Hot weather has sent many anglers scrambling for shade in the past two weeks, as day after day of piercing sun and near-zero breeze have combined to put an end to the relatively easier fishing of May and June.
That’s not to say, however, that the fish have disappeared. They are out there in our favorite waters. It’s just more of a challenge to locate them and tease them into biting.
Summer’s heat calls for a change in tactics. A few tactical adaptations should keep us in touch with the bass, walleyes and other favorite species.
A generation ago, most anglers lost interest in fishing once the thermometer crept toward 90. Today, thanks to our expanding education and terrific equipment, we are able to stay in touch with the fish we love to catch.
I chase bass most weekends from ice-out to freeze-up. In the spring, largemouths are relatively easy to pattern as they prowl the shallow water for food and nest sites. As spring swings to summer, many of the bass drop back toward deeper water.
So, this time of the year, bass anglers have more choices. Those who prefer to flip baits in shoreline cover — we call ourselves “bank beaters” — still have options.
Those who live for the days when they can put their expensive new sonar to use rejoice in prowling the drops, humps, points, channels and other off-shore structure.
Walleye also mix up their behavior as summer heats up. Today’s walleye anglers are far more versatile than they were even 10 years ago. For proof, just check where and how they are fishing at Mosquito Creek Reservoir.
You’ll see drifters. You’ll see trollers. And more and more, you’ll see casters.
All of them are catching fish. Drift fishing is productive when the fish are roaming the flats. A jig or crawler harness dragging the bottom is pretty hard for a walleye to resist.
Trolling is great when the fish are suspended off the bottom and chasing shad. A crankbait, spoon or spinner rig with live bait passing through hungry walleyes will produce strikes.
Summer also pushes walleyes into the maturing beds of vegetation that ring Mosquito and a few other local waters. Expert walleye anglers, including the corps of tournament anglers here in our area, pitch jigs to the irregularities in the weed lines and pluck dandy fish on a consistent basis throughout the dog days of summer.
Fish — whether bass or walleyes or whatever — go where they can live most efficiently. My personal experience seems to point to a bit of a genetic differentiation even within a species. That is, some are inclined to live shallow. Others roam, and still others drop into the depths.
Sonar becomes more valuable once the weather disperses the fish. We are able to “see” the fish thanks to technology that clearly displays their presence. More importantly, we are able to read the bottom and identify the composition and breaklines that are most likely to be occupied with catchable fish.
Today’s sonar readings are displayed on screens that can be customized for whatever the user chooses. In addition, new side-scanning technology delivers pictures of underwater life and structure far from the boat in detail that is breathtakingly real.
Learn your favorite fishes’ tendencies. Invest in good sonar and learn how to use it to maximum advantage.
Your reward will be fish on your line while your friends are lounging away some excellent fishing time.