G. Sam Piatt
PDT Outdoors Writer
Two more days and comes October, the month when fish and fishermen come alive in the Ohio River tailwaters of the Greenup Dam.
While farmers work the bottoms to gather the harvest of corn and soybeans, fishermen congregate in boats or sit themselves on a log on the Ohio and Kentucky shorelines to gather the harvest of sauger, walleye and saugeye.
The latter is a man-induced cross between the sauger and the walleye.
Bill Kouns of South Shore landed the Kentucky state record saugeye from the Greenup Dam tailwaters in 1998. It weighed 6.58 pounds.
In 2009, Rick Vansickle caught a saugeye there that went 5.90 pounds on the scales at Foodland in South Shore.
Will this be the year somebody breaks the record?
OHIO’S BIG SAUGEYE
Ohio’s record saugeye nearly doubled Kentucky’s. The 12.84-pounder was landed from Alumn Creek Lake by Brian W. Bang in 2002.
Sauger generally weigh 1 to 2 pounds, although some going 5 to 6 pounds have been caught.
It’s amazing the powerful fight a 14- or 15-inch sauger can put up. They seem to fight harder in cold water than they do warm.
Some walleye going 5 and 6 pounds are landed too.
The best artificials seem to be soft plastic curly-tailed grubs rigged on ¼-ounce leadheads for normal water levels. You’ll need ½-ounce jigs for swifter water. The objective is to keep the lure bouncing just off the bottom.
Combinations of green and orange dominate the color choices, but a white grub works when the other colors don’t produce.
Another fish that picks up feeding in the tailwaters with the approach of fall is the hybrid – the fish with the pronounced broken black stripes on its sides, a man-induced cross between the striped bass and the white bass.
They can be caught on surface lures in October as they school up to drive shad to the surface and make a meal of them.
ONE FOGGY MORNING
With a bad back that prohibits me from traversing over rocks and boulders such as the riprap on both the Kentucky and Ohio shorelines below the dam, I decided to try my luck on the sandy shoreline off Beattyville, the little Kentucky village that lies in the shadow of the Carl Perkins Memorial Bridge.
I parked in front of Hobo’s riverfront home in Beattyville. I was wishing he could go with me, as in the old days, but I knew he wasn’t home.
I grabbed my rod and reel, a dozen nightcrawlers, a fold-out canvas camp chair, a novel I was halfway through, and made my way down under the bank.
A gentle rise had pushed the water over the sand and gravel shoreline and up to the edge of the willows.
The first order of business was to cut a forked limb and push it into the soft earth. The pole is rested in the fork. It’s also a good idea to place a heavy rock on the butt of the rod. This process is essential for bank fishing with an unattended pole in a river that has some big and powerful fish swimming in it.
Besides, everybody knows that if you hold the pole in your hands the fish won’t bite. They will hit only after you set the pole down and turn your attention elsewhere.
I baited the hook with a lively ‘crawler and flung the flat, lead sinker far out into the river. The fog still clung heavy to the river and I couldn’t see the sinker hit, but I heard it go “kerplunk.” The line went slack and I set the pole in the fork and placed a rock on the butt.
Then I pulled out the novel and sat down. Lazy man’s fishing it was, very peaceful and relaxing. This was the same spot where Hobo had sat many times.
And also where my father, Bruce, used to spend weekends after finishing his week with the railroad. He would bait and set as many as a dozen poles, then sit down with a good Zane Grey novel and wait for the fish to come to him.
I hadn’t gotten through two pages before something nearly yanked my pole out of the forks. I reeled in a channel catfish that would go close to six pounds. I removed the hook from his tough lower lip with the needle-nosed pliers and released him.
Over the course of the next hour, as the sun burned off the fog and sent light rays bouncing and sparkling off the ripples on the surface, I landed a sheepshead, two hybrids, three white bass and another catfish, smaller than the first.
That was enough action, I know, to have pleased Hobo.
I loaded up by gear and went to visit Hobo, or at least the place that honors his memory. It’s down at Collier Memorial Gardens, the small cemetery at the mouth of Kellen Hollow, just half a mile from my fishing spot.
In his later years, as Hobo saw two brothers and two sisters die of the dreaded cancer, he became a strong and active “born again” Christian. He visited homes and hospitals, praying for the sick and anointing their heads with oil.
In the end, the cancer got him, too. The engraving on his tombstone says, “Harold “Hobo” Cooper, Sept. 21, 1932 – June 23, 2002. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”
And battled some dandy Ohio River cats.
G. Sam Piatt can be reached at 606-932-3619 or firstname.lastname@example.org.