A long, hot summer like this year's dims anglers' hopes for catching walleyes, bass and crappies, but once the weather breaks the fish quickly return to behavior more likely to result in bites.
This summer's heat wave cracked last week, and the fresh rain and cooler temperatures brought the fish to more active feeding.
Overheated anglers who set aside their fishing poles for a few weeks now can return with new hopes for catching up with the fish. They will score if they keep a few important points in mind.
First and always foremost is this: Fish where the fish are. Sounds simple, of course, but the trick is to know where the walleyes lurk, the crappies hang and the bass prowl.
Late summer walleyes on lakes like Mosquito and Pymatuning may be found on weed lines where they break toward deeper water. Jigs dipped around the grassy points and edges will attract strikes.
At Berlin and other relatively weedless reservoirs, the walleyes will use deep by day, then slip up onto points and flats toward evening and after dark to pick off shad. Catch walleyes by trolling crankbaits and spinner-and-bait rigs through the fish zones.
Largemouth bass will use the same weeds as summer walleyes, but often will be in water a bit shallower. Buzzbaits over weeds are productive in the morning and evening. During mid-day, find success by pitching plastic worms into the grass beds' shadowy spots.
Summertime crappies tend to hang around vertical cover such as bridge pilings, dock poles and main lake weed edges. They also will suspend over deep structure. To hook up, work small jigs patiently in schools of crappies that you identify on your sonar fish finder.
It also is a good idea to be mindful of your presentation. Consider current as well as the position of the sun and shadows.
Look for moving water, generated by gravity or wind. The fish rely on the current to bring food into their realm. Current also provides clues about where and how the game species will be positioned relative to the cover or structure.
Lures should be presented so they move with the current naturally.
Many species also use shadows to conceal themselves from their prey. If they can position themselves between the sun and the bait, fish like bass and walleyes have a better chance of seeing their next meal before it sees them.
The third tip is watch for baitfish.
You can spot schools of shad - one of the most reliable sources of food for most of this area's game fish - near the surface this time of the year as they start to congregate around coves and creek mouths. It's also a good idea to learn how to locate shad with your sonar; find the bait and you'll almost always find game fish nearby.
And finally, look for places with good structure or isolated cover away from the places typically pounded by other anglers. Those spots, with the right depth and baitfish nearby, can be very productive because they receive little or no fishing pressure.
In last week's column, the web site for a California company marketing a new putty-like sinker material called Sticky Weight was listed incorrectly. Try TheOriginalStickyWeight.com for ordering info.