Riege: Curing the Summertime Blues

Published 10:18 pm Wednesday, July 6, 2011


As summer progresses fishing sometimes turns a little south for a period of time. Many anglers are heard saying things like; “ It is too hot to fish” or “ They just aren’t biting today.” Some have even mentioned that they would just as soon go golfing as to go fishing. These anglers are suffering from the summertime blues. It is true that as the summer months get longer fish have a tendency to scatter out along the flats open water. During this period, feeding frenzy can be few and far between. But, this can be a great time to be outdoors, especially fishing. The old cliché about fishing is also true; “a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work.”

How should you go about curing those summertime blues? All it takes is a pole and reel some line and a few slip floats maybe a can of worms and a lazy day in the sun to get over those “blues.” If you happen to get a fish or two that is the bonus and the “blues” seem to melt away. The Roman poet Horace understood this when he wrote, “Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero!” Translation: “Seize the day, put no trust in the morrow!” Believe me it seems that this summer we get about one good day and then tomorrow it rains or blows us off the water. If we feel blue what are the fish experiencing? Well let’s take a closer look at developing a cure.

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A fish has two major things in its environment, the water it lives in and the weather that is changing, not only seasonally but day-by day, hour-by –hour and minute-by-minute. These two things alone control fish activity. The most unstable either the weather or water becomes, and the more rapid these two factors change, you’ll see an effect on fishing. A fish cannot stand a fast change.

A lot of people don’t realize that fish move on a seasonal and daily basis, and when they move they use underwater structure, essentially the bottom of the lake that is just a little different. Things like bars, underwater humps and manmade structure like submerged roadbeds, levees or riprap along dams or causeways.

When a fish leaves its underwater sanctuary, to eat or search for food, it has to have something visually to follow. A fish is a stupid creature. It cannot rationalize like a human being, and when it moves about it must have something it can follow. Fish don’t swim about a lake haphazardly. Not only can they see structure but also, we can locate the same structure with our observations of land, depthfinders and the feel of the lures on the bottom.

The most important thing to remember is that the larger a fish becomes the tighter it schools and the more time it spends in deep water. A fish lives there because it is forced there by environment over a period of time. When a fish becomes an adult, its body takes longer to make adjustments to the changing conditions of the water and weather. It’s easier for it to make these adjustments in deep water. The deeper you go, the more stable conditions will become. A fish can stay there for weeks. It doesn’t have to move into the shallows all summer.

Is there enough food and oxygen down deep to support fish populations? Absolutely there’s food. There are shad, baitfish, and bluegills at 35feet and deeper. A fish’s menu may change and it may be less selective, but it doesn’t have to move shallow to feed. However, you should keep this in mind: When a fish is down deep it’s probably dormant and its body requires less food. It is just sitting there and not expending any energy, so it really doesn’t need a lot of food. This also makes for difficult fishing, and you have to get your lures closer to them. A strike zone can be very small in deep water, because of visibility and the lethargic nature of the fish.

We all know that a fish requires certain amounts of oxygen to survive. You must remember that a fish is a very adjustable creature, and when there is a very small amount of oxygen in an area it will adjust unless the situation gets to a point where there is just not enough to survive. But no one has proven that a fish has a preferred oxygen zone. Structure in relation to deep water is our guide to finding fish.

We’ve heard hundreds of times that “you can’t catch fish in this lake because of the thermocline and there’s not enough oxygen down there,” and invariably we go find a deep hump and bang there is the walleye.

When big, adult fish do move out of this deep water they leave as a school. The reason most people don’t’ realize this is because they are not fishing the depths correctly.

Two good methods are leadcore line fishing and the use of the bottom bouncer.

First of all, allow me to elaborate on the use of leadcore line system on deep water structure.

A good level wind reel, like the Shimano Calcutta reel, is essential and a good rod that has the potential for a long sweep of the rod tip so that when those” eyes” hit it has some give. I prefer to use the downrigger variety of rods that G Loomis offers in the 7 to 9 foot range. They have the sensitivity and the backbone that you will need for this type of system.

You should start with your level wind reels spooled with 500 feet of 8 pound test Berkley XT, tie in a segment of one, two or three colors of 18 pound leadcore, and finish with another 30 feet of Berkley 8 pound XT, as a leader to the bait. When fishing dirty water you can get away with a 10 pound test for a leader.

The length of the leadcore segment varies by the type of crankbait you’ll be using and the depth you need to achieve. For example, in the late chilly water, I’ve found walleyes to prefer subtle action lures like a # 9 or # 11 Floating Rapala. To get this shallow-diving bait down 30 to 40 feet you need three segments of leadcore. If you’re using a deeper diver like a #9 Shad Rap you can achieve the same depths with just two segments of leadcore. The general rule is high action crankbaits for warm water, subtle action for cool water.

When you find a concentration of fish in over 40 feet of water and they are suspended at 30 feet, start from the bottom and work your bait up to the strike zone. Most anglers would try to determine how much line to let out until they were in 30 feet of water. The easiest method is to let out line until you are on bottom and then crank in line until you have a strike. Just remember also, walleyes have eyes in the top of their heads. It is better to be 2 to 4 feet above them with your bait than 6 inches below.

The second method has been popular among professionals and they have continued to introduce new off shoots of bottom bouncing, such as the Northland Rock Runner Slip Bouncer.

The Bottom Bouncer is a live bait delivery system that enables a fisherman to present bait over the top of structure that might get most other baits “snagged up”. The Northland Rock Runner Bottom Bouncer is “L” shaped wire with a lead weight molded on to it. They come in size ranges from 1/4 to 4 ounces, with the 1 to 2 ounce sizes being the most popular. On one end of the “L” shaped wire is a snap swivel that you can attach your spinner to. At the other end is the feeler. With the line from your pole attached to the center of the “L” shaped wire and dropped to the bottom, you now have a device that will allow you to feel the bottom and keep your bait out of the “snags”.

You might want to experiment with the Northland Rock Runner Slip Bottom Bouncer when you are drifting. This bottom bouncer can actually slide on your line which is a key when you have sensitive biting fish. Although the presentation is the same as the Northland Rock Runner Bottom Bouncer while trolling, you might want to get the feel before adding speed to the formula. You will note that you might want to use a little heavier equipment than your normal jigging rod and reel.

To get the solution for the cure of summertime blues all you have to do is remember two important things. Fish location and changing weather patterns that will force fish to move. Once you understand these two key points you can present your bait in a variety of different ways including lead core trolling and bottom bouncing.