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Fish behaviors vary; so do ways to foil them

Reagan and Kate McCurnin proudly show off the Lake Belle Taine northern pike 6-year-old Kate landed despite a broken arm. While some species, like walleye, tend to decline in activity late in the summer, other species such as northern pike, bass and muskie become more aggressive (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

The last few weeks of July and the beginning portion of August typically mark what many anglers refer to as the "dog days" of summer.

In the world of angling, warm water temperatures can cause fish to seek refuge in deeper, cooler environments and become somewhat inactive. However, as everyone knows, this summer has been anything but typical.

During an average summer, surface temperatures have climbed another eight to ten degrees higher than the current water temperatures on our area lakes. A few cold fronts coupled with very cool nights has kept the water temperature quite low and more characteristic of what is seen in late May or early June.

Yet fish activity isn't solely based upon water temperature. And even though surface temperature can fluctuate somewhat rapidly, the layers of water beneath the surface take much longer to heat or cool.

One assumption that many anglers make is that when the water warms to a certain point, fish of all species simply head to deep water. This is definitely not the case. Remember, we're talking about fish and whenever someone uses the words "all", "always" or "never" in a statement concerning fish behavior there's a good chance another angler can prove the theory invalid.

For instance, it definitely is true that walleye will wander into deep water during this time of year. However, every walleye in the lake won't simply gather in a deep pool. There will still be fish that wander shallow and medial depths in search of forage, since there are usually minnows or smaller fish to prey upon in shallow, mid-depth and deep areas.

Walleye are the focus of many anglers in the Park Rapids area. And sometimes an angler's own predictions about fish behavior can actually hinder their own success.

For instance, many people believe the low light hours are best for catching walleye, which for the most part is true. But as I watched a school of walleye (five or six fish) wander through five feet of water on a sunny, calm afternoon this week, then plucked one out of the bunch on a plastic worm primarily used to catch bass, I reflected upon how truly strange fish can be.

In other words, patterns and predictions are worthy, but sometimes different areas, presentations and techniques foil the fish, even though it doesn't seem to make sense.

Funny thing, going back to the idea that walleye prefer lowlight conditions for activity and feeding. Two of the more popular lakes in the area, Potato Lake and Long Lake, produce some great walleye action, even in the middle of the day. In fact, some of my best days of walleye fishing on these two lakes have been right around noon on bright sunny days.

And the largest walleye I've ever caught was in 8 feet of water on a hot, calm day in August. Ironically, I was fishing for smallmouth bass, not for a trophy walleye. I guess you never know, especially during a summer like this, how much activity or inactivity the "dog days" of summer will provide.