Catching Fish in July & August

By Tony Dean - August 1, 2008
July and August are traditionally the hottest months of the year and are a real test of the fisherman's skill.

I've known and spent time on the water with a lot of fishermen and I've noticed that the really good ones are flexible, they don't hesitate to fish different places or vary their baits, lures and tactics as the conditions change. They aren't even locked into catching just bass or walleye, if one species isn't biting, they target another and have a good time.

But, unfortunately, most fishermen are pretty rigid in their approaches to fishing and tend to fish the same places, with the same baits or lures and fish them in the same way throughout the year whether they are catching fish or not. They probably do that because they had enjoyed some success fishing in that manner before, and probably will again, but not as often or as many as they will if they learn to change their tactics with the conditions.

Here are some ways that you may be able to improve your success during the time of year I've heard fishermen call "the dog days of summer, when you can't buy a strike."

In the summer, generally speaking, the best times to catch many species of fish are from early evening, through the night, and into the first couple of hours after dawn. I've had some pretty good fishermen tell me, "you might as well sleep through the heat of the day and just fish at night."

I also know other people who seem to be able to catch fish just about whenever they go fishing.

Here are some suggestions for improving your summer fishing:

Bluegill - The basic method is to suspend a chunk of nightcrawler or a worm below a bobber and cast it around some weeds growing in the shallows, near a partially submerged tree trunk, or along the side of a log floating in the water. Bluegill also hang along the outside edges of weedbeds where the worm/bobber will work just fine, as will a small safety-pin type lure such as a beetlespin that's made for casting with light spinning equipment. Fly fishermen can catch bluegill on a variety of types of flies, including dry flies (Yellow Humpy, Royal Wulff), wet flies (Improved McGinty, Black Gnat, Woolly Worm), and small deer hair poppers.

Crappie - When the weather is very hot, crappie tend to school in deeper water where there is shade, such as under docks, in stump fields, weedbeds and brushpiles. Look in sheltered bays, shallow coves, and along weedlines adjacent to deeper water, rocky reefs, sandbars with abrupt drop-offs or submerged creek channels that provide food and cover. Minnows are the traditional crappie live bait, but they can also be taken on worms, nightcrawlers and leeches. If you prefer to use artificial lures, try beetlespins, small Rapalas, straight-line spinners such as the Mepps or Rooster Tail, Road Runners or white, yellow, chartreuse, or red and yellow marabou crappie jigs. The jigs can be productive fished bare or tipped with a minnow. Crappie also provide excellent night fishing and many people use a lantern or floating, battery-powered automobile headlight to attract fish. The light attracts nocturnal insects and fish congregate to feed on those that fall into the water.

Catfish -- Nighttime is always the best time to catch catfish and that goes double during the summer months. For channel catfish, try prepared baits, dip baits, chicken or turkey livers, chicken entrails, nightcrawlers, minnows, frogs, sand toads or crawdads. Put the bait near the bottom in five to 15 feet of water near shore and sharpen your cleaning knife. Blue catfish prefer a variety of animal life, such as fishes, immature aquatic insects, crayfish, clams and freshwater mussels. Flathead catfish can be taken on live baits including fish, crayfish, frogs, salamanders, nightcrawlers and large grasshoppers.

Carp - One species that I've never had any trouble taking regardless of how hot the weather gets is the carp. Some of the best summertime carp baits are a nightcrawler, shad gizzard, a few kernels of corn, a red wiggler, green worms or doughballs. Look for carp in grassy areas and shallow water near the shoreline. You can use a bobber to help you detect strikes, or you can put a weight a foot or so up the line from the bait and fish on or near the bottom. After you cast, push a Y-shaped stick into the mud along the bank with the fork in the stick just a few inches above the water. Place your rod in the fork a few inches back from the tip and lay the rod down at a sharp angle to the water. Keeping the rod and the line very low will help to keep the line from being blown by the wind. Tighten the line and wait for the tip to tell you when a fish takes the bait. The real fun starts when you hook a carp because they put up a strong fight all the way to shore.

Author Tony Dean
Tony Dean
Tony Dean is host and producer of "Tony Dean Outdoors," a regional television show that airs across the upper Midwest. Tony also produces "Dakota Backroads", a daily radio show that airs across both Dakotas and portions of surrounding states. Tony is a member of the North Dakota and National Freshwater Fishing Halls of Fame and has received numerous conservation awards at a local, state, regional and national level. Click here to visit Tony Dean's website..