As the heat wave envelops most of the country, a lot of us would rather jump in the lake or river than go fishing there. Not a bad idea… but believe it or not, the sultry weeks of midsummer can be very productive for fishing, provided you make a couple of simple changes to your approach.
Successful fishing at this time of year really boils down to two things:
1.) You want to change the time of day you fish, focusing mostly on early mornings, evenings, and in some situations in the late of night, and 2.) You want to change the depth you fish in lakes, with the understanding that most fish species are going to move to deeper, cooler waters, especially in daylight hours.
Let’s talk first about timing. We’ll use fly fishing for trout (on rivers) as an example. At this time of year, in most places, the classic spring mayfly hatches are over. You might find some dry fly action (like green drakes and summer caddis) especially on rainy afternoons, and terrestrial flies like ants, beetles, and grasshoppers will start to produce, but the real action happens early in the morning and late at night.
For example, try fishing mouse flies at night (check your local regulations to be sure night fishing is legal) and you might just surprise yourself with what size trout shows up for dinner. The biggest predatory trout eat at in the dark (new moon phases are best)… and they eat mice.
On a bass lake, I’m also going to avoid the hours when the sun is highest and brightest, instead fishing in early morning and late afternoon/evening hours. I’m also going to look for fish in deeper water (20-30 feet), and use deep-diving crankbaits on fluorocarbon line as my go-to rig.
Thing is, those factors that help you locate bass in early spring, like forage (baitfish, crawfish, etc.), structure, and current, all are still very much in play in the summer months. So I’m looking for things like a submerged rock pile, a steep shelf that flattens out in deep water, submerged vegetation, and points with subtle currents.
Find these things, and you’ll find the fish. And that doesn’t just apply to largemouth bass, it’s the same for smallmouth bass, walleyes pike, and other species.
So don’t let the dog days get you down. Enjoy them by fishing early, late… and in many cases, deep.
Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream magazine, and the editor-in-chief of Angling Trade. He is the co-author of four books, most recently the Little Red Book of Fly Fishing.