Waters hard to fish in summer heat

Published 12:02 am Sunday, August 9, 2015

August and fishing is a tough combination in the Deep South.

Raised as a cold water angler, I just do not care much for midday or late evening fishing during the hottest month of the year. Of course, you can still catch fish. The fish have to eat sometimes. They will go nocturnal when the lake water temperature exceeds 90 degrees, and the rivers hit 85 or so. The average water temperature in this area exceeded 90 degrees in July on the lakes. I heard reports of 95 and even some 96-degree water this week. That is hot.

The first thing most think is the bass and perch will go deep. They will go deep, but they may not be on the bottom. Fish will suspend in hot water over the top of the thermocline. The thermocline in the water column rises in the summer. The water below the thermocline, which is that layer of water where the temperature changes fast is oxygen depleted. You won’t see many or any fish below a strong thermocline. Some waters will not have a distinct thermocline.

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Waters like the Old Rivers, which have a bit of slow current until the Mississippi River land locks these river bend lakes, it will not have a hard thermocline. The rivers won’t either because of a strong current. That will allow the fish to go deep on the Old Rivers and rivers. Still waters like the landlocked oxbow lakes and reservoirs do have strong thermoclines. That keeps the fish usually no deeper than 10 feet or maybe 12 deep on the oxbow lakes, and maybe 15 to 18 feet deep on the reservoirs.

The pattern on the still-water lakes is to target the areas that offer the most shade, sometimes. Fish, especially the largemouth bass, are a very complicated species, sometimes. No matter what you read and what we write there are always exceptions because no two lakes are alike. I write from experience and in general.

My son and I were fishing in mid-July many years ago just after a mid-evening thunderstorm on Lake Concordia. The bass went crazy. We did not count the numbers, but did weigh the top five fish at 9.56, an eight-, seven-, a six- and a five-pound bass. We did not count the number of three- to four-pound bass caught. Everything was released.

Anyone could have caught those fish that day. We used several surface lures like walkers, chuggers and poppers. The bass would slam spinnerbaits, and jigs as well. During the feeding frenzy I broke out the fly rod and boated a six-plus on a No. 2 Pecks Gray Ghost popping bug, which is still my largest bass caught on fly tackle to date.

When the bass are dumb, they will eat anything. When they are not eating is when work and thinking comes into play. The Mississippi River continues to fall cast off real slow but accelerated the last few days to a foot fall per day. We could see a favorable stage for fishing the Old Rivers this time next week.

The Mississippi River stage at Natchez today is around 47.8 feet. The charts predict about a one-foot fall per day (or more) though Thursday which has a predicted level of 43.7 feet. I need 38 feet and falling slow.

That means from Saturday until the winter rise, we may get to see what the live oxbow lakes have to offer.


Eddie Roberts writes a weekly fishing column for The Democrat. He can be reached at fishingwitheddie@bellsouth.net.