Whitewater angler hooks record-breaking sauger
Thousands of Wisconsin anglers brave cold, wind and dark of night motivated by the long shot chance of hooking a state record walleye or its cousin, the sauger.
Don Peyer’s fish of dreams ran under the boat toward the Red Wing dam Sunday morning but eventually wound up in the landing net—a 6-pound, 3-ounce sauger heavy enough to eclipse state records for this species in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Peyer, 57, said he initially intended to release the fish “because it was way too big to eat,” but the Whitewater angler’s nephew, Nick Peyer, who had netted the whopper, noticed it was bleeding heavily and probably wouldn’t survive.
The elder Peyer’s son-in-law, Gearhardt Bobzien, put the potential record fish in the livewell.
“There were three boats of us fishing the Red Wing tail waters in an extended family outing,” Nick Peyer said. “This is far beyond the wildest dreams of anybody on that trip—or anybody else we know.”
The lucky angler said the big sauger hit an electric blue/pearl tail ringworm on a one-quarter-ounce Hutch leadhead. He was using a G.Loomis SJR 722 rod, Daiwa reel and 10-pound test Berkley FireLine.
“The fish fought really hard and held all of our attention,” Don Peyer said. “When we finally had her in the net, we looked up and noticed we were right in the middle of the river between the buoys.”
The brown and white sauger was just over 23 inches long and “fat as a football,” said Nick Peyer, adding that he thought it might be close to the state record of 5 pounds, 13 ounces.
The previous record sauger was caught in 1988 on Lake Wisconsin, which will never give up another sauger record because of slot limit guidelines now in place on waters of the Wisconsin River system that protect all sauger and walleyes between 18 and 28 inches.
“It is physically impossible for the Wisconsin River to produce a 28-inch sauger,” said DNR fisheries biologist Tim Larson. “Fish in excess of the state record undoubtedly swim in the Wisconsin River system, but until the rules change, it will be illegal to keep them.”
Fortunately, the slot regulation does not apply on the Mississippi, which produced the Minnesota state sauger record of 6 pounds, 2.75 ounces for Don Kizer—also in the “big fish” year of 1988.
“This is kind of like that old riddle: ‘If a plane crashes on the border, where do you bury the survivors,’” Don Peyer said with a chuckle.
“DNR fisheries biologist Doug Welch told me that on boundary waters, it all depends on what license you hold. I don’t have a Minnesota license, so I guess they get to keep that record.”
Don Peyer said the sauger’s weight was identical on two different scales at the Sentry store in Whitewater. He said DNR biologist Welch has photos of the fish on the scale.
Welch took the fish to Madison for an autopsy. The results came back Thursday and confirmed the fish was indeed a sauger and not a walleye or saugeye
Peyer said he’ll keep fishing the Mississippi at Red Wing.
“Who knows, I might break the record again.”