If the fish aren't biting in the summer, consider this: Your lure has lots of underwater competition.

Fishing can be difficult during the middle of the summer because of the abundance of natural prey available to the fish. With warm water temperatures, the aquatic food chain is operating at maximum capacity and everything a fish eats is at peak abundance. There are millions of young-of-the-year baitfish available for predator fish to eat now in many Nebraska waters.

Fortunately, there are strategies that can be used to increase your chances of catching fish during the summer. Specifics will vary from species to species and perhaps from one water body to the next, but there are general strategies that will help.

With an abundance of natural prey, feeding periods may be short. They can be intense but typically do not last long. Try to identify the areas where the fish will feed and make sure you are fishing there during prime times. Dawn and dusk are prime feeding times for most species of fish. Another feeding window may be just before the arrival of a summer thunderstorm. Just make sure to stay safe and watch out for lightning and wind.

Another thing to consider during the heat of summer is handling fish. Have a plan for what you are going to do with fish before you ever catch them. Warm water temperatures and lower dissolved oxygen levels mean that fish will stress more easily when being caught. If you are going to release fish, you need to land them as quickly as possible, keep them in the water and handle them as little as possible, and release them as soon as possible.

Some anglers will shift their fishing strategies from cool- and cold-water species during the hottest periods because just catching those species during peak temperatures can stress them enough to kill. This is especially true for large, cool-water predatory fish such as wipers and muskies, as well as the cold-water trout. If you target those species during the summer, those fish in particular need to be landed as quickly as possible and released with as little handling as possible.

Another strategy is to shift your summer fishing to panfish, largemouth bass, white bass or catfish, species that also are usually easier to catch during midsummer. If you plan to harvest a few fish for a meal, take a cooler full of ice with you and put any fish you want to keep in it as soon as possible instead of in a livewell or on a stringer.

Daryl Bauer is the outreach program manager in the Game and Parks' Fisheries Division. Contact him at 402-471-5008 or daryl.bauer@nebraska.gov. Read his blog, Barbs and Backlashes, at OutdoorNebraska.org.