I won’t lie; the fishing has been real hit-and-miss as of late. There are lots and lots of shad everywhere you look, which naturally makes things difficult to begin with. Add in the cool weather and several inches of rain we’ve gotten, and conditions have gotten a bit tougher. Traditional patterns like live-baiting shad and trolling crankbaits are not producing the fish we are used to this time of year, and success has been spotty.
The nice thing about this is that I believe I know why our success hasn’t been like ‘normal.’ I’ve always known that the summer heat helps us catch fish in the Tri County canal system, but this year is really proving it. For example, last Thursday I went trolling for flatheads, as I do enjoy doing this time of year, and I had four solid bites. The two I landed were nearly 7 and 13 pounds. The last fish was a brute, and snapped me off with little to no effort. I will probably be agonizing over that for the rest of the year, because that fish was large and very much in charge.
The next day, last Friday, was a really nice day with much cooler temps and partly to mostly cloudy skies. I managed only 1 bite for a 14 pounder. The next day I went out was even cooler, and once again, we landed only one fish for 9 pounds. The next day, being even cooler yet, yielded no bites at all. The water temp was dropping at least a degree every day as well, and that’s when I finally realized that with the lack of our usual August heat, the fish just weren’t at their usual location, or were just not interested in feeding. Maybe both, it’s hard to say. With no saugers, walleyes or crappies picking up the slack, we have had some slow days.
After visiting with our own Daryl Bauer about this, I’ve thought a lot about his comments regarding the heat. He told me it’s very typical for the summer heat to trigger the bite on shad-based reservoirs like we have in Nebraska, so what we’re going through right now makes a lot of sense. It seems that right now we’re in a short time of transition that’s purely dependent on the weather, and we can only hope that it straightens out so that our success can return. The fish are acting accordingly; one day they’ll briefly respond to cranks, the next they will not respond to much of anything. They are scattered and have no real set pattern right now, which makes it hard to game plan at times. Versatility really is the key to success.
Now as usual, I’m trying to look ahead to the bright side of all this. The weather is outstanding right now, and we’re getting lots of rain. I recently fished Elwood Reservoir for the first time in months, and population of baitfish in that lake looks real good. Add in Johnson, Sherman, and numerous others with the same abundance of shad and alewife, and I believe this fall could be truly outstanding. When the temperatures crash and the water temps follow, it could trigger a big fall bite on numerous reservoirs. If you enjoy using slab spoons and blade baits the way we do in the fall, get your gear ready because it could be really fun this year.
So be patient and stick with it, and you’ll catch fish this upcoming holiday weekend. While many begin to put their boats away for the upcoming winter and pick up their bows, shotguns and rifles for hunting, remember that some of the best fishing of the year is straight ahead in September and October, even into November. Let’s just hope that the weather cooperates a bit more and Old Man Winter waits until after Thanksgiving to make his appearance.