JACK WOLLITZ Unusually cool August keeps fish coming

Remember summers past, when August brought the so-called dog days and the fish dozed in deep holes to await the cool waters of September?
This has been a summer of a different kind, where blazing days of hot sun and sultry humidity are as scarce as lake trout in Mosquito Creek Reservoir.
Cloudy weather, abundant rainfall and daytime highs that have only occasionally cracked 80 have resulted in moderate water temperatures and an extended period of relatively good fishing for most species in area lakes.
Anglers' fortunes this summers have been, for the most part, decidedly better than years when the hot weather scatters their favorite species into locations where catching them is a hit-or-miss proposition.
Plentiful species
Crappies, for example, are still fairly active. Reports from Berlin, West Branch, Mosquito and other popular local lakes indicate anglers have stayed in touch with the schools.
Walleye fishing, meanwhile, has dipped since the May peak, but not to the extreme that anglers are accustomed to during "normal" summers. Fish are caught nearly every day at Mosquito, Pymatuning, Berlin, Milton and West Branch. Live bait on jigs and trolling with long lines and plugs or baited spinner rigs have brought nice catches for knowledgeable anglers.
Largemouth bass, one local species that continues prowling shallows in the hottest summers, have been especially cooperative this year. At Mosquito, bass have given great sport all summer for anglers who know the best weed edges and how to tease strikes on buzzbaits, Rat-L-Traps and soft plastics.
Topwater action, which traditionally is most productive in the hour after dawn and before dark, has worked well this summer on largemouths and smallmouth bass, especially on cloudy days when the fish are less inclined to hide in thick cover or drop into the dark depths. On Lake Erie, fishing has remained steady, if not spectacular, for most species. Walleyes have stayed in water as shallow as 35 feet between Lorain and Ashtabula, though on some days the big-boat fleet has scored by working schools of bait suspended out over 60 and 70 feet.
Erie's perch have stayed close to the spectacular mark throughout recent weeks. Anglers are icing limits in short trips out in 40 to 50 feet of water and have seen large numbers of "jumbos" this summer.
Steelhead, Lake Erie's silver bullets, have been biting reliably for those troll wobbling spoons in the cold depths. Trout also have surprised many walleye and smallmouth anglers by attacking lures in atypical locations.
Ohio River problems
Despite the relatively good fishing this year, all is not perfect. One sore spot has been the Ohio River, where smallmouth bass have provided outstanding sport in four of the previous five summers. This year, bass have been few and far between, even for some of the savviest of bassmen.
The river's smallies certainly haven't all vanished, but the two- and three-pound class fish -- abundant in recent years -- are not cooperating. Speculation is that their preferred food -- mainly shad -- is scattered out over the difficult-to-fish wide-open expanses, and the smallies are suspended.
When the baitfish come close to the current breaks that anglers are accustomed to fishing, smallies are usually right with them. The trouble is that the shad are less evident in those spots than in the past.
But, as August slides toward September, even better fishing is just over the horizon.
After Labor Day, most of the popular game species begin feeding more actively and the lakes become less crowded as boaters and skiers start to focus on fall activities.
That leaves plenty of room for anglers to chase their dreams of adding a few more lunkers to their 2004 score.

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