It’s Hot! Surface temps are at the highest they will be all year, algae is in bloom, baitfish are everywhere…how do I react to catch fish. This month Ali Shakoor shares his scientific knowledge on how water temps, thermal breaks, baitfish and fish movement are all affected by the “Dog Days” of summer.
by: Captain Lance Valentine
Dog Days of summer, traditionally thought of as a tough time to fish. Old wives tails actually said that fish lost their teeth in the heat of summer, but smart walleye fishermen know better and that the “Dog Days” can be some of the best fishing if you understand what is actually happening under the water.
The “dog days” of summer are a result of several factors. Consistent hot weather, water temps at a yearly high, an over abundance of bait fish, walleye transitioning to summer patterns, increased daylight, temperature and oxygen straticifaction, and heavy cover. All of these factors add up to tough fishing on most bodies of water.
Stratification, the “separation” of differing water temperatures and/or oxygen levels, is one of the effects of hot, stable summer weather that has a major effect on fishing. Walleye need oxygen, and won’t venture to water that is lacking oxygen, regardless of how much food, comfort or cover is there. The same is true of water temperatures in summer. While walleye prefer cooler water (most biologists agree that temps in the mid to upper 60’s are preferred), walleye will stay in warmer water if the cooler water is low or lacking in oxygen.
Summer also means baitfish in abundance, both mature and newly hatched. Walleye like an easy meal and obviously chase adult baitfish throught the water column, but as summer hits its hottest, understand that there are a LOT of newly hatched baitfish that are still in the ¾ to 2” size range and walleye often gorge themselves on hundreds of smaller bait fish instead of larger options. To an angler this means that lure SIZE is a critical part of fishing success in the heat of summer. Like walleye, each baitfish species has a preferred food source and water temperature, so understanding the bait in the body of water you are fishing is a great first step to finding hungry walleye!
As walleye get comfortable in their summer patterns expect less major movements. Walleye that set up in cover will stay there as long as the bait stays in that cover and open water nomadic walleye will stay out in open water roaming and moving with schools of open water bait. These groups will hardly ever mix in summer, as each has found their summer “home” and as long as the food stays they will remain until the first signs of fall hit the lake.
Walleye activity during Summer can be anywhere from negative to crazy! At times walleye will be buried deep in cover or laying with belly glued to the bottom. At other times they will be chasing bait at 3-4 mph, slashing and feeding like wild dogs….learning when and where each happens, and how to modify your presentation is key to successful summer fishing.
The “Dog Days” have been characterized by the perception of tough fishing for years. Understand what is actually happening in the water and how fish are reacting, and summer can become some of the best fishing of the season.
by: Captain Lance Valentine
Like many anglers in my age range, I learned my fishing foundation through the IN-Fisherman network. When I started giving seminars over 25 years ago, I wanted to focus on “teaching” fishing concepts, not just talking about hot lures or techniques. One of those foundation elements I use in my teaching to this day is the IN-Fisherman calendar periods, a breakdown, in 10 distinct “periods” of fishes’ behavior throughout the year. Understanding the calendar is a great first step to making good decisions on the water. Here are the 10 calendar periods and a brief description of each.
This calendar is a great guide to determine what you can expect gamefish to be doing, where they will be located, what they will be feeding on and what presentations should be best.
Obviously, each period is NOT the same length and may not even happen at the same time in nearby lakes, if they are a different lake type. For example, a shallow weedy lake will warm much faster than a deep, clear, rocky lake just a mile or so down the road. Walleye in the shallow lake may be in post-spawn while fish in the deep lake may still be in the pre-spawn period.
Also, the timing of the calendar is different for different species of fish. While walleye are spawning, largemouth bass in the same lake are just entering the pre-spawn period.
Understanding and applying the basics that the IN-Fisherman calendar periods offer, is a great first step to making good decisions in your pre-trip planning and adjusting on the water every day.
by: Captain Lance Valentine
It began as an “accident”. Salmon fishermen were catching numbers of large walleye in all of the Great Lakes, especially during summer. Finally, walleye fishermen caught on and since then deep water fishing has been a staple of the Great Lakes walleye anglers’ summer fishing adventures. If you are missing out on this pattern, here are some tips to help you cash in before this summer is over.
Walleye, just like salmon and trout, are deep for a few reasons, but the most important one is food. As walleye drift into deeper and deeper waters, they begin encountering and feeding on deep water forage such as smelt, Cisco, whitefish and Spottail shiners. Cooler water temperatures and lower light penetration also make deep water a favorite for summer walleye, especially larger trophy sized fish.
