Some Tips for Warm Fishing

Special to the Valley News
Wednesday, August 03, 2016

 Nothing impacts summer fishing more than a heat wave.

When a river warms, trout turn off. They seek deeper pools where they feed at night if they feed at all. If the water temperature gets too high, trout can actually go belly up and die.

Smallmouth bass are also affected by the heat. During the day, bronzebacks will abandon their shallow water haunts for deeper rock beds. This makes them harder to find and harder to catch.

However, when the thermometer tops 90 degrees there is no reason to lose hope. Fish can still be caught. There are some simple, common sense strategies for success.

First, get on the water early. Even if the previous day was a scorcher, temperatures go down at night and smallmouth bass will come back to the shallows to feed. They can be caught in the morning, especially on surface lures and crank baits.

Optimum fishing time is between daylight and 8 a.m.

The same holds for late day fishing. As the sun sinks lower on the horizon, smallmouth can turn on. I usually go out about 6 p.m. and fish until sunset. Enfield’s Shaker Bridge is a prime destination for evening anglers to catch a variety of species.

Largemouth are a bit different because they tend to thrive in warmer water. Instead of going deep, greenies will hang in the shadows around structure or under weed beds. If you get a lure in front of them, they will strike instinctively to defend their territory.

Mascoma Lake has seen a surge in the largemouth population and Crystal Lake is perhaps the best largemouth lake in the area.

There is one technique for fishing weed beds that consistently produces largemouth: using a weedless soft plastic worm or lizard, cast the bait on top of the weeds or lily pads, then drag the lure slowly across the vegetation, allowing it to sink into any openings before drawing it back up.

When the lure reaches the edge of the weeds, allow it to sink to the bottom. Bass will follow the motion of the lure and grab it as it falls. Sometimes, they even come up through the weeds, striking through the lily pads.

A fish finder works miracles in hot weather. Watching the screen, an angler is able to locate deep structure like rock formations, weed lines or schools of baitfish. All fish relate to structure so you never know what you will catch.

An excellent deep water tool is the Carolina rig. A barrel sinker is used above a swivel with a leader on the other end. As the sinker is retrieved, it creates a commotion that sends out sonic waves.

The lure, usually a soft, plastic bait, rises and falls behind the sinker to tempt bass and pickerel.

The strike on a Carolina rig is subtle. When the fish grabs the lure, the angler may not feel it right away. Set the hook immediately if there is any unusual movement or pressure on the line.

Schools of white perch can also be found on dropoffs as far down as 60 feet. Once you find them, they will hit just about anything you throw in the water. Bass will also hang around these schools to feed on the smaller fish.

There is one way to use the summer swelter to your advantage — by fishing after a storm. Rain freshens and cools the water. Fish become more active and start to feed. Just make sure the storm has passed before hitting the lake.

Another technique involves locating a spring in a lake or pond. Cooler water flows from spring holes, saturating the area with more oxygen. Trout will gather over these holes, though they still may not bite, which can be frustrating.

Finally, if you’re desperate to catch something, go after fish that normally aren’t pursued by Upper Valley anglers.

Carp are found in the Connecticut River and Mascoma Lake and will stay in the shallows even in hot weather. Chum the water with corn and then cover a small hook with the same kernels. The action isn’t fast but a bite might result in a lunker that could weigh in at more than 20 pounds.

The horn pout (catfish) is often overlooked in local waters. They will hit worms, cut bait or any of the commercial products designed for the species.

When skinned and gutted, they are also excellent table fare. Pout can be found on the bottom in deep water during the day, but the best time for horn pouting is at night, when they swim into shallow sandy stretches to feed.

Of course, summer weather doesn’t last long, so enjoy it while you can. It will provide a fond memory when you’re sitting on the ice this winter, freezing as you watch a tip-up.

Coleman Stokes can be reached at stokecoles@gmail.com.