Were You In The Boat When The Boat Tipped Over Fishing For Jack Salmon in the Cold!

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Fishing For Jack Salmon in the Cold!

Fishing for Jack Salmon in the middle of January is not very fun and interesting. In the middle of the longest cold spell North Alabama has seen in decades, I’m sitting on a boat in the middle of the Tennessee River, freezing my toes.

Jack Salmon, actually Sauger, seem to bite more upward to spawn during the coldest, grayest days of winter. At this time of the year, they gather under dams on the river. I know for a fact that the tailwaters of Guntersville, Wheeler and Wilson Dams have a lot of Saugers because I have caught many of them in those waters.

Although the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) owns dams in Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia, I know very little about the Jack Salmon that passed through the locks in Alabama and now resides in Tennessee.

Just this morning I was trying to pour coffee from a thermos into my glass without shaking it on my bait and trying not to tangle the line under my feet on the bottom of the boat. A one-ounce large blue and chartreuse jig was attached to the end of the line with a medium-sized shiny minnow.

We were about 2 miles below Guntersville Dam near the mouth of the Paint Rock River. The water was a little high, but not enough to hurt the fishing. We counted 26 boats anchored in fishing spots as we looked for a place to start drifting with the current.

Most of the anglers were using the same bait I used and were fishing 35-40 feet deep. Every few minutes someone in one of those boats brings in a 1-3 pound Jack. The Alabama record was over five pounds, landed on the same type of bait I use.

I remember the first Sauger I ever caught as a kid. My uncle Grady, on my mother’s side, and I were fishing below the Guntersville Dam, along the wall that separates the turbines from the spillways. Drops of water hit our faces as the wind blew the mist from the turbines into our faces.

I don’t remember the month, but I remember a 12-year-old boy shivering in the cold, trying to pretend he wasn’t freezing. My discomfort lasted only a few minutes, because we immediately started fishing and forgot about the cold. They were unlike any fish I had ever caught before. They were cigar-shaped or torpedo-shaped, with large brown spots on each side. Their mouths were also full of needle-sharp teeth. My uncle said that Jack Salmon ate the best fish in the river. He was right!

We used two-ounce live minnows to drop the bait where the fish were holding, near the dam’s wing wall. In those days we did not use fish baskets for fishing, but after a few hours our stringer was full and we had no bait.

Over the years I have fished many times for Sauger, a member of the perch family. Sometimes I got lucky and caught a few, sometimes I didn’t. If you can handle the weather and really want to catch these fish, head to the Tennessee River in Alabama. You will find Jack Salmon below one of these three large dams.

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