Every year I hear and read accounts of anglers who think that August is a slow time for fishing. It’s hot, the dog days of summer are upon us, and in most cases, there are more than enough groceries for fish to help themselves too. Fish can be lethargic, seem to disappear, and not be interested in being caught at all. While part of that is true, not all of it is.
It’s true, in lots of cases this year, that fish have all the food they need heading into fall. We are still seeing lots and lots of shad in the Tri County Canal, Johnson Lake, Sherman Reservoir and many others. This can make catching fish difficult at times, no doubt about it. This in turn, leads to the August slowdown. But not always. I try to look at the positive things about having excess shad in the water you’re fishing.
The first, and most obvious, aspect of having lots of shad, is that they provide a great bait source for us anglers. I’ve been throwing the cast net for a few weeks now, and am still learning the best spots to find fish in certain bodies of water. I’m usually looking in backs of coves and near boat docks in water 6 to 8’ deep, or shallower. Some days I’m only throwing the net once or twice because I have more than enough bait. Other days, it takes a bit more effort. Don’t give up until you find the bait, because when you do, you’ll have all you need.
After netting our shad, we often go back to a spring time tactic of live bait rigging these shad, or Lindy Rigging as it’s commonly known. Concentrating on sunken islands, main lake points, and drop offs are always good places to start. The shad are still behind this year, so they’re easy to rig right now due to their smaller size. My cousin tells me he lost an 8-9 lb walleye last week rigging a shad in about 20 feet of water. Tough break.
Another reason abundant shad is a good thing is because sometimes they help you find the fish. This is especially true for finding schooling white bass on the surface. Follow the seagulls that are filling their bellies, and you’ll find white bass, and in some cases wipers, nearby. Walleye and catfishing can also be good in these areas.
If you’re not finding them on top, look for them on your sonar. When you find ‘bait balls’ on your screen, the predators are often seen right next to them. Trolling these areas can be great, as it has been lately at Lake McConaughy. Numerous wipers and walleyes have been caught on crankbaits the past couple of weeks.
Not to be forgotten is a tactic that I love to employ when August rolls around, and that’s trolling cranks specifically for flatheads. I’m under the assumption that I’m one of very few who do this, but let me tell you, it’s a blast. Having a 10 lb walleye hit a crankbait is one thing; having a 20 lb flathead do it is quite different! Of course you’ll want to make obvious upgrades to line and leaders, and sometimes hooks (depending on your baits that you’re using). I have a few crankbaits that I favor over others, but I also believe there are times when as long as you get a wobbling crank near a flathead, they’ll hunt it down. This past weekend I managed to get a 17 pounder in the boat, but had a possibly much larger one snap off a crank with little to no effort. That sure was disheartening. Almost as disappointing as the large wiper I lost trolling cranks the prior week at Jeffrey Reservoir. I haven’t had leadcore strip off a reel that fast in 3 years. Sure was fun to watch.
So don’t let anyone tell you that August is a month to take off from fishing. It simply isn’t true. You can pull cranks, you can drag shad, heck, you can even start using slab spoons when you find bait on your finder. August is a versatile month when lots – and big – fish can be caught. Beat the heat and get your camera ready.