I know there are folks who believe I do nothing but fish all the time. I wish I could say that was true. Don’t get me wrong, I fish whenever I have a chance, as I will tell you about in this blog post, but that does not mean I am on the water as much as I would like. I share a lot of personal things here and if you have been reading you know there are times when life does not allow a person to be on the water a lot. In recent weeks there have been meetings and trips and holidays and broken down vehicles and family and other life issues that have demanded my time. But I have managed to slip in some time fishing here and there, my motto is the best time to go fishing is whenever you have time!
On one trip to north-central Nebraska for work-related meetings, I was able to slip away for some fishing a couple of evenings. Actually I fished late one afternoon, had no success, but was confident I could get on some fish that evening, and I believe I would have had the mosquitoes not shown up en masse. Now, I can tolerate some bugs while fishing and hunting, I have for years. But at some point when a guy is spending more time slapping at mosquitoes than paying attention to his cast and retrieve, well, you just have to give it up.
So, the next evening I loaded up on bug spray and tried again. Unfortunately it was another blue bird evening with no wind, but I managed to scratch one nice walleye.
I thought I would be able to catch more than one fish that evening, but that was it. I wonder if I missed the “window of opportunity” while getting a couple of photos before releasing that fish (hold that thought, I will return to it later). I also wonder if I might have done better with some wind blowing? Not only would that have blown the mosquitoes away, but I believe it would have made it more likely that some predator fish would have roamed in shallow and clobbered my bait. Of course, there was a good wind blowing in when I had to leave for home.
Oh, if you have to know, here is what I was using.
My family and I were in Valentine for the long 4th of July weekend; that is an annual tradition. We spent a lot of time together with family and did the usual parade, fried chicken, hot German potato salad, float down the Niobrara River, and of course fireworks! That did not leave a lot of time for fishing, but my son and I slipped away one evening for a hour or two during prime time. Daniel had the hot hand that night and caught all the fish even though I was using the same baits. That kind of thing drives me nuts! Most of the bass were only a foot to 15 inches or so long, but he topped it with a fat 17-incher.
I gotta tell a little story about that fish. My cousin and his son and his son’s girlfriend were along with us. They were not fishing, just watching and spending time with us. Daniel and I both have a little ornery streak in us and we just love to catch fish right in front of people. We would much rather fish by ourselves far from anyone else, but if there has to be an audience, we will work that much harder to catch fish. Daniel’s biggest bass that evening hit literally at the end of his rod tip, made a big boil as it ate the bait right in front of all of us. He put on a good show. Later another of my cousins and her husband dropped by to see what we were doing. As the story was told of Daniel’s 17-incher, he was encouraged to flip his bait out and show them how it looked. You know what happened. Daniel made a couple of casts and had a fish miss the bait right in an algae mat. A couple more casts and again he produced a fish on demand.
Oh again, all fish were released and if you must know what we were using, well, we were experimenting with some new baits, but this will give you a really good clue, Miss Piggy Loves Kermit.
Summer Fishing Patterns
I have not been on the water a lot recently, but enough to know that fish behavior and fishing patterns are definitely moving into mid-summer’s form. Yes, fishing gets tougher in the summer, but it is not because the fish are uncomfortable in the heat and sun. Fish are the same temperature as their environment. Some folks say they are “cold-blooded” but in the middle of July and August, well, they ain’t very cold. Pointy-headed fisheries biologists prefer to say they are poikilotherms. As the water temperatures rise, the body temperature of our fish also rises, and so does the metabolism of the fish. As a matter of fact, to fuel that high metabolism, fish actually consume more during the summer than they do when the water is cooler. Yes, there are cold-water and cool-water fish that simply cannot function, cannot survive once water temperatures rise above a certain point, depending on the species (e.g. trout, northern pike), but even then those species feed like crazy to fuel their metabolism right up to the point where it gets too hot for them to survive.
So, if the fish are feeding so much during the summer, if their metabolism is so high, why are they so hard to catch? The reason for that is summer is the time of plenty; the abundance of natural prey is at its peak during the summer. In many of our waters during the summer, fish do not have to do much more than open their mouths to catch something to eat. Feeding periods can be very intense, but they tend to be short and then the fish have full stomachs and are relatively inactive until the next feeding period.
Knowing that, there are some things any angler can do to put more of the odds in their favor during summer’s “dog days”. First of all, make sure you are fishing your best spots, the locations most likely to attract actively feeding fish, at peak times. As I said, feeding periods may be brief and then the fish are full and extremely hard to catch until they feed again. So, make sure you are on a good spot at times when fish are most likely to feed–this time of year, early and late in the day, and perhaps after dark can be prime times. The period just before a storm rolls in can be another peak feeding time, just be careful not to stay too long and put yourself at risk of high wind, hail or lightning.
Be prepared to “make hay while the sun shines”. Since feeding periods may not last long, you do not want to be fooling around with gear or baits. Have everything in order and ready to catch fish because when they start biting, that bite may last only a few minutes.
Ironically, it seems that when prey is most abundant, fish are most selective in what they will eat. I will always tell you fish are not smart, they have a brain about the size of the end of your finger, and I believe when there is an abundance of prey they “zone in” on that one prey item and do not recognize anything else as being something they want to eat. During the summer you may have to identify the prey the fish are eating and then try to match it in size, shape, behavior and maybe color. You might assume that capturing the actual prey and using them for bait may be the best strategy and it can be, but that is not necessarily true all the time. In fact, if you can match the prey with some artificial bait, you may be able to catch more fish because you can use the artificial more effectively and efficiently as you do not have to fool with re-baiting with natural bait. And, if you can “match the hatch” with an artificial bait, you may actually be able to make that bait “stand out from the crowd” of natural bait by making it appear as one of the crowd that is crippled or more vulnerable to being eaten.
Life gets busy and the summer gets hot. I may not have as much time to fish as I would like and the fishing may be tougher right now. But, I will continue to slip out when I can, even if they are short trips, and there are fish to be caught. I will tell you about them. Hope some of these ideas help you dry some off too.