This time of year for certain types of fish, the time of day when you fish can be as much or more important than where you go.
In mid-summer when I was growing up in Iowa, my father and I always tried to make sure we were in a good fishing spot between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. or between 6 and 8 a.m. while in pursuit of bluegill and bass. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t or didn’t catch fish at other times, but we tended to have our best luck at those hours.
I experienced that scenario this past weekend when I arrived at my favorite fishing spot on the Hennepin Canal not far from Tiskilwa just after 5 p.m. and caught a small bass or bluegill on just about every cast. The fish along lock walls and eddies were incredibly aggressive; a few struck sinking baits while they still were on the surface or dangled near the surface. They weren’t picky and definitely weren’t just nibbling.
I wasn't going to keep any fish for table, but after releasing 10 keeper-sized bluegill, I started putting bluegill on a stringer, had plenty for a nice supper. I resumed catching and releasing panfish after having as much as I felt like cleaning.
I figure it was just one of those situations where I was in the right place at the right time.
(By the way, I heard a rumor going around that the Hennepin Canal fishing was no good anymore, which is ridiculous. Most stretches of that canal are fantastic, and it would only get better if the state economy improves and some repairs at locations including Lock 16 and 19 occur.)
SENSE OF SMELL: Time of day doesn’t necessarily mean a thing to many species, however.
Catfish tournament angler Buck Emmerling says time of day doesn’t matter much to channel catfish. In murky, muddy water, they’ll follow scent to anything resembling food, day or night.
While many people mainly fish for catfish in the evening or night, it’s not always necessary. The fact that they’ll bit at night just opens up more time for catching fish.
Illinois Valley Catfish Trail tournaments take place 6 a.m.-noon many Sundays, and that doesn’t stop teams from catching big fish. Emmerling said the biggest channel catfish he has seen caught in a tournament was 17 pounds. The catfish trail doesn’t allow flathead catfish at the weigh-ins, because a team could fish all day, catch one huge flathead using live fish as bait and win the tournament with just one or two huge fish.
The next Illinois Valley Catfish Trail tournament is 6 a.m.-noon Sunday July 21 at Hennepin, sponsored by Side Tracks Bar & Grill. Entry fee pays for 80% payout and free lunch for participants held afterward.
I’ve never fished or scheduled outdoor pursuits by solunar tables — I just go when I have the time and the urge — but many outdoorsmen swear by them for choosing possible good days and avoiding possible bad days. For history and a lesson on solunar tables, check http://www.solunar.com/the_solunar_theory.aspx