As soon as spring temperatures were upon us, anglers hit the waters of the lakes around the Midwest to find fish returning to the shallows in search of food, cover, and bedding areas for the spawn. Fish tend to be concentrated in areas and are a bit more predictable during this period.
But what happens when the days get longer, the sun reaches its highest point, and the water temps rise? Fish go deeper and scatter, looking for other food sources, cool and well-oxygenated water, and relief from the sun's rays in shallower water. Fishermen and women will refer to this time as the dog days of summer. It can be tougher to locate fish and get them to take bait once found. But it certainly doesn't mean you can't fish during this time of year. It may just require you to step outside the box and try some different tactics.
Use Lakes Maps to Find Fish in Deep Lake
Lakes maps can come in handy during these high suns, high heat days. While fish may not be the shallows anymore for the most part, that doesn't mean that they won't keep on certain structures that were similar to where they were hanging out before the heat started rising, such as near humps, along weed lines, off of points, or other bottom structures.
And the terms "shallow" or "deep" water will differ depending on the lake. Finding fish deeper in one lake could mean they are ten feet instead of five feet on one lake, whereas on another lake, deep could be twenty-five feet is where they are. And, of course, this information will also depend on what species you're fishing for since you're likely to be fishing for panfish in much shallower water than walleyes in the middle of the summer but still deeper than normal.
Choose the Right Tactics for Fish Species
When looking over a lake map, it is important to pinpoint areas you may want to try when heading out to the water and what tactics you may want to deploy while you are there. It's always good to pick different tactics rather than one since the fish should determine what and how you fish, not the reverse. If you're in search mode and looking for active feeders, power fishing may be how you want to start. This could mean tossing out swimbaits, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, or another lure designed to be cast and fished fast. This will allow you to fish more areas faster and find where active-feeding fish could be while not wasting as much time at spots with no feeding activity.
Having reels with higher retrieval rates helps with this tactic. Piscifun's Torrent II and Alijoz casting reels perfectly suit this tactic. The faster you can cast and retrieve your lure, the more water you can cover. But you could also miss fish with this tactic, especially in lakes where baitfish numbers may be at their highest point at this time of the year, presenting predator fish with many choices that may not require them to expend a lot of energy chasing down your fast-moving presentation.
Deploy a More Finesse Tactic
As you break down an area where you see fish on your electronics and they aren't responding to your power tactics, it may be time to deploy a more finesse tactic. What tactic you try will depend on what species you're fishing for. This could be simple as a hook, worm, and slip bobber for pennies, a wacky rig or drop shot for bass, or a slip bobber setup with a live sponge for walleyes. These slower tactics can have big benefits if the fish seem to be in a negative mood or do not want to chase bait. You have to be willing to adapt to what the fish are showing you once you've found them. It does not matter if it's from shore or a boat.
Try Boat Fishing Tactics When Fishing on Shores
You may ask yourself how it matters if you're a shore fisherman and woman since most of these tactics seem to be geared toward boat fishing. But finding those areas on a map that were discussed before in spots where they can be reached from shore will put you in a better position to locate fish quicker rather than tossing your lure to no particular spot and hoping to find something. You can increase your odds if you take a few minutes to look over a lake map on your phone or a hard copy and pick and choose where there's a better chance of fish being located.
And many of the same power fishing and finesse tactics that can be used on a boat will also work from shore. Please don't limit yourself because you think they may not work from shore. It also helps if you're using good quality reels for these tactics, such as Piscifun's Viper II or Carbon X reels, as they allow for much further line casts than most. Being able to cast lures further away from shore is a huge advantage to using techniques you may not have thought were usable from shore.
Other than vertical fishing techniques, there isn't anything that you can't toss out from shore that you can use in a boat. And boat fishermen and women should not think that certain tactics, even the simple hook, bobber, and worm we all grew up doing, are only for shore fishing and that power fishing tactics are all needed in a boat. Both ways of fishing can find and locate fish and catch them during this time of the summer. Don't limit yourself to tactics. Try a new lure, a new color, or a new technique. You might be surprised what you can catch if you think outside the box a little. Just because it's the middle of the summer and the fishing may not be as easy as it was in the spring doesn't mean you can't have some epic days on the water.
Do a little recon beforehand using lake maps that we all have access to and find those spots that may hold fish, even in the middle of the summer. Try different things and presentations. But most important, have fun while trying! Good luck with the rest of the summer and tight lines!