Everything’s Bigger in the Dark

Everything’s Bigger in the Dark
Calm seas at sunset; the wind is finally gone.
The whole fishing world was crying about the wind and wishing it would stop. Well guess what, the wishes came true and now we have a new enemy as the daytime temperatures are just plain going through the roof. It has just been hot as a family of rats in a wool sock and we are just now really getting to the toughest months. Excessive heat like we have experienced so far means that fishermen will have to do some things differently in order to catch fish on a consistent basis and remain safe while we are doing it.

Some precautions should be taken before you hit the water while others require attention during and after the trip. Blazing sun can take a toll on your body if you aren’t prepared and no fish is worth jeopardizing years off your life. Make the effort to protect yourself by dressing right and using quality sunscreen. The newest designs in fishing clothing will help protect you from harmful UV and also allow you to fish comfortably.

I have fallen in love with the long sleeve pullover Guide Skiff T-shirt from Columbia, it’s light, comfortable and dries quickly which makes it nice when I’m on the poling platform all day. Another addition to your wardrobe needs to be a hat that covers your ears and the back of your neck; the old ball cap just won’t cut it. I have seen many of the Florida and Caribbean guides using the Buff which is an adaptation of the neck gaiter that snow skiers wear. The buff can be wrapped around a hat or your neck and face to give incredible protection from harmful UV rays. I recently began wearing the Buff and they make a nice addition to my summer fishing attire.

Now that we are properly clothed and sun protected we can get down to the business of catching fish. The summer heat will do just as big a number on the fish as they do on the fishermen. Feeding windows become narrow and fish seem to get lazy when the mercury climbs. Redfish in the shallow marshes give me the impression they would rather not be disturbed. These fish can be difficult to catch under these conditions, but give them a little overcast or summer shower that brings the temperature down and you have a whole different fish. That wonderful feeling of relief that we all get after a much-needed rain is just what the doctor ordered to get them moving and eating again.

Speaking of eating, how many times during the hottest days of summer have you seen fish just come up and nudge a topwater? It seems like they just don’t want to commit to coming all the way up and closing the deal. Several years ago I spent some time with Jim Leavelle in his booth at one of the fishing shows and we discussed this very subject.

Leavelle, who spent years as one the top guides in the Galveston region, had been taking clients down to Baffin. During some of his summer trips he encountered the same situation; fish nudging a floater but not hitting it aggressively. Jim’s remedy was adding weight to the rear hook by wrapping the shank with a small piece of lead solder. The weight caused the back of the plug to sink so that it floated almost vertically when it wasn’t being pulled across the surface. That bit of plug below the surface was often enough to get them to commit. I still use the technique and I always give Jim credit for sharing that little bit of knowledge with me.

Now for many anglers at this time of the year, the best way to escape the summer heat is to wait until dark to hit the water. Night fishing is an altogether different animal compared to fishing during the day. I personally will not take clients at night due to the fact that so many things can happen and they are multiplied in the dark. For my own personal fishing this is a different story, you can have an absolute blast under the cover of darkness. A calm night and a vicious topwater strike are what many fishermen’s dreams are made of. At night you get the benefit of several things, and beating the heat is high on the list. Another benefit of fishing at night is the reduced traffic on the water; fish are much more likely to move around in the calmer conditions.

If you plan to be out at night please remember to do a couple of things that will help insure your safety and make your trips more productive for years to come. First and foremost, be sure to let someone know where you are going and what time to expect you back. Always carry a VHF and a cell phone. It’s awful hard to flag someone down and get help in the dark. Next, be damn certain you wear your PFD at all times and carry a small flashlight and a whistle when you wade for signaling others. Be careful when navigating. Always light the way ahead with a powerful spotlight, especially when exploring new water. Carrying a spare Q-Beam is a good idea.
Nobody likes surprises and they are always magnified in darkness.

Now that you have the safety stuff out of the way you can get down to the business of fishing. A Q-Beam will help you locate bait. A quick scan across the surface will send baitfish fleeing and show where the best concentrations of bait are staged. Anglers have varying theories on which moon phase is better for night fishing, I like the days around the full moon; I know others who swear by no moon at all. Either one will work if you have a plan and set up accordingly. Some anglers like to use lights in order to draw fish to them while others opt for a more traditional approach and fish known structure. Again, both methods will work and only you can pick your favorite.

The summer heat will be upon us for at least a couple more months so be prepared to deal with it. The fishing will change with the weather but the strategies discussed here should at least help you along the way to locate and catch fish at this time of the year. Please be safe if you go out in either the heat of the day or the dark of night, no fish is worth a big risk and I am sure there are plenty of folks who want to be around for a long while. Enjoy the summer, take a kid fishing, and by all means, be safe.