Outdoors

L. J. Murray caught this nice 26-pound channel catfish recently in Lake Sinclair.

Hotter weather this year began in May and it has not receded except for a few days since the heat began. I went fishing this week and the air temperature was 97 degrees and the water temperature was 90 degrees. 

Not only was I uncomfortable but the fish were also. I am not sure where they were hiding but I could not find a good place where they were ready to bite. Dog days, for the most part, are an August ritual that anglers have to face when the fish are just are too hot and tired to bite and anglers are too hot to fish.

Dog days bring back both good and bad memories growing up in Alabama. One of the bad memories was having to pick cotton on my granddaddy’s farm. Picking cotton was about the worst punishment a young boy could face in those days. So many other things like fishing, playing baseball, and swimming were much more attractive. 

I have recently seen cotton stalks on sale at antique stores. I have told my wife those things are not allowed in our house! Even to this day, more than 50 years since I had to pick cotton, I refuse to look at a field of cotton when we are on the road. My wife has learned to not point out those fields. You might get the idea by now that I did not like picking cotton. You are absolutely right!

When I turned 10 years of age I wised up and got a job as a soda jerk at one of the local pharmacies that had an ice cream counter. That establishment was even air-conditioned! Believe me, going from picking cotton in 90-plus heat to working in an air-conditioned establishment where I could have a root beer float at any time was definitely a move in the right direction.

By now you are likely asking what does all this have to do with fishing? Well, when the fish will not bite, even with your strong will to endure the hot weather and give it your best shot, your thoughts might turn to other things like air-conditioning and root beer floats. 

This past week while I was on the lake fishing, or rather hunting and sweating, I decided I was about the only angler crazy enough to endure the heat and the bad fishing. I did see a few boats pulling youngsters on floats. Youngsters can handle the heat.

What was missing on the lake were anglers. In six hours of fishing, I only saw two other boats that were actually fishing and from the looks, it appeared they were anchored out and fishing for catfish, which actually a good bet for success right now. Seems that “old whiskers” are not impacted by the hot water like other fish species.

When I returned to the dock from a recent minimally successful trip for largemouth bass, I baited a catfish rig with a bream head and caught a nice five-pound catfish while I rested under a big dock umbrella and tried to recover from my lake outing with a bottle of cold water. Thinking back, I should have called my wife and asked her to bring me a root beer float down to the dock.

Granddaddy always commented about how his hound dog named Sport would act when dog days arrived. He would lie around under the house and only come out to eat. Sport was granddaddy’s barometer for determining when dog days came and went. 

Some of the older folks (I am older but I have learned better) still think that dog days have something to do with canines. But most everybody else now agrees that dog days don’t really have anything to do with canines, although everyone does tend to agree that the period called dog days is a most awful time of year. 

Dog days are a period between mid-July and early September when the most humid and sultry hot weather occurs in the Northern Hemisphere. This period also ushers in a period of stagnation and inactivity for humans, plants, animals and yes fish. It is definitely here.

This weather phenomenon impacts fish and anglers alike. Except for some seriously dedicated anglers, few anglers will try their luck during this period because they know the fishing generally is not good. Who wants to sit in a boat through a day of hot humid weather when the fish do not seem to be biting? 

Water temperatures have reached the low 90s this week and the fish are not biting, or they are biting really slow at best. High water temperature with low oxygen content makes conditions tough for the fish even to the point of survival.

Anglers have to be adaptive, anglers have to try several lures and techniques, anglers have to try many locations, anglers have to watch the water for clues or anglers can stay home in air-conditioning and have a root beer float. In summary, summer fishing during the height of dog days can be very tough and boy has it become tough lately. 

But better angling days are ahead. Just watch what happens once cooler weather arrives and the water temperature drops a few degrees in late September. The baitfish will move in mass to shallower water in large schools and the largemouth bass, hybrid bass, striped bass, catfish and crappie will tag right alone. 

However, if you can’t wait for cooler weather, just remember that the fish will bite (hopefully) even during dog days if you can manage to locate them around schools of baitfish and offer them with a good lure or bait. Be careful on the water and stay hydrated. 

Good fishing and see you next week.

Outdoors columnist Bobby Peoples can be reached at brpeoples995@gmail.com.

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