How Many Ounces Should My 3 Months Olde Be Eating Fishing For Jack Salmon in the Cold!

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Fishing For Jack Salmon in the Cold!

Fishing for Jack Salmon in mid-January is not all fun and mischief. In the midst of the longest cold spell North Alabama has seen in decades, I sat in a boat in the middle of the Tennessee River, freezing my toes.

Jack Salmon, actually Sauger, seem to bite more in the coldest, grayest days of winter on their way upstream to spawn. This is the time of year they gather under the dams in the river. I know for sure there are plenty of Sauger in the tail waters of the Guntersville, Wheeler and Wilson dams because I have caught many of them in those waters.

Although the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has dams in Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia, I know little about the Jack Salmon that slipped through the Alabama locks and currently reside in Tennessee.

This morning I tried to pour coffee from the Thermos into my cup without blowing it over my bait and tried to avoid tangling my line which was in the bottom of the boat under my feet. Attached to the end of the line was a one ounce large blue and chartreuse jig tipped with a medium sized shiny minnow.

We were about 2 miles downstream from Guntersville Dam, near the mouth of the Paint Rock River. The water was a little high but not enough to hurt the fishing. As we hunted for a place to start drifting with the current, we counted 26 boats anchored in places where they were catching fish.

Most of the anglers were using the same type of bait I was using and were fishing 35 to 40 feet deep. Every few minutes someone in one of those boats would bring in a Jacko weighing about one to three pounds. The Alabama record was over five pounds, caught on the same type of bait I used.

I remember the first Sauger I caught when I was a kid. My uncle Grady, on my mother’s side, and I fished below the Guntersville Dam, down by the wall that separated the turbines from the spillways. Droplets of water hit us in the face as the wind blew mist from the turbines into our faces.

I don’t remember the month, but I can still see that 12-year-old boy shivering in the cold and trying to pretend he’s not freezing. My discomfort lasted only a few minutes, because we immediately started catching fish and forgot about the cold. They looked unlike any fish I had caught before. They were cigars or torpedoes with large brown spots on each side. They also had a mouth full of needle sharp teeth. My uncle said Jack Salmon was the best eating fish on the river. He was right!

We used live minnows with a two ounce weight to bring the bait down to where the fish were holding, near the wing wall of the dam. In those days we didn’t use fishing baskets to hold our catch, but after a few hours our line was full and we were out of bait.

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

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