When feeding frenzy fades
If you have been following my radio show the last few weeks, you know we have been talking a lot about summer peak fishing. This is the time of year when the warm water stimulates the fish’s metabolism, but the young baitfish are either not available or not yet large enough to provide a good forage base. This period provides some of the easiest fishing for warm-water species throughout the year. You may have also heard us say this period will be ending soon as large schools of baitfish become available to feed on.
We recently got a question on the radio show from Tim in Longmont about how to approach fishing after the summer peak. Tim wrote: “You have been talking a lot recently about the tremendous summer peak fishing going on. You have also forewarned everyone that it will come to an end when the shad grow to the size where the fish can feed aggressively on them. My question is: What advice do you have for catching fish consistently when that happens, especially for lakes that don’t have much structure? Does it become an early-in-the-day and latein-the-day bite? Are there always some fish on the weed lines and places like that? You have talked particularly about walleyes, where there are good populations of largemouth or smallmouth bass, will they be chasing the shad as well and be caught with similar presentations?”
I was out of town on assignment this Saturday, so Brad Petersen, who was filling in for me, answered the question. He also got some help from legendary angler Al Lindner.
Petersen started by explaining that while many small waters in Colorado do not have significant structure, they do have cover. Largemouth bass, in particular, like the cover. With the availability of more forage, the bass (and other species) are less inclined to move far to chase a lure.
Petersen suggested a two-prong approach. Go to a finesse-type presentation like a jig worm or other small plastic and try to put it right in front of them. The other approach is to use a reaction bait like a crankbait or surface lure and cover water. Lindner added that if you can control your time on the water, fishing will be best for about the first three hours in the morning and the last hour of the day.
As the summer peak winds down, it will be more important to understand the species you are chasing and its preferred forage. This may vary from lake to lake. As large schools of shad roam the water, many species, like walleye, white bass and occasionally smallmouth, tend to suspend with the baitfish. You can still catch them, but your approach may have to change. Trolling is often an effective way to target these fish. Another is to locate them with your electronics and cast to them.
In Horsetooth Reservoir, as an example, most of the walleyes suspend with the shad and smelt. A lot of the smallmouth bass focus on crawfish and other structure orientated forage. Fishing after the summer peak can still be very good, but you need to do your homework and work harder.