With heat indices set to rise above 100 degrees across the state this weekend, it’s a good reminder that you don’t have to sweat it when it comes to catching fish this time of year.
There are several methods to consistently find a variety of fish in mid-July, and hopefully stay relatively cool in the process.
As always, be sure to stay well-hydrated, wear sunblock and sunglasses and wear light-colored clothes during the hot days.
Look for shade
One of the best — and probably most obvious — tips I can give this time of year is to target spots where the fish are out of direct sunlight.
Fish congregate around these shady areas and you can usually find a good variety of species hiding out under docks, bridges, trees, lily pads, overhangs and especially back in tunnels.
They are also typically pretty quick to bite if something enticing falls in front of them, as the warm water helps kick them into feeding mode, without the worry of them becoming lethargic from overheating in direct sunlight. For dock fishing, I prefer to use a 1/32nd-ounce marabou or feather jig, which have a slower drop rate to help entice the fish. Tipping them with a Crappie Nibble can make it too good to pass up, even for bigger species like catfish and bass.
The best times to fish are typically early morning or late evening when the sun is down behind the trees. Target the areas where shadows cover the body of water, and you’ll be much more effective at finding good fish.
On a calm morning, the topwater bass bite can be hard to beat. In the evenings, I like to use a finesse approach, mainly using a Ned rig to target bass, crappie and bluegill, especially in ponds where the water is likely to be a bit warmer and fish may be a bit sluggish still.
Fish at night
Night fishing can be particularly effective for channel catfish, walleye and crappie, as well.
I prefer live baits such as night crawlers or wax worms fished under a glow bobber, as they will generally be found feeding in shallow waters at night after a hot day. Frozen shrimp — either raw or cooked — is also a fantastic bait for night fishing, and it can be used whole on a circle hook for catfish or cut into pieces on a crappie jig for panfish. As the shrimp thaws, it will put off a nice, fishy smell that draws them in droves.
Rocky points are ideal spots to target during this time, as the rocks retain a lot of the heat from the day. Catfish will typically be right up in the rocks and you’ll likely hear a few splashing around close and maybe even grunting.
If you decide to fish during the mid-day, you’ll likely be looking to go to deeper waters.
Some fish will head to deeper, cooler waters during the heat of the day, particularly where there’s structure they can hide in. Deep brush piles are of course notable for being great crappie magnets during the summer, but channel catfish also are known to hang out around them looking for an easy meal.
Another overlooked method of crappie fishing during a heat wave is to run crankbaits over the flats on top of schooling fish and watch them go nuts. Rather throwing or trolling them, crappie will gladly hammer a crankbait during the hot days at a variety of depths.
Remember, fish typically will spread out more during the summer, so you want to cover as much water as you can on a given trip. Crankbaits are ideal for that kind of fishing, and you can swap out lures to fish them at different depths throughout the day.
If you can find an area where a creek or river opens into a standing body of water, you can bet there will be fish there during the heat of summer.
The rushing water supplies the lake or pond with cool, oxygenated water full of nutrients that attracts a ton of baitfish and everything up the food chain, as well.
This method is a great way to fish on hot, humid days, especially following an overnight thunderstorm, which are pretty common this time of year.
Plus, if you get hot, you can wade into the stream and fish from there to cool down.