnow near the bottom. Defiance Reservoir (Defiance County) in western Ohio is a smaller fishing location (75 acres) that maintains a good population of saugeye longer than 15 inches, with the occasional fish pushing 25 inches. 

Northeast Ohio

For sheer numbers of saugeye, Atwood Lake (Carroll and Tuscarawas counties) is a hotspot in northeast Ohio. Recent surveys showed the adult abundance is twice the regional and statewide averages. More than 50% of fish in a recent survey were 15-18 inches. If Atwood Lake has high abundance, Tappan Lake (Harrison County) is the place to go for large saugeye. About 30% of the saugeye caught in a recent survey measured longer than 22 inches, which qualifies for Fish Ohio recognition. 

Southeast Ohio

Saugeye fishing is best in the late fall and early spring at Seneca Lake (Guernsey and Noble counties). This large waterbody has 45 miles of shoreline, and some fantastic saugeye spots are near good shoreline access. Piedmont Lake (Belmont, Guernsey, and Harrison counties) is another large waterbody with 37 miles of shoreline. The last survey in 2020 found good numbers of fish longer than 15 inches. 

Southwest Ohio

Over the past five years, consistent recruitment in Caesar Creek Lake (Warren and Clinton counties) has produced a bevy of catchable fish. The most recent survey found fish up to 26 inches long and weighing 8 pounds. Many of the saugeye in Rocky Fork Lake (Highland County) measure 16-18 inches following strong year classes in 2017 and 2019. Recent lake surveys found saugeye that were 25 inches long and weighed 6 pounds.

Additional seasonal saugeye fishing tips and fishing maps are available at wildohio.gov. Be sure to purchase an Ohio fishing license before pursuing saugeye on public waterways.

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