One of my favorite fish stories begins on a hot July day.
It was the kind of day when a thunderstorm might pop over the horizon at any moment. The sticky air was made tolerable only by a persistent breeze.
Friends and I had made the commitment, regardless of the dog day weather, so we went fishing, knowing full well that it would be tough to coax any walleyes, bass or crappies into hitting.
Long story short: We had a great day.
We anchored up in a shallow cove and set out baited lines. Before the last pole was set up, the first one was jumping.
At the end of the line was a 10-pound brute, which had jolted into action when it felt the sting of one in our party who noticed the fish attempting to tiptoe off with her bait.
For an hour or two, we were into fish constantly. A few 10-pounders, but mostly threes and fours. None of them went into the livewell or the ice chest. We had no intention of eating them. It was catch-and-release-and-catch-and -- well you get the picture.
By now the reader probably has guessed we were carp fishing. It's one great alternative when more desirable species are hunkered down with bad cases of summertime lockjaw.
But who's to judge the common carp as undesirable? They provide good sport, as they grow big and strong. They fight vigorously, always unwilling to give up easily.
If all you want is a good battle, try an afternoon of carp fishing.
You'll need a quality rod and reel, spooled with 10-pound-test mono. Select a sinker just heavy enough to get the bait on the bottom and tie a barrel swivel to the end of the main line. Add an 18-inch leader with a small wire hook at the business end.
For bait, whole kernel corn is tough to beat. Doughballs also are proven performers. For added attraction, try soaking the corn in a sugar and salt brine.
Carp cruise the shallow flats with their mouths close to the bottom and sip in morsels of plant and animal matter, so it's important to keep the bait in their feeding zone.
Wary creatures, carp can shy away from big hooks and goat-rope line. True carp aficionados refer to their quarry as fresh water bonefish and employ stealth tactics similar to those used on the salty flats in Florida and the Caribbean.
Best of all, carp are prolific in virtually every local waterway. Anglers can find excellent populations at Mosquito Creek Reservoir, despite last year's massive die-off, as well as Berlin, Milton, West Branch, Shenango and Pymatuning.
Cat crazy: After the sun goes down, many anglers turn their attention to the big catfish that populate the same reservoirs.
Silvery channel cats are fairly common, and shovelheads, which feature a flattened head and brown skin, often show up as well.
Cat anglers set out baited lines off causeways and bridges that drop into deep water. The catfish move up from the depths they occupy during the day to the shallower water to feed at night.
For bait, try any of the popular prepared concoctions. Also popular are chunks of hot dogs, chicken livers, gobs of nightcrawlers and cut baitfish.
There's no need for light line. In fact, savvy anglers spool up with 20- and 30-pound-test because they never know when a fish the size of a man's leg might attack. Stout rods and sturdy reels also are recommended.
Like carp, catfish are always willing to bite when the weather is hot and the bass and walleyes aren't cooperating.