LEARNING TO FISH: PART 2. SEASONAL PATTERNS OF FISH – SUMMER AND FALL
AHHH, Summer. Reliable weather at last. Where did the fish go? Well, no matter how many you caught this spring, there are still some left.
Now that the fish have fulfilled their reason for living and spawned, furthering the species, they are ready to prepare again for next spring. That’s correct, time to get ready for the next spawn. The way they do that is by staying alive. That’s important to know. They stay alive by having adequate safety (cover) Comfort (dissolved oxygen) and food. Lots of food.
Those fish that were in a group last week are now gone. Eggs laid, nest guarded, fry are swimming. They are tired, exhausted, and need to rest. Most likely, bass or crappie, they are suspended at a comfortable depth, not necessarily around anything, resting.
At this brief stage of the cycle, it’s unlikely they will move much to eat. Fortunately for us, this doesn’t happen at the same time with all fish, all over the lake. These fish will rest for a bit, then put the feed bag back on as they make the transition to summer.
Remember, fish are cold blooded creatures. As the water warms, so does their metabolism. Which means they have to eat. As they transition to summer areas, look for the first flat areas adjacent to where they were spawning. These are areas where they can “hunt” and feed. Shad are big on the diet this time of year for all species. Cover is of lesser importance than feeding.
As fish make the move for summer and warmer water, after that initial feed-up to regain health and body weight, they will begin to look for that comfort zone again. A place similar to a winter hang-out, but with greater access to feeding areas. Somewhere that offers lots of bait fish and an easy area to ambush them. For bass, this will mean brush, near deep water. For crappie, this is a massive flat, near deep water. While the two will inter-mix for the same food source, bass, especially the larger ones, tend to be more cover/ambush fish, while crappie will become pack hunters, roaming flats and attacking large schools of shad.
I know, that goes against common belief. So, just ignore me trolling those flats in July!
One really fun way of fishing in summer is night fishing. At night, bass, who have been dormant all day, tend to move to shallow water to eat. Crappie, now that’s lantern time! Crappie eat minnows. Minnows are attracted to light. Hang a light, especially in early summer, and minnows will show up, followed very soon after by crappie. Oh, occasionally a big gar or catfish too! So try not to be surprised!
So, don’t give up fishing just because it got hot and the “easy” time is over. Summer fishing is by far a more reliable pattern than fishing the spawn. But then, there’s Fall!
The fall season is the time of year to catch a real trophy. Yep, you heard right. Shad and crawdads out weigh eggs. Fish have this instinct to know when winter is approaching. In order for their species to survive to reproduce in spring, they must live thru the winter. They know there will be prolonged periods of inactivity, due to cold. Therefore, they must put on body weight to survive.
Come fall, all bets are off. Fish can and will be anywhere, at any time. The good news is they are there to eat. Winters coming. After the turnover, if your area has one, it is usually game on. The good news for avid anglers…. Its also deer season! Yep, water skiers are gone, and the woods are full. Lake is wide open.
In that quick amount of time when fish leave the deepest summer haunts, they again transition to the “feeding Flats” of early summer. From there, they will move shallower until they trap baitfish and gorge themselves to get ready for winter. This is when they pack on the weight, and most trophy hunters realize they will be bigger, fuller and fatter right now.
Baits this time of year need to mostly resemble shad, up and until you get your first “Hard Freeze”. Mid 20’s or lower. The first hard freeze signals the crawfish to leave shoreline habitat, and head to water to hibernate for the winter. Can’t believe I am even sharing that with you!
Until you get that big freeze, curl tails and shad style baits, moving baits, are the first choice. For bass, anything that looks like a shad, from a spoon or blade bait, to spinner bait and buzz bait will work. After that first freeze, if your bass fishing, there will be a time of exceptional fishing near shore with crawdad crank baits and jigs.
Fall is very exciting, and as it winds down, the weather will generally dictate to us when its time to play dominoes! We may leave the fish biting, but there will come a time as winter moves in on us, the days get short, temps get cold, and the water starts to get hard, that we need to sort tackle and sharpen hooks and get ready for another year!
Thanks for reading. Please check out Part-3. Learn what your body of water offers you to fish!