This is the time of year when folks, especially those who enjoy outdoor activities like fishing and hunting, begin to get restless.
You can also throw in high school and college football to the upcoming fall season of restlessness.
The COVID-19 virus is attempting to stop or delay much of the football season for many colleges and some high schools but outdoor activities like fishing and hunting are much less impacted by the virus. Folks have been restricted for so long, you are likely to see a very active fall season for fishing and hunting.
I know that we have several more weeks before fall officially begins, but I am already looking ahead. Unfortunately, the heat will just not abate and no one knows how long the heat will continue. Hunters will continue their activities like squirrel and dove hunting even though the heat makes even those hunts miserable.
Deer hunters have a little time to get ready for the opening of archery season on Sept. 12, but fishing is an annual activity and right now the fishermen only have to wait for cooler weather to usher in the fall fishing season. This past summer fishing season was not exceptionally good due to the hot weather and the inability to successfully pattern certain species like largemouth bass.
The fish of all species are still in their summer pattern, and normally I would suggest that fish like largemouth bass are located in deep water but this recent summer saw the fish remained scattered in shallow and deep water. It has been a hot and crazy summer.
As soon as the water temperature hopefully begins to drop in late September, the fish will begin moving to shallow water where they will stay for a couple of months or more depending on the arrival of colder weather.
The fall fishing can be fantastic as the fish gorge themselves on shad before winter arrives. During the early fall, largemouth bass and other fish species like hybrid/striped bass and crappie will return to the shallows to feed on shad and fatten up before winter arrives. Fall brings a drop in air temperature, and that results in a simultaneous drop in the water temperature (thank goodness).
The drop in water temperature triggers a change in fish movements and eating habits. The largemouth and other fish species will begin a migration from their deeper summertime locations to the lake’s creeks and larger coves. As the water temperature drops through the 70s and 60s, the largemouth will feed on shad that have taken up residence in large schools in the cooler, oxygenated water of the creeks and large coves.
That movement occurs over several weeks, but if you concentrate on locating schools of shad, those shad will let you know the location of the fish. There is no other time of the year when the presence of shad is more vital to an angler’s success in catching fish than in the fall. The fish are looking for shad so they can gorge themselves before the onset of winter.
Incoming creeks and small streams create high levels of oxygen, and this draws the shad. The backs of the creeks and large coves will provide good water and the shad are drawn to those locations. The largemouth, crappie and hybrid/striped bass will then follow these schools of shad.
Many anglers tend to believe that the largemouth bass are easier to pattern on Oconee in the fall than on Sinclair. On Oconee, look for shallow water stumps, dock post and other objects where you can cast topwater offerings and shaky head worms. Other choices for fall largemouth bass on Oconee include spinnerbaits, crankbaits like Rat-L-Traps and jigs.
On Sinclair, anglers seeking largemouth bass should look for more open areas like flats and should also concentrate some time on the lake points. Many of those flats and points are the same locations where anglers caught largemouth during the spring transition as the largemouth moved to and from shallow bedding areas.
Look for open water areas on Sinclair that have shallow water that extends out into the lake and is surrounded by deeper water. Shad will congregate on top of those spots and when the shad move onto those places you can really catch the largemouth and hybrid/striped bass in the fall. Crankbaits are a great choice on Sinclair during the fall but don’t put aside topwater baits and shaky head worm rigs.
The fall fishing season will begin as soon as we have a drop in water temperatures into the upper 70s and will continue until the water temperature drops into the upper 50s. Just remember that the presence of threadfin shad in the area you are fishing is the key to fall angling success for largemouth bass on Lakes Oconee and Sinclair.
Large schools of shad can already be seen on the surface in the main lake and some large coves. You have time for other outdoor activities before the fall fishing season really gets cranked up but it can get cranked up in a hurry with some cool weather.
Good fishing and see you next week.
Outdoors columnist Bobby Peoples can be reached at email@example.com.