High water, high heat

And we thought it was hot last week…

Normally when it gets like this the problem we have is finding the smallies. They’re deep and they’re schooled into tight groups holding on specific structure. We mostly spend more time with our electronics than with our rods and reels. Once we do find them, though, we can usually catch several without ever moving the boat.

This year has been different. Some of the fish are deep and in their traditional patterns but there doesn’t seem to be as many of them. Big, deep water catches are hard to come by. I think there’s a reason for that, one that makes sense if you stop to think about it. To understand that reason, we have to go all the way back to the spring.

We had a lot of rain in March, April and May. That kept the smallmouth shallower — cooler water, more color — than usual and it helped the forage. What I mean by saying that it helped the forage is that the water stayed high and that allowed the forage more places to hide along the shoreline. That was true with everything in the lake — bass, bluegill, crappie, shad and everything else.

Things have stayed that way all the way until right now. Despite the heat, almost all of us have seen plenty of rain. That’s kept the water high which had kept the forage high, up on the bank. The bass haven’t had to move deep to eat.

It’s also kept a lot more forage alive. Their survival rate has been higher because they have more places to hide. I know that sounds a little crazy but I honestly think that is what’s been happening. There’s really no other explanation.

All the rain has done something else, too. It’s kept the water temperature below where it usually is at this time of the year. The smallies don’t have to go down as deep to find cooler water that’s holding more oxygen.

So, if you’re having trouble finding the fish where they usually are in the middle of July try fishing shallower and try looking for more scattered fish. That’s what I’ve been doing and it seems to be working. This is one of those years that’s different, and as fishermen we have to change or we won’t catch them.

This might continue, or it might not. I’m guessing that it’ll depend on what happens when the heat breaks. They’re saying it’ll break this evening in most of the country. We’re supposed to get heavy thunderstorms after that. If we do, I’d say that things will be pretty much the same for a couple of weeks. But if we don’t, I’d say that the fish might move into a more traditional summer pattern.

Remember, though, that thunderstorms and heavy rain tends to be local. It might rain a couple of inches on one lake but totally miss another lake that’s just a few miles away. The smallmouth might be holding in their traditional places in one lake but be shallower and more scattered in another.