While blue skies and sunny waters bring out fair weather anglers in droves, high summer can be a tough time to fish. Dom Garnett has some timely advice to help you stay cool, keep catching and be kind to the fish…
The weather forecasters are grinning; the mercury is rising and the shops are making a killing on barbeques and beer. “What a lovely time of year to go fishing” says just about everyone who doesn’t know much about angling!
Ask most regular anglers, and you’ll get a lukewarm response: high summer can be a challenging time of low returns. Fish, after all, are not always comfortable in the heat. Like us, they find their energy and appetite dulled.
With clear skies and low water levels, the fish also feel quite vulnerable and will either hang around motionless or go missing in the brightest hours of the day. Unlike you or I, they have no eyelids, let alone a pair of shades to lessen the blinding glare!
Should I still go fishing in a heatwave?
When it’s extremely hot, fishing can be a tricky business. That’s not to say you won’t catch, but you might need to switch times, locations or species. Early mornings or evenings are going to be better than the middle of the day, for one thing.
As for species of fish, some respond to heat better than others. Fragile, coldwater species like pike and grayling should be avoided altogether, such is the risk. Carp are perhaps the most notable exception; tough as old boots, they might slow down but can still be caught on the surface or in the margins. Tench and crucian carp are also tough cookies that can tolerate higher temperatures and lower oxygen levels.
Is it worth the risk?
With other species, it’s a case of discretion. After all, just because you can legally target them, it doesn’t mean you should. Barbel are a point in case presently, because as tough as they look, these fish can easily die following a hard fight and a less than careful release. It can take up to 20 minutes of supporting a fish on release, if it is to recover properly.
Is it worth the risk in the first place? Only you can make that call, but when it’s silly hot remember that we have the whole year to fish. If you must go, there are some common sense rules, too. These include using strong tackle to play fish quickly, not to mention supporting them with patience to recover fully before swimming off. Our Beginner’s Guide to Fish Care has lots of great advice to help if you’re unsure.
Summer fishing and catch and release tips in hot weather
- It’s your call if the weather is scorching hot. But if the river is extremely low or you think the fish are vulnerable, why not wait a bit or try something else, like carp fishing or sea fishing?
- Early or late sessions are often better than the middle of the afternoon, so set that alarm clock or see if you can sneak out after work! Remember though, that even when the air temperature cools, the water will still be hot right around the clock and fish can be vulnerable.
- Pick shady spots and faster flows for the best chance of action. Fish like shade as much as we do, while shallow, faster flowing water is cooler and more oxygenated than the slacks. Hot weather can change the rulebook, so don’t always expect your quarry to be in the usual spots.
- Try fishing up in the water when it’s warm. Whether it’s a floating bait for carp, or trickling in casters for roach, summer fish often like their food well off the bottom.
- Take extra care of the fish if it’s hot. Exhausted fish are particularly at risk, so use strong tackle and play them quickly. Keep them in the water as much as possible and support them patiently while they recover.
- Avoid keep nets. Keep nets should be avoided, or used only very sparingly for short periods, in mid-summer.
- Don’t fish for fragile species. Some types of fish, like pike, deserve a complete break; they are extra fragile in the summer and even if you know your craft, you could easily kill one. If it’s crazy hot, you might also avoid species such as grayling and barbel. Again, this might depend on the venue, but for the longer term it’s best that we put the needs of the fish before our own.
- Target tougher fish. Carp, tench and crucians are all species that don’t mind hot weather and can tolerate lower oxygen levels than their stream cousins. A switch from river to lake might be more productive, not to mention kinder, if the weather is hotter than a vat of vindaloo. Of course, you should still be extra careful with your catch on the bank, because even these fish will be less resilient than usual.
- Pack sun block and extra water! Yes, we’ve all done it. Remembered kilos of bait but not taken care of ourselves. The result is a splitting headache or sunburn. Oh, and do treat yourself to a decent fishing hat! A broad-rimmed hat could literally “save your neck”!
- Try night fishing for carp. If it’s a big carp you’re after, this is a wonderful time of year to go night fishing. Balmy recent conditions have seen temperatures in the high teens, even in the wee small hours! Very comfortable for sleeping out- and the fish will be a lot less wary after dark.
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