With the “dog days” of summer behind us, I think it’s safe to say that on my local water there have been a lot of confused fish (and anglers, at times). On the system of channels and large basins fed by Saginaw Bay the water temperatures have ranged from 60 degrees to 83 degrees. That’s fairly common. However, fluctuations of ten degrees or more have happened within 24-48 hour periods. Both rain, north winds blowing cooler water in, and cooler temperatures are all factors. Typically, summer is the season where the weather is somewhat consistent and anglers can play the odds of where the fish are located and be successful. That’s not the case this year.
Anyone who has lived in Michigan or parts of the north can only tell what season it is by looking at the calendar rather than looking outside. With two years in a row of especially hard winters, it takes awhile for the ice to melt. In parts of the state, fish were on beds in May and in other parts, fish were still on their beds into July. Now, that’s not uncommon as bass don’t all spawn at once. However, when the majority of the fish are still on their beds in July, that says a lot.
If I have learned one thing from this summer, it is to keep an open mind and rule nothing out. I’ve learned to fish the immediate conditions, meaning, if the water is warm, the sky is clear, and there isn’t any wind, the bite is going to be tough so I’ll downsize and slow down. However, experience is thrown out the window when the water suddenly goes from 65 to 75 degrees and the warm front suddenly triggers the bite and they’re caught on everything and anything moving fast. That’s when the previous day’s conditions become just as important as present conditions. On days when I thought I could burn a crankbait or spinnerbait and get bites ended in fishing an unweighted finesse worm with success. And then there were the days when I couldn’t get a bite at all under prime conditions.
Days, weeks, and months as we’ve experienced can do one of two things; end in extreme frustration or make someone a better angler. A good friend of mine went almost two weeks without a bite and was getting frustrated beyond belief when I kept hauling in fish after fish. Learning when to “pull the plug” and trying something else is so important. Sometimes these changes were as minor as adding a stripe of chartreuse to a crank bait all the way up to changing from a fast-retrieved lipless crankbait to dead-sticking a worm. Adaptation is key in finding success under these conditions.