Published January 2005

It’s been a tough winter for below the dam saugeye anglers.  Heavy snow, ice storms, and far too much rain have seen tailwaters below Charles Mill and Pleasant Hill lakes bank full and muddy far more often than not.  But that’s got to change eventually, and the heavy rains might actually have been beneficial, since few saugeye were caught and that means lots are going to be waiting soon below those dams.  Also, saugeye have a tendency to wash through the gates from the lake above since they’re attracted to moving water, and these will stack up below both lakes, too.

So, once the weather calms down, fishing should be unusually good.  Most of the anglers who fish below our two lakes follow a simple format.  They tie on a jig and start casting, angling upstream and reeling slowly as the lure drifts past.  Most catch fish too, at least a few.  Some double their chances by adding a second jig with twister tail on a short side line above, and adding a minnow or some Berkley power bait to both hooks.  They catch fish too, though both techniques will bring a lot of bottom snag-ups and lost lures.  Still, jigs are cheap and are often made at home making them even cheaper.

One of my own favorite techniques, since saugeye like to lie with their bellies almost brushing bottom, is to rig up a thin pencil bobber with splitshot and No. 4 or 6 hook, put a sinker on the hook and cast out several times adjusting the float until the sinker pulls it only a few inches below the surface.  Then I remove the sinker, add a minnow or colorful jig with minnow, and start casting.  The float keeps the jig just above hook snagging bottom, but still in visual range of waiting saugeye. 

It definitely works, especially if anglers using this rig make casts close, to mid-stream, and to near the other shore, covering as much water as possible.  It doesn’t hurt to move up near the dam to start, then drop down 30 feet for more casting, and another 30 feet, and another.  Cover every bit of water possible, and you’ll increase your chances.

 Picking your time is a wise move, too.  Since saugeye migrate upstream at night, be there at first light or even before to seek hungry fish before other anglers arrive.  And hitting either spot just a couple of days after a goodly slug of water was released is smart, too.  The sudden rise of water will stimulate downstream fish to move up to the dam.

 If you tire of fishing the same two tailwaters, remember that there are some excellent hotspots just a modest drive away.  O’Shaughnessy and Griggs reservoirs near Columbus are two of the best tailwater fisheries in the state, and Delaware and Deer Creek are just as good.  The latter two are Army Corps developed tailwaters and can handle lots of fishermen, while the first two are owned by the city of Columbus and are less developed for fishing.

Alum Creek and Hoover are worth checking too, and you might like to drive a little further and take a look at tailwaters below some of the Muskingum River dams.  Here’s a final thought for hard fishing saugeye hunters.  Indian Lake and Buckeye Lake were No. 1 and 2 in the state for Fish Ohio saugeyes last year, so if cold weather continues and the ice becomes good on both lakes you might consider driving down with an ice auger and a couple of short rods.   And maybe driving home with a couple of real lunkers. 

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