Dick Herfindahl: Coping with the dog days of summer

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, July 22, 2017

Woods & Water by Dick Herfindahl

I believe it’s safe to say that we are in the midst of the dreaded “dog days of summer,” at least that’s what the old-time fishermen used to call it. In fact, it was even said by many old-timers that a northern would actually lose its teeth during the hot summer days of July and August. This, of course, was nothing but an old wive’s tale, which in this instance would be more like an old fisherman’s tale.

The losing teeth thing was probably just an excuse for poor fishing results during the hot weather. I also suspect it was a way to get a few good laughs at the expense of some poor, gullible young fisherman. I’m not mentioning any names, because that could be called self-incrimination.

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In the heat of summer most of the larger pike will seek the cooler water in the deeper parts of a lake, while some of the smaller pike will remain along weed edges when seeking relief from the heat of the sun by hiding in the shadows of the cabbage and coontail weeds.

About three years ago, my neighbor at the cabin near ours told me he spotted fish suspended at 12-18 feet over 80 feet of water on a nearby lake. He said he put on a deep running lure and caught some nice pike. He, like myself, likes to fish northern but is also big on catch and release.

That fall, I was at the cabin with my grandson, Dylan, and decided to try trolling over deep water. We caught about five pike and all of them were a good size, but what made the whole day worthwhile for me was when Dylan caught his own personal best northern.

One summer our family and some friends of ours, Ken and Georgette, took a week’s vacation to Sand Lake (one of many in the state) which is close to Squaw Lake which, in turn, is situated northwest of Deer River. We were vacationing there in July which, on that lake, is not prime walleye time. The walleye on this particular lake would usually be at their biting best from the end of May to the third week of June.

We fished for walleye in the usual places with little or no luck, but the northern fishing was great. One morning I took Ken and his son, Kevin, fishing for northern. We caught quite a few nice-sized pike, which was unusual for this lake. You would always catch plenty of smaller ones and an occasional nice one, but not the big ones consistently like we did that morning.

One afternoon I decided to try something I had read in In-Fisherman magazine, which was like the fishing bible to me in those days. My friend, Ken, and I boated down to where I had caught walleye before in the early days of summer in previous years. In those days I had no depth finder, so I would mark the area by sighting landmarks with distant points.

This time, instead of going out to deeper water, which would be considered logical, I headed toward shore to the edge of the cabbage weeds. I noticed an open pocket-like area inside of the weeds, so I decided to go across the cabbage and across that pocket in a very slow troll. I had rigged both Ken and myself with Little Joe spinners tipped with a fathead minnow, and then I placed a split shot sinker about 18 inches from the hook.

We then proceeded to troll ever so slowly over the top of the weeds. As we came off the edge of the weeds into the open area, one or the other or both of us would catch a walleye. This was a testimonial to the fact that you can indeed catch walleye in the weeds in the middle of summer. I have tried similar techniques on other lakes and found the walleye do indeed like to hangout in the weeds in the heat of the summer.

There is nothing like being on a lake at the crack of dawn and casting a lure over the top of a weed bed, only to have a bass break the silence of the morning and erupt from below to inhale your lure. This is an experience that only those who have fished for bass in the early morning can truly appreciate.

Until next time; there is still plenty of summer left, so get out and enjoy it! You can enjoy one of our many parks with a picnic, go for a walk by the lake or just sit on the shore with a fishing pole and soak a worm.

Please take some time to honor those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms we enjoy today. Also, take a little extra time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops who are serving today.