Fishing during the dog days of summerAbout this time every year, we often hear the term “dog days of August” or “dog days of summer,” applied to a perceived reluctance of fish to bite and therefore a reduction in activity by anglers.
By: Doug Leier, The Dickinson Press
About this time every year, we often hear the term “dog days of August” or “dog days of summer,” applied to a perceived reluctance of fish to bite and therefore a reduction in activity by anglers.
A question I am often asked is whether that perception based in reality? Do fish reduce their feeding or stop eating entirely for a few weeks as water temperatures reach their peak?
Or, are anglers just a little less enthusiastic when high heat, humidity,
mosquitoes … the list of reasons to postpone a fishing outing is long and varied.
However, there are ways to beat the heat, so to speak.
When you do venture out, arm yourself with the self defense for fighting hot summer sun or various insects. With proper preparation, you can enjoy successful fishing trips under most weather conditions.
A hat, sunscreen, bug spray and cold water are useless sitting at home. You can enjoy the bounties of summer longer if you don’t have to risk sunburn to catch another walleye. That’s one variable of the equation you can control.
While protecting yourself from the elements is important, catching fish also adds to the experience. First, keep in mind that natural food sources for fish are abundant during mid-to-late summer. The current year’s crop of baitfish, and young-of-the-year game fish, are big enough to serve as a meal for adult fish.
No matter where you’re fishing, even the best anglers have increased competition.
A bit of advice to beat the heat and improve your odds of catching fish is to work hard at both ends of the day, around dawn and dusk. You not only avoid the hottest part of the day, but fish are more active during these periods, and this will help increase your chances.
Of course, those are also the times of day when mosquitoes are most active, so don’t forget the repellent.
While it’s generally overlooked, another tip is to use fresh, cool bait. Catching fish with dead minnows or crawlers is more due to luck than skill.
With water temperatures rising throughout summer, many successful anglers will change bait preference, rather than changing bait bucket water every 30 minutes to keep minnows alive.
If you’d rather not switch to leeches or crawlers, the best method for keeping minnows alive is using a livewell in a boat. If that’s not an option, try adding a few ice cubes to the minnow bucket and keep the water moving so it doesn’t become stagnant.
If you do use a livewell, remember to bring along a container of 5 gallons or less to transport your minnows after your outing. Transporting any water in a livewell away from a fishing lake or river is no longer allowed, as part of the state’s effort to reduce the likelihood of aquatic nuisance species introduction or transfer.
As far as fishing location, give attention to underwater cover such as weed patches, and work the edges. Also keep in mind that as the water heats up, many fish will move toward deeper water.
Fishing the dog days of summer can be enjoyable and successful. And even if you don’t catch anything, as far as I’m concerned a bad day of fishing still beats a good day of just about any other outside activity, hands down.
Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. Read his blog at dougleier.areavoices.com