Like that age when boys start to notice girls, fishing this time of year can be as awkward as asking for a first date. It can be a hit or miss operation, with success determined by persistence and luck more than the size or shape of your bait. It's also not a time to overlook a cute bluegill, just because the walleye stopped biting.
Yes, today's column is dedicated to the pursuit of whatever is willing to bite, and pondering where, when and how. If you had success pounding the shoreline of a big lake in May and June, it may be time to look for water with more weed lines and fewer paddleboards. Or, for that matter, your Whopper Plopper may be what's needed for fish that aren't hungry in this heat, but are crabby enough to snap at something coming at them too loudly. You just keep trying different things until something or some things start to work.
I'm getting a bit older myself, wary enough about the passing of time to want every outing to be a tad bit better than the ones before. So I probably shouldn't fish at all in late July, never mind August. But I do anyway, and I have to say I've had some of my most enjoyable days on the water this exasperating spring and summer. The trick is, bring a variety of baits, try them all, and be a tad skeptical when absorbing other anglers' advice. They likely won't have a clue either, about what's going to work tomorrow. So take the following advice with a traditional grain of salt (though honestly, I wouldn't intentionally lie to you about important things like fishing)
- Bass, bluegill and crappie will still bite; you just have to get your butt out of bed around sunrise and know when to call it a day, or as my Dad used to say, "Call in the dogs and pee on the fire." Wear mosquito repellent and use some kind of scent like Pro-Cure to mask the bug repellent. And if your water of choice has trees or hills along the shore, fish the shadows as long as you possibly can. Then start looking for weed lines.
- You can stick to whatever tactics worked for you all spring; it may work okay, though I doubt it. Or you can switch tactics and locations. Now's a great time, for example, to just head for higher elevations.
- Also, these days I'm not one to bank fish for catfish, but folks who do can be annoyingly successful if they pick the right water and are willing to get up very early or stay out way past the time Mom wants them back home. Stained water doesn't hurt a bit, either. And paddleboarders will be home complaining about the afternoon crowds.
- Thanks in part to irrigation and such, the clarity and water levels of ponds and small lakes can vary enormously this time of year. I just fished a shallow lake that should still be clear and overflowing its banks; instead, the water level had fallen at least two feet in the past two weeks., and it was downright yucky. Take advantage of fellow anglers recording their experiences on http://fishexplorer.com. And remember that stained, overly warm water doesn't necessarily mean lousy fishing – unless you insist on tactics and species that rely on water from a Coors commercial.
- I'm not big on vibrating lures, paddle tails and other gadgets that make a loud fuss to get a fish's attention. Like my tactics around women, typically, the older I get, the more subtle my bait. But even I concede, fish that can't see their prey still have to eat, and senses other than sight sometimes prevail.
- This is also a good time to seriously go after white bass. Even in years that aren't quite this miserably hot, at some point those little predators that ignored your favorite presentations all spring and summer begin to attack those big balls of shad.
- In short, tactics that left you skunked in May, June or early July may start to work again quite nicely.
For all my complaints, I really do like fishing this time of year. I just wish we could sleep in later.