Life is a song … sing it with me …
"Summertime" by George Gershwin
And the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high …
Summer living may be easy for some, but for most of us anglers, it's just plain hot. In this installment, we'll ponder some summertime fishing strategies and also touch on a few safety tips.
EARLY TO BED, EARLY TO RISE, FISH LIKE CRAZY, MAKE UP LIES:
Most fish, like most of us, aren't very hungry when it's hot. However, many species really turn on early in the morning, or just before sundown. The common factor here is the angle of the sun. The bite will often come to a halt during the hottest part of the day. One of the reasons for this is because there is less oxygen in warmer water, and fish become lethargic to simply survive. Fish would like nothing better than to eat 'round the clock. But, if they stop for a while in the heat of the day, that just means that their same caloric intake must be met in shorter feeding periods. So (like at any other time) if you fish when they're feeding, your chances for success increase.
As much as I love to spend an entire day on the water, from an angling perspective it simply makes no sense to do so in the summer. Plan your trips around sun on the horizon. Start as early as you can stand it. If you can manage to be on the water at dawns first light, not only will you possibly be rewarded with better fishing, but you assuredly will be rewarded with a unique sunrise on the water - it only happens once a day and you were there. To me, that is always a special time of day. As the sun rises higher in the sky, your fish catching probabilities lessen, so that's the cue to get off the water for a while. Go have some lunch, cool off a little, maybe even grab a quick nap. If you still want to squeeze the last drops of productive fishing out of the day, launch again around 5 pm. You'll still have up to another 3 hours of good light, and the fish will be waking up from their nap as well … hungry. Just don't stay until dark unless you're prepared for it.
If you simply don' want to get off the water, at least seek some shade. Not all fish abide by the rules that fish don't bite in the heat of the day. Those rebels will most likely be found where they can find some relief from the sun. The break from UV will certainly help you as well.
FROGGER - NEW AND IMPROVED:
Remember that ancient video game, where your goal is to navigate a frog across a busy highway? Well, summertime brings us our own watery version, and our goal may be to dodge power boaters. Understand that we all share the waters, but might will always make right, and if a plastic boat and power boat lock horns, plastic loses. Assume that any boaters you see don't see you. The operator could be distracted, or due to glare on the water simply might not see you. I do my best to avoid busy channels, especially on the weekends. But if you must "cross the road" in order to get to that prime location, pick your moment wisely, and commit to it before paddling across.
Author Samuel Taylor states "… water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink" in his poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner". Many of us work, live, and travel in air-conditioned comfort. As a result, our bodies aren't "conditioned" for summer heat and sun. Sweat happens. So, make sure you have plenty of water on hand. Don't worry if you don't have a huge cooler full of ice, because water at ambient temperature enters the system quicker than chilled water. Just throw a 6-pack of water in the front hatch. Regardless of whether your water is chilled or not, neither will help if you don't have it on board.
KEEPING YOUR CATCH:
Obviously, ice melts quicker in the heat of summer. Improperly stored fish will spoil much quicker as well. If you plan to keep your catch, be responsible to the resource so that your catch isn't harvested only to be wasted.
You've seen the commercials, now do something about it. Take a kid fishing. It doesn't have to be fishing, maybe just kayaking. You only pass through these moments in their life once. So plan a trip, invite one of their friends, keep it short and fun. Trust me, as you age one of the greatest things your child can say to you can start with, "I remember when we…". What follows after that phrase is priceless. Go make a memory.
The default Florida weather report for the next 3 months was issued this morning. "Today's high will be in the low 90's, with a chance of afternoon scattered showers". Like clockwork, it will cloud up and rain at 4:35 pm almost everyday. I know this, and plan accordingly. These storms, which can be locally intense with gusty wind, heavy rain, and lightning, can pop up out of seemingly nowhere. Kayaking is a water sport, so getting wet at times is a given. But the wind and lightning aren't things to be taken lightly. So if you hear that distant rumble off in the distance, make your way to shelter/cover. Do your best not to be a victim.
According to NOAA, canoes top the list of "Unsafe Aquatic Vessels During Lightning Activity". It can be assumed that kayaks are equally unsafe in the same conditions. Also, according to NOAA, in the event you are on a small vessel, shelter is not close, and lightning becomes a threat, what should you do ? If the vessel has an anchor, then you should properly anchor the boat then get as low as possible. It's advised that you also seek cover, but not at the base of tall trees. Definitely put those rods down on the deck, or run them in your front hatch. Here is where an ounce of prevention and preparation is worth a great deal.
Don't forget to pack the most important piece of safety gear - a functioning rational brain.
USING MY GREATEST RESOURCE:
I try each month to find new and interesting things to discuss. I read and read and read (my retired school-teacher grandmother would be so proud). But, the real experts on this sport aren't the kayak designers, the retail dealers, or even the sports writers … the experts are the collective YOU. YOU all are fishing in different areas, using different techniques, different boats, often with different goals. Little by little you are sculpting this sport. Your knowledge is very valuable.
So, starting with this month's article, I'll be throwing some questions out there in hopes of prompting some discussion from you on the Paddling.net forums. There is a "discuss" prompt in the new yellow bar at the top of the article as well as a "discuss this article" link at the end of the article. The link will take you directly to talk about the article, but you will then be able to browse all of the topics currently being discussed. I invite you to share your expertise with others.
TOPIC FOR MESSAGE BOARD DISCUSSION:
When to say "I'm not going fishing today". After reviewing the tide charts, the solunar tables, the marine forecast, and the weather channel, what condition(s) finally convince you that fishing today isn't an option? Thanks for your input.
See you out on the water...
"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after"
~ Henry David Thoreau