As the summer solstice came and went this week, bringing with it the longest period of daylight of any day of the year, summer officially began.
Many anglers incorrectly correlate hot weather with poor fishing and simply give up or lower their expectations in June, July and August.
Although June is certainly a month of transition, plenty of fish can still be caught with consistency.
Those insisting on fishing the same areas and using the same tactics that were successful in the warming months of March, April and May will typically not fare well, but those anglers who move where the fish are and present appropriate presentations will continue to enjoy success.
Remember, fish are cold-blooded creatures. Therefore, their metabolism rises and falls with water temperature. All else being equal, a fish in hot summertime water in the 80s will be much more active, have a higher metabolism and eat more frequently than a fish in cooler 60- or 70-degree water.
This week I fished Monday through Friday on both Belton and Stillhouse Hillow lakes, and the clients I had aboard landed a cumulative total of 495 fish.
On Monday morning, fishing with three elementary-aged youth, we landed 34 fish before incoming rain storms curtailed our efforts. Eden and Warren Erp and Ryan Nicholson, all of Killeen, caught white bass both by downrigging with Pet Spoons and by using ¾-oz. slabs equipped with Hazy Eye Stinger hooks after sonar revealed large schools of bottom-dwelling fish detected while downrigging.
After the novelty of these approaches wore off, the children also caught fish in under 5 feet of water using worms on small hooks under slip floats to catch sunfish.
On Monday evening, Brandon Rudloff came out with me to fish Belton. We used three-armed umbrella rigs equipped with Pet Spoons on two rods to fish a total of six baits at the same time on twin downriggers. From 6:45 to 8:15 we landed 33 fish on the downriggers. In the last 45 minutes of light we then found schools of largemouth bass and white bass feeding heavily on the surface, gorging themselves on young shad. Sight casting to these fish put another 27 fish in the boat for an evening total of 60 fish.
On Tuesday morning we slowed down a bit and targeted hybrid striped bass on Belton using live shad for bait. As the water warms, hybrid tend to disperse horizontally and break up into “wolfpacks” of a few fish each rather than tthe larger schools of 50 to 100 fish or more commonly seen in the cooler months.
As our morning came to a close, my guests, Marcus and Jim Mitchell, landed 36 fish including both legal and short hybrid stripers, blue catfish, channel catfish and white bass.
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings on Stillhouse were nearly identical in how the fishing came together. Each day we began by vertical jigging with slabs in 35-42 feet of water under low light conditions for white bass just going on the prowl as the light level slowly increased.
Next, we probed several areas using downriggers equipped with Pet Spoons on three-armed umbrella rigs.
The downriggers were set well above bottom, typically at 28-36 feet deep, depending on where sonar showed the suspended schools of gamefish and shad to be located. We enjoyed success on the downriggers, but also quickly changed over to using slab instead if bottom-hugging congregations of fish were detected as we downrigged.
On occasion, we spotted fish driving shad to the surface and pinning them there. In this case, we motored to within 2-3 cast lengths, then cut the outboard and closed the distance with the electric trolling motor to avoid spooking these fish. Casting leadhead jigs rigged with short, natural colored grub bodies did the trick for both largemouth bass and white bass in such scenarios.
Fishing in this way, Daniel Gonzales of Temple and his friend, Rob Borland, landed 109 fish on Stillhouse on Wednesday. Harker Heights residents Ray Johnson and Eastern Hills Middle School band director Chris Lewis landed 156 fish on Thursday. Then, on Friday, William Dickson, his grandson, Kyle Benson, and Kyle’s stepfather, Kyle Jewell, all of China Spring, landed 100 fish on Stillhouse.
The first three hours of daylight, from roughly 6:30 to 9:30 a.m., tend to be the most productive of the entire day.
If limited to fishing in the evening, the hours from 6:30 to 8:45 tend to be more productive.
Don’t buy into the myth that fish can’t be caught in the summer, or that they “go deep” and sulk the summer away. Get out there in the cool of the day, use your sonar to find fish and enjoy the next three months’ worth of productive, consistent fishing.