Archived Story

Summer fishing poses dangers, challenges

Published 12:01am Sunday, June 3, 2012

This hot weather makes me miss all those cold days on the water.

I have never been a fan of summer fishing. I just can’t get excited about sitting out in a boat in 100-degree, windless weather catching next to nothing.

Surface water temperature continues to rise. As the water and air gets hotter, the mid-day fishing becomes almost unbearable. That’s the price we pay for living in the South.

Good fishing reports from the bass and white perch fishermen and ladies are getting rare. The cat fishermen are doing great. Catfish are the last of the species in this area to spawn.

Many people are loading their freezer with filets.

Most are fishing the Mississippi River where the current makes for cooler water than the lakes. Surface water temperature of the lakes is approaching 90 degrees way too fast.

It’s too early in the year for the water to be this warm. I have read thousands of books and magazines, and I just cannot agree with most of them.

According to the reads, bass and sac-au-lait feed more and more often as the water temperature rises. If that’s a fact, it does not reflect on the reports I receive and my personal trips.

On the positive side of summer fishing, you can have a great day if there’s a storm coming.

The negative to fishing during a thunderstorm is lightning. Too many close calls over the years made me very weather cautious.

I was fishing the old river at Deer Park a couple decades ago. I was alone just south of Fairview Landing near the Mississippi River. The thunder was south (downriver) from me, so I didn’t pay it much attention.

I had launched at Jugheads old landing which was to the north. As the storm drew closer, I decided to make a fast run for the landing. Ahead of me another storm was coming from the north. I was surrounded.

Making that run was a big mistake that almost cost me my life. I was running flat out at 75-plus miles per hour when a lightning bolt hit a few yards ahead of the boat. As the boat passed through the strike zone, I felt heat and electricity in the air.

I took a sharp turn, ran the boat aground on the bluff side and clawed my way half-way up the muddy bank and sat under a slight overhang with mud all over me. That was too close.

Had I been running a couple miles per hour faster, I would not be writing this column. A decade later in the exact same place, it was the same scene only this time I did the right thing.

My fishing partner for that day pointed to a group of standing willow trees and said to go there until the storm passed. Instead, I went to nearby Fairview Landing, beached the boat and stood under Mr. Harold Short’s camp house.

Mr. Short is lifelong commercial river fisherman and friend that knows more about the Mississippi River than I will ever learn. He was not at the camp when we got there, but he did pull up a few minutes later. I noticed he was reaching under his pickup truck seat and giving us a very hard stare.

I hollered out my name and all was well. He’s a kind man that would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. On the other hand, he’s a man I would not want on my bad side.

He asked what we were doing.

“Ducking out from this storm Mr. Harold,” I said.

He laughed, walked down to the bank, got in his river boat, pull cranked the old Yamaha and took off to run his lines in the river with no slicker suit on. He is a tough man.

About that time a lightning bolt hit the trees where my partner suggested we hide out. The tree caught fire, and we could feel the ground shake under our feet.

I made the right call that day.

Fishing is good just before, during and after a thunderstorm but respect the lighting and have a plan, and a place to “duck out.”