• Dale Bowman

Illinois River: A primer for prime sauger


SPRING VALLEY, Ill.--I talked to Mike Hanson (left) and J.J. DeBernardi Sunday because they weighed in a beautiful, fat-bellied walleye.


The 6.8-pound walleye was big fish for Spring Valley Walleye Club's first Illinois River Walleye Classic out of Barto Landing in Spring Valley.

But I ended up keeping on talking to the Wired4Walleye team, out of Ottawa, more because they caught about 40 keepers, nearly evenly mixed between walleye and sauger, upstream toward the Starved Rock Lock and Dam on Sunday, Day 2 of the tournament.

Hanson gave this basic primer.

``Start out slow,'' he said.

By slow, he meant vertical jigging really slow with a heavy or medium heavy rod. They were jigging with 1/4- to 1/2-ounce Doc's Custom Jigs.

``Slow,'' he said. ``Barely ticking the bottom. Slowly lift the jig, ever so gently, put it back.''

I like that ``ever so gently'' part.

As to depths, on Sunday, Day 2 of the Classic, they went really shallow, as in 4-6 feet.

Most of the teams, including the winning team of Joe Perez and Troy Tregoning, were jigging in the more traditional depths for spring of 12-15 feet.

Weather and river conditions look very favorable for sauger fishing for the next week or two, which should be prime for sauger.

On Sunday, fish tech Randy Petges from LaSalle Fish Hatchery, who helped with sauger collection for years, said that females were running about 30 percent spent. That means prime time is here.

For prime time for sauger in early spring, Hanson said they focus on the dams, eddies or channel breaks.

As to the number of walleye they caught from the Illinois, a river much more noted for its sauger population, Hanson said he thought walleye are learning to each the young Asian (or more accurately bighead and silver) carp.

Interesting thought.

As a team from Ottawa, they know the Marseilles pool better than most. It is also a good pool to fish, but river depths and hazards make it much more of a pool for local fishing.

But if fishing that pool, Hanson said he tends to go to a 1/8th-ounce jig, then he more lets it drift with the current than the more traditional vertical jigging used in the big pool below Starved Rock Lock and Dam.

It is sauger time.

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