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Cool It!

Looks like we are going to catch a break from our mid-summer’s heat throughout most of Nebraska over the next week or two.  That is nice although I expect July and August to be H-O-T, hot.  Over the past few weeks, I have been out and about during what has been some of our hottest weather this year.  I know there have been more than a couple of afternoons when the only possible activity was sitting in air-conditioning or immersing in water.

This may ruin my reputation, but I have to admit that during the hot weather I usually pick and choose my times and places to fish.  Fishing is supposed to be enjoyable, supposed to be fun, and if I am experiencing heat stroke, that ain’t a whole lot of fun.  So, I may only fish early and late in the day, dawn and dusk, maybe some after dark, which are usually the times when fish are more likely to be actively feeding and easier to catch anyway.

Something else I like to do if I have the opportunity, to beat the heat, is fish some of our Nebraska coldwater fisheries, some of our trout waters, places that have relatively cold water even during the summer.  The fish that inhabit those coldwater habitats are coldwater species, trout!  I love to catch a variety of species of fish, including trout, and wading into those cold waters in the middle of a summer heat wave is a relief!

A couple of years ago my son and I spent a brutally hot, August afternoon wading and catching brown trout in the Nebraska panhandle.  Air temps. were over 100 degrees F, but the water temps. were in the 60’s.  We waded “wet”, only a pair of old tenner shoes or some wading boots and walked right in.  “AAAaaaaahhhhhhhhh”, that felt so good on a hot afternoon.  When we got too hot, we would “accidentally” trip over an imaginary boulder and get even wetter by taking a little fall.  With plenty of drinking water and some sun-screen, we flipped foam hopper patterns on the water and caught fish all afternoon!

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I repeated that activity a couple of times in the past few weeks on some coldwater fisheries in northern and west-central Nebraska.  One afternoon and evening it was drifting micro-jigs and beadhead nymph patterns for some rainbows.

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Another evening it was reeling and pausing crankbaits for some brown trout.

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Both times I intentionally headed for cold-water habitats because I was looking forward to dipping my hot feet in those refreshing waters, and I knew I could catch fish!  Sometimes in the middle of the “dog days” of summer, just catching fish is an accomplishment!

Let me make a couple, three comments as I wrap this up. . . .

First of all, notice the photos–fish in nets, nets in the water!  Yes, I was fishing coldwater habitats, but during the heat of the summer those waters are warmer too.  Warmer water means more stress on fish that are caught and handled regardless of the species.  Coldwater and coolwater fish are particularly vulnerable to being handled too much when the water is at its warmest during the summer, and to release those fish in as good condition as possible they need to be kept in the water as much as possible, handled as little as possible, and released as soon as possible.  Extra handling and air exposure for hero shots may be more than those fish can take in mid-summer peak temperatures.  Exactly how much stress those fish can withstand depends on actual water temperatures, but in general, less handling is the rule for mid-summer.  I have even gone so far as to suggest that anglers should avoid targeting coolwater species like pike, muskies and big wipers during the warmest water of the year, especially in the warmwater habitats in which some of those fish are found.  Coldwater species like trout are found in colder water, but still they should be handled a lot less during the dog days.

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Secondly, I have not mentioned specific waters where I fished.  If you want to know, I will tell you they are all listed in Trout Fishing in Nebraska’s Streams.  Do a little research, you can find “hot spots” of your own.

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Let me also make this offer, I do every time I mention the Trout Streams booklet.  We have cases of those, if you would like a couple of “hard copies”, e-mail me your U.S. Postal mailing address and I will get a couple in the mail for you, daryl.bauer@nebraska.gov.

Yes, to catch trout now you are going to have to travel to northern and western Nebraska where our coldwater habitats are located.  None of the urban and parks fisheries where we have put-and-take trout fisheries in the fall, winter, and early spring are going to offer any of those fish right now.  Take a few days and do some traveling, you need a vacation and the refreshment that comes from those cold waters anyway!

Lastly, for you internet scouts. . . . Look close at the crankbait that was used to catch the brown trout.  I tried foam hoppers that evening and another similar Rapala bait.  The one in the picture was the only one that would catch fish.  Usually when casting cranks for small stream trout, the first cast or two in an area will produce fish if they are there.  On one run I fished a foam hopper and then a different crankbait, and did not raise a fish.  Switched back to the bait that had worked for a couple of fish already that evening, and was surprised when a couple more casts into “used” water produced another brownie.  Oh, and I will give you a hint:  It weren’t the color.

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About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager.
Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species.
He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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