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It’s that time of year to brave the cold and head to the water for a tasty reward!

Posted: January 29th, 2019 by Bill Dance

It’s that time of year to brave the cold and head to the water for a tasty reward.  That’s right, SAUGER!  Overcoming the elements for this excellent table fare is well worth it.  The upper section of Old Hickory Reservoir from Hunter’s Point, near Lebanon, to Cordell Hull Dam at Carthage is a prime location from January through March.  This stretch is very accessible with public boat access areas at Hunter’s Point, Second Creek, Hartsville, Rome, Carthage, and the Cordell Hull tailwater.

Increasing water flow and temperature trigger sauger to concentrate below dams in winter and early spring in preparation for spawning.  As water temperatures approach sixty degrees, sauger move downstream from the dams to find appropriate spawning habitat.  After spawning, sauger disperse throughout the reservoir feeding on shad and other small prey.  Anglers are most successful from January through March, when sauger are concentrated below dams.  Favorite fishing spots from boats are in the eddy areas between the generator wall and spill gates and around the lock wall.  Straight down beside the lock wall is often effective.  Sauger generally stay close to the bottom, so keeping your bait within a couple of feet off the bottom is best.

A popular method is using a heavy jig (¼-1 ½ ounce, depending on the current) bounced off the bottom.  The jig can be tipped with a live minnow and stinger hook or a 4 inch chartreuse or white curly tail grub. Another effective method is using a live minnow hooked through the lips and attaching a sinker to keep it in contact with the bottom.  There are several methods to rig the bait; a basic split shot rig, a slip sinker with swivel and leader (Carolina rig) and a casting sinker with 3-way swivel and leader.

Bank fishing can also be good on the generator side of the dam by casting into the boils with a live minnow on a #4 to 1/0 hook and a ¼ once and larger weight (again depending on the current).  The live bait rigs using a swivel work best in current by reducing line twist.  The lock side of the dam is also popular, casting into the eddy created by the lock wall.

When fishing the areas downstream of Cordell Hull Dam, concentrate efforts at the mouths of creek embayments.  Shad and other baitfish will move out of these embayments and into the river channel as water temperatures in the shallower embayments become colder.  The steep drop offs transitioning from the embayments into the channel are excellent fishing spots.  Some of these creeks include Little Cedar Creek just upstream of Hunter’s Point ramp, Second Creek at the Second Creek Ramp, and Jennings Fork Creek at the Rome Ramp.  The same methods described for fishing at the dam are also used at these locations.

Both sauger and walleye are stocked in Old Hickory Reservoir and are regularly caught in the same area.  Regulations for sauger are 10 per day with a minimum length of 15 inches.  Walleye regulations are 5 per day with a 16 inch minimum length.  Both species look similar so take a fishing guide for identifying your catch.

Bill Dance



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