Fishing the “Dog Days” of summer
Fishing in shallow, still water during the heat of mid to late summer is often unproductive. Fishing for largemouth bass can be good where you find extensive weed growth, current, a place that isn’t already occupied by other anglers or a combination of all three. However, with higher water temperatures, peak recreational use, and heavy fishing pressure, catching bass in shallow, still water during the day on lakes and reservoirs during summer is difficult for most recreational anglers. But if you’re willing to make some changes, good fishing is available.
Fish change locations and feeding habits with the seasons so anglers must adapt. The first important step in finding good fishing during summer is finding lower water temperatures. Begin the search by focusing on small spring-fed streams, rivers, or tail-waters below dams. Many small streams produce wonderful fishing during summer. Grab an old pair of sneakers, a short ultralight rod and a few lures or nightcrawlers and wade a small stream in the summer heat. Red-eyes, bream and smallmouth bass offer exciting action in close quarters along a shaded stream. But don’t forget insect repellant to keep the six- and eight-legged creatures away. Small and medium size rivers offer good fishing for smallmouth bass, channel catfish, bream and others during summer. Choose early morning or late afternoon visits to beat the heat. Midday fishing on rivers can be equally good if you pack plenty of cold drinks and sun screen. Overcast days offer comfortable all-day river fishing and often produce above-average fishing.
Tail-waters hold many game and bait fish during summer. Sections closest to the dam have the lowest temperatures and attract rainbow trout and striped and hybrid bass where they are present. Further downstream, brown trout and smallmouth bass may also offer good fishing in the cooler water. Fish for larger bass, trout, stripers and hybrids with hard and soft plastic lures that match the size, profile, and color of resident shad and other bait fish. Three-and-a-half to five-inch shallow- and deep-running minnow lures that run well in swift current are top choices when matched to water depth. Jigs, spoons, inline spinners and swimbaits will also take fish. But whatever lure type you choose, be prepared to lose a few until you learn where the shallow areas are. Less expensive lures, like hair and marabou jigs or swimbaits rigged on unpainted heads are effective and less expensive choices for exploring water depth in swift tail-water sections. Downstream, search for areas with less current or good current breaks to find brown trout where deeper holes often attract larger browns. Begin the search for smallmouth bass further downriver where the current slows and water temperature increases.
For those who prefer fishing lakes and reservoirs during summer, night fishing is a productive alternative. Recreational boating and fishing pressure are much lower and nighttime temperatures are more comfortable in the summer heat. Many popular game fish in lakes and reservoirs that stratify spend daylight hours throughout summer in deep water close to the thermocline. The thermocline is often richer in oxygen, closer to many species preferred range, and deep enough that reduced light penetration supports improved feeding conditions. It’s common to find concentrations of both game fish and bait fish in, or close to, the depth of the thermocline during summer. But some of our most popular game fish like large and smallmouth bass, hybrids, and walleyes move toward the surface and feed under the cover of darkness. With fluorescent fishing lines and black lights, you can use the same lures and methods of presentations you use during the day. The biggest difference between night fishing and fishing during the day is the preparation required. At night, it’s best to limit the area you fish to smaller areas or sections on a lake most familiar to you. To be most effective, pinpoint the spots you’ll fish before the sun sets and learn them well. The fallen tree along a favorite shoreline won’t be obvious except on the brightest nights. Take a map, choose precisely where you’ll fish, look the spots over carefully and take some notes. You’ll be surprised how much frustration it saves you after darkness falls. Night fishing is a pleasant alternative during summer that can produce excellent fishing, if you’re properly prepared and equipped.