Fishing the dog days of summer can be rewarding

Published 10:38am Sunday, August 5, 2012

It’s August and the dreaded dog days are upon us. If you are a fisherman and have lived in Minnesota most of your life you have undoubtedly heard the phrase dog days when referring to fishing in August.

There is even the old wive’s tale that says the northern lose their teeth in August which was undoubtedly used to explain the slow fishing that we usually experience during the last days of summer.

There is actually no scientific evidence to support this theory. The lack of fish activity is more than likely due to the hot summer days and warm water temperatures.

I, for one, have always seemed to be able to catch fish in August; maybe just not the numbers that you see in early summer and spring.

There were many years when the boys were young that the only weeks available to me for a vacation were in August so I had to make it work. I actually found that it was a perfect time of the year for a family vacation because there weren’t as many people around. Camping was what we did, and it was usually at Spider Lake north of Grand Rapids where we have enjoyed many great experiences over the years.

I found that fishing in August was a little more of a challenge if you were seeking walleye but then our family has never been locked in on one species. I found out early on that if you want to catch fish you have to go for what is biting at the time. More than one time one of the owners of the resort where we camped, who everyone called “Bid” would tell other folks that “Herfindahl always comes in with fish and always goes home with his share. Bid was a little bit of a truth-stretcher at times, but he always had a way of pumping a fellow up for the next time out on the lake.

After he had sold his part of the resort to his daughter and son-in-law I was vacationing there when he and his wife came back to visit.

In all the years that I’d known him I can recall the times that I would come off the lake not having had very good luck and after talking to him for a few minutes I couldn’t wait to hit the lake again. I had a chance to sit and talk with him, and I told him that even though I knew he was just feeding me a line it always seemed to work.

I think that the key for me was just spending time on the water. If you put in the time you will usually be rewarded.

I had a person ask me just last week after I had returned from a recent trip north if I had caught many walleyes. I said no, but that was probably because they are not what I usually fish for.

Our family has always fished northern or bass and crappies. Of course we fish walleye too, but I have never measured a successful fishing trip by the number of walleye that I have boated. That may be due, in part, to the fact that I have probably never been a good walleye fisherman, nor have I devoted a lot of hours to catching them.

My Uncle Ben had the greatest influence on me growing up when it came to fishing. My mother, who also loved to fish, was my first mentor when I was just a little guy. Uncle Ben would take me fishing up north and fishing for walleye was what you did early in the morning and in the evening but the rest of the day was devoted to northern or panfish. This is how I learned to fish as a kid and it is pretty much the way I like to fish today. I think the key to making fishing an enjoyable experience is to fish for what’s biting. This is especially important when teaching young kids about fishing.

I will never claim to be an expert fisherman, nor even a good one for that matter, but I do love the sport and enjoy sharing what I can with the kids and grandkids. The key to me is just going fishing whether it is for carp in a crick or northern in a lake, as long I am fishing it’s all good.

Getting back to the dog days, I really feel that August can offer some excellent fishing opportunities. There have been many instances where I have caught walleyes in August and they were usually found lurking in the weeds. In August the days are still warm, but the evenings and nights can be cool and comfortable. I don’t know how many mornings I awoke only to find a thick blanket of fog covering the lake. I spent many an August morning on Spider Lake feeling my way through the fog to a spot that I felt was safe from other boats but would still be holding fish.

Yes, fishing during the dog days can be challenging but it can also be a rewarding experience. In the years that we camped August always represented the end of summer fishing and camping with the whole family for another season because a new school year was looming just over the horizon. I can still remember the feeling I would get as a kid after the fair had come and gone; it was semi-sweet because one part of me was anxious to see what the school year would bring but mostly I was sad to see summer winding down.

A few things to keep in mind for the upcoming hunting season:


Youth small game hunts

Take a Kid Hunting Weekend is September 24-25. During Take-A Kid-Hunting Weekend adult residents accompanied by a youth under age 16 may hunt small game without a license, but must comply with open seasons, limits and other regulations.


Youth Waterfowl Day

Waterfowl information will be announced through news releases and in the Waterfowl Hunting Synopsis, available in mid August.


Youth Mentored Upland Bird Hunt

The youth mentored bird hunt is scheduled for Oct. 22. Partnering with Pheasants Forever, Woodcock Minnesota and Ruffed Grouse Society, the DNR is offering mentored upland bird hunts designed to introduce youth to upland bird hunting. All hunting regulations apply. Applications will be accepted through Sept. 7 online at:

Until next time, grab your tackle and do a little fishing because there’s still plenty of summer left and it’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers because they are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.


Dick Herfindahl’s column appears in the Tribune each Sunday.