This time of year I have caught walleye up to 60’ deep and always hear of salmon anglers catching them deeper, but be careful! If the area you are fishing has a thermocline, you are much better off targeting walleye above the temperature break than below it. Since you are fishing in deep water, use your sonar to first search an area looking for walleye and baitfish. Once spotted, set your lures 4-10’ above the fish and get ready for some great fishing.
An all-time favorite way to target deep walleye is by running crawler harnesses or simply “spinners”. A nice juicy crawler on a spinner is by far one of the best ways to take walleye day in and day out. As fish get deeper, a few modifications to the everyday spinner rig can make it even more effective.
When fishing deep walleye, darker beads seem to out produce lighter ones. Beads that are purple, blood red, dark green and even black are favorites in my boat. Use a single light colored bead for contrast, but darker beads will catch more fish most days. Use 6mm beads, and be sure to use enough beads to keep the blade from covering the hook point. I hand tie all of my spinner rigs using a #8 treble as the back hook and a #2 red single hook for the front hook.
There is little doubt that willow leaf blades are a top choice when fishing in deep water. Size 3-6 willow leaf blades with copper or gold backs get most of the action when spinner fishing the abyss. One of the best rigs for probing the depths is a double willow leaf spinner. The extra flash from the 2 blades makes it easier for fish to spot in the darker, deep water.
To get spinners deep two methods excel. Snap weights are a simple way to get spinners deep in a hurry. Simply a 2-5 ounce weight attached to an Off-Shore Tackle OR-16 red release, a snap weight is quickly clipped onto your line 30-70’ ahead of your spinner. By varying the amount of line you put the weight into the water almost any depth up to about 60’ can easily be obtained. When a fish hits, simply reel the line to the weight, reach up and unclip the weight and fight the fish to the boat. Placing snap weight rigs behind Off-Shore inline boards will make them more effective and allow you to cover more water.
Another effective method for getting spinner rigs deep is to use a diving device. Two favorites are the Off-Shore Tackle Tadpole and Dipsey Divers. Tadpoles can be used with normal walleye tackle and will run great behind inline planer boards. Sunline FC Crank fluorocarbon line in 16lb test is used as a mainline and a 6’ leader behind the Tadpole is used for attaching your spinner. A Dive Curve for all four sizes of the Tadpole is available on the Precision Trolling Data app. My favorite Tadpole is the size 4, or Magnum, since it gets down the deepest, uses little line out to get deep and dives at a steep angle.
Traditional Dipsey Divers are becoming more and more popular with walleye anglers every year. Using a Dipsey or two on flat lines off the corners of the boat makes it easy to quickly adjust depths to match fish spotted on your sonar. Using the weighted “fin” on the bottom of the Dipsey will adjust how far to the side the diver will run, allowing two divers to be ran as flatlines off each side of the boat.
Deep diving crankbaits are a great option for deep summer walleye. Baits such as the Reef Runner, PowerDive Minnow, Mann’s Stretch series, and large Bombers all work at times. Notice that all of the lures listed are long, thin “minnow” baits to match the shape and profile of the forage being eaten by the walleye in deeper water.
Crankbait depth is crucial to catching fish in deeper water so check your Precision Trolling Data app to see how much line is needed to get a lure to the desired depth. If you need more depth than the baits can achieve on their own, there are a few options to get them deeper.
Adding a snap weight ahead of deep diving lures is an easy way to get them deeper. The new Precision Trolling Data App has a chart for snap weight depths which can be added to the diving depth of the lure you are using to attain a deep running depth.
On the Easter Basin of Lake Erie one of the best presentations for deep walleye has been large shallow or deep diving minnow baits ran behind 6-10 colors of lead core. For walleye fishing 18 or 27 pound leadcore works great for getting extra depth from crankbaits and some days it is the best presentation in the boat, so be sure to experiment with it this season.
Spoon Feeding Deep Walleye
Another great presentation for deep walleye is to troll spoons. Spoons ran behind Magnum Tadpoles or Dipsey Divers can be ran up to 4 mph, and in certain conditions the fast snapping action of a spoon will drive fish crazy! Spoon trolling is the fastest way to target deep fish, and is a great way to cover water quickly looking for active fish on your sonar.
Spoons that are long and thin in shape from 3-5” long continually excel during the summer months. Don’t be afraid to fish a large spoon for walleye in deep water-remember they are feeding on long, thin bait fish. One of our best producers is the Little Warrior from Michigan based Warrior Lures. Spoons with silver or gold backs are favorites, but in overcast conditions copper can become a favorite to the fish.
Deep water is not just for trout and salmon. Spend some time searching with your electronics, set your baits above the fish you mark and you may be surprised at the number and size of walleye you can catch-even during the “dog days” of summer.