Current and baitfish are THE keys to successful summer angling. Summer fishing on area reservoirs and any reservoir in the south can be tough during the hot weather between June and September but angling when water current is present and locating shad can greatly improve your chances for success when targeting summer largemouth bass and other lake species.
Initially when early summer arrives, the fish tend to be scattered but as summer progresses the fish regardless of species begin to form large schools, which can play into the angler’s favor. During summer you can catch a large number of fish from one location due to the fish schooling together. I rate June and July as two of the best months to catch fish on local reservoirs.
When the hot summer air temperatures arrive, many anglers will resort to fishing early and late in the day or they opt to fish strictly at night or they just quit fishing altogether. Some anglers can’t take the summer heat and other anglers consider the fishing to be just too slow during the middle part of the day.
On some summer days, the best fishing can be at high noon during the most unpleasant and hot conditions of the day. The fish are not aware that you are about to succumb to the heat. Fish will and can feed at just about any time of the day. Factors that impact the timing of the summer bite are clouds/sun, feeding times based on moon phases, wind, rain, weather fronts and most of all the presence of water current and baitfish.
Studies indicate that largemouth bass and most game fish feed more during the summer months and that their feeding can occur at any time of the day. The fish use up more energy during the hot weather so they eat more. However, as the summer progresses and if the water lacks sufficient oxygen, the fish will become stressed and may in fact eat and move less.
I think what scares anglers away from summertime fishing is the thought that the fish just will not bite when it is hot. If you can get past the personal discomfort of the heat with a wide brim hat and some cold drinks, you can catch several species on summer’s hottest days.
Some anglers also think they cannot locate the fish because all they hear is that anglers have to fish in deep water to catch summer fish and deep water fishing is just too difficult. True, most species are not usually found in the same easy-to-fish locations that provided you with success in the spring and even early summer. A good lake map and a fish/depth finder will resolve those issues.
It is also true is that a large number of the fish move away from the shoreline to deeper water but an exception is boathouses and docks that provide shade and attract fish like largemouth bass even during the summer. Shallow shoreline vegetation will also provide shade and good oxygen levels that can provide good summer fishing, especially early and late in the day when shad are also present.
In Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee, deep water fishing during the summer may only mean 8 to 30 feet of water. I seldom catch fish deeper than 30 feet in either reservoir. If you fish out of a 20-foot boat, twice the length of your boat is about as deep as many species will go in these two reservoirs. Looking at deep water in that way can reduce your concerns about fishing in deep water.
The reason that fish in Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee do not go into really deep water during the summer months is the lack of dissolved oxygen in deeper water. Neither reservoir stratifies like many reservoirs, so therefore there is not a thermocline that forms in the water column. Lacking a thermocline spreads the fish out in the water column but it also reduces the area in the water column where the fish can find adequate dissolved oxygen.
The best location for finding summer species is to look for some type of underwater cover like ledges, channels, points or humps, underwater trees and brushpiles in water that is 8 to 30 foot deep. Once you find those areas, look next for water current. The best summer fishing will occur when some type of current or water movement is present. Even water movement created by the wind can spell success during the summer months.
The best water current is created in both lakes by the pump-back operation at the Wallace Dam. Unfortunately there is no set schedule for the pump-back operation and that can cause the presence of water current to vary on a daily basis. You can be fishing with little to no success and when water begins moving in either direction, the fish become active and begin feeding aggressively.
In addition to current, the presence of baitfish is extremely important. Lakes Oconee and Sinclair have good populations of threadfin shad and the presence of that baitfish is a must if an angler is to have success during summer. The game fish like largemouth bass, hybrid/striped bass, catfish and even crappie will always be in areas around schools of baitfish and will feed actively when water current is present.
So if your summertime fishing is slow, put on some sunscreen; drink plenty of water and fish the water current during anytime of the day. I have always been told that the fish will always swim facing into the current so work your baits accordingly and always fish in areas where baitfish are present.
Good fishing and see you next week.
Outdoors columnist Bobby Peoples can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.