Late summer is always a challenging time for local anglers. The bizarre conditions of the last two weeks have complicated things with oppressive heat and strong westerly winds. This morning the weather broke, and a new wave of optimism has me wanting to get back out and explore. Over the years I’ve learned some techniques for optimizing time on the water and increasing the odds of catching fish when the heat is on.
Get out early
The early morning hours provide two opportunities. First, the fish haven’t been pressured by fishermen or run over by boats for hours. In addition, the water is cooler, and it’s a time when fish feed more aggressively. I particularly like fishing topwater in the morning when fish feed in shallow water. Fish can be spooky in the early hours, especially when you have calm conditions with little or no wind. Work topwater plugs slowly and try flies like sliders instead of noisy poppers. Keep an eye out for any movement or wakes on the surface. The wind can be light or non-existent early providing a clue to where fish might be cruising and feeding. While avoiding excess noise is always a good idea, it’s critical when fishing in the early morning hours, particularly in shallow water.
Whether you’re early or late, be as quiet as possible. Shoes shuffled on the deck, cooler lids slammed, push poles carelessly bumped into engines or the side of the boat and anchor chains will spook fish, alerting them to your presence. If you’re wading, move slowly, avoid pushing a wake and splashing through the water. If you’re fly fishing don’t rip the line off the water. Make casts with long leaders and flies that land softly.
As the sun gets higher towards mid-morning, target the edges of grass flats, oyster bars and other structures. These transitions from shallow to deeper water are natural feeding lanes for fish that hunt prey pinned to the edges by the tide and the water depth. If possible have your lure or fly move naturally into the tide. Try making a cast into the shallow water, working it over the edge and from the deeper water to the shallow edge. If you see fish feeding try to make a “measured” cast that will come up a bit short of the action. Then make a presentation to the edge of the action avoiding a cast that will “line” feeding fish and spook them.
Be a night owl
Night time is a much more comfortable time of the day for anglers and the fish they pursue. Lighted docks and the lighted bridge fenders in passes attract baitfish, crustaceans and the gamefish that feed on them. When fishing the lights it’s critical to approach them slowly and quietly. Make a note of the tide and the direction of the wind before anchoring to make sure you’ll end up in casting range but not too close to the action. Make casts short and long of the lights themselves and work your way into the margins before casting in the light. Avoid big, heavy and bulky flies and lures and try to “match the hatch,” usually baitfish and small shrimp.
Go low and slow to beat the heat
Deeper water stays cooler than the surface that’s exposed to the sun’s rays. As the day heats up try moving from the flats into deeper water. Look for moving water and fish your offerings low and slow. Use a jig and allow it to hit bottom before starting a slow retrieve. Try heavy flies like a Clouser fished on intermediate and sink tip lines. These sinking fly lines help keep your fly near the bottom. Strip slowly remembering that a strip raises the fly off the bottom.
While the late summer definitely poses some challenges to anglers it also provides some unique opportunities. By employing a few strategies to beat the heat you can open up some excellent fishing opportunities.
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