By the time you read this, we will be into the “dog days” of August. There are lots of explanations for the origin of the term, but here are two of the most common. One is the belief that dogs have a greater tendency to “go mad,” or contract rabies during August. The other is that a dog, for whatever reason, becomes more amorous at this time. While these stories are quaint, they have no basis in fact and are, when you come right down to it, ridiculous.
There is a lot of dog days folklore regarding water, and most of it is bad. Many people in my age group can remember the horror of polio season, which came around in late summer, before the development of the Salk vaccine. Many people, including my mother, believed that polio might be spread by the foamy scum that is common in rivers and creeks during this time of year. Special fear was directed at mosquitoes and other bugs which hatch in water.
There were, and still are, many myths surrounding fishing in August. Many people still believe to this day that pike, muskies and walleyes lose their teeth during August, and that other fish just quit eating. Of course, none of this is true. The fact of the matter is that fish neither lose their teeth nor quit eating during August. They just change their habits a bit, so the angler, in order to be successful, must do likewise.
Possibly the best technique of all is to switch to night fishing, which we’ve looked at in previous columns. Both walleyes and bass, which retreat to deep water during periods of bright sunlight, return to the shallows at night to feed. Crappies, such as those found in Lake Arthur, are also voracious night feeders.
For all of its benefits, however, night fishing can be a bit of a pain, too. You have to load a lot of stuff into your boat. The bugs can be really bad, including some really huge, disgusting ones. Also, as you get older, it gets harder and harder for our body clock to adjust to being up all night.
There is a viable alternative to night fishing, which is a lot easier to boot. Fish the rocky areas along the shoreline. You can often catch the tail end of the night’s feeding activity. I’ve had some of my best fishing on the Allegheny in the early morning hours. I must confess, and anyone who knows me will verify it, that I’m not all that fond of getting up that early in the morning but, in August, the early bird might get the worm, but the early angler gets the fish.
As I have grown older, now 73, I find it more and more difficult to get in and out of my little fishing boat. This means that more and more of my fishing is done from shore, but that’s okay. The techniques mentioned above will work from shore, too.
I probably spend too much time watching videos on YouTube, but I saw a couple that really grabbed my interest. One was a guy cooking whole catfish. He gutted them, then soaked them in a salt, vinegar and water brine to get rid of the slime. Then, he tossed them onto the smoker/grill to cook. He said that low and slow was the best method. When done, the skin peeled right off and the meat looked wonderful. According to him, it tasted great, too. In another video, the same guy made soup out of fish heads. For some reason, it never occurred to me to do that, but it sounds like something my adventurous palate would enjoy.