I am not nor have I ever been a fisheries biologist. However having fished the Ohio River for the past 20 years, I know this... The river is really a great place to fish.
Some folks attribute the recent surge in fish and water quality to the zebra mussell which in colonies seems to filter a ton of water at a time. Some fishermen even blame the surge in buffalo and white perch to this aquatic mitey mouth.
I don't know if the mussell is why the recent surge or not, but the fishery below the McAlpine Dam has gotten quite good. Trophy Stripers, Hybrids, Sauger, Walleye, Catfish, Crappie, Smallmouth and Largemouth have started to show up in stringers and there have been 2 reports of Muskie below the dam. One was way down around the Green River but the other was supposedly caught right below the dam here in Louisville.
More recently Chip Mertens (CaptChip.com) has been taking me out fishing and we have caught good sauger to 3 pounds. Chip on a recent trip caught a 5 pound Walleye and I have reports from other fishermen that Walleye's to 5 pounds have been caught since Thanksgiving of 2001.
Today was a good example of the wonder of the fishery. Captain Chip called me about 10:30 Am and we got together around 1PM and went down to the river. We fished the area below the interpretive center and caught a near limit of sauger in only 2 hours. ( Would have been a limit if I could figure out how to hook the darn things) The surprise of the day was an approximately 4 pound flathead catfish that I caught on a jig and minnow combination.
Chip and I have each come up with a unique way of rigging our baits. Chip uses what he calls the Indiana Bob Rig... it is a barrel swivel rigged on the line with a loop so that the loop is a dropper for the weight. He then rigs a twister tail on a crappie hook or an eddystone eel and fishes it in a jigging motion with a minnow.
I like to fish with a jig, and I short hook the twister tail so that the tail wags down, and when the minnow is on the bait will still waggle. (See Picture of a twister tail on a jig head) The last couple of days orange, red and pink seem to be working the best, although I caught my first 2 on chartreuse. I have even been using a beetle spin arm on my jigs and getting some good results too.
Other rigs we have worked include the Punisher Crappie Jig in Blue and chartreuse with a minnow, and rigged it with a couple of split shots about a foot above the jig. This gets the tiny 16th ounce jig down faster and right in front of the Sauger.
That is winter fishing, but summer fishing is even more fun. Hybrids and Stripers abound and fish in the 20 to 30 pound range for stripers and hybrids from 12 to 15 pounds are common. Fishing the hydro's below the dam is the best place, but some really good fish are being caught along the old walls of the old dam in the channel and at the top of the chute. When the water is right in Late June and early July the BIG Stripers and Hybrids will gather at the falls just below the Interpretive center and chase minnows and shad up into the falls themselves. They look like spawning salmon running upstream.
We have a lot to be thankful for here in the Louisville and Southern Indiana area.... I hope it stays that way. I would like to suggest a voluntary size limit of 14 inches for Sauger on the river. I know this will not be popular currently, but I honestly believe it will improve the fishery greatly and really help the walleye population in the river. So if you fish the river please in the future encourage all to throw back any fish below 14 inches long. This size limit has really helped the Kentucky Lake fishery below the Tennessee Line, and I think it will work here too.
Some information for this article was obtained from Captain Chip Mertens
Captain Chip is available for guided trips on the Ohio River out of Louisville or Clarksville.
USCG Certified Captain and Guide on the Ohio River at Louisville.
Indiana Department of Natural Resources Certifide guide.
Home Phone: 284-4352
Cell Phone: 645-1308