There is no doubt that fishing in late summer hits a lull. There is an abundance of natural prey at that time and fish are well fed. However, there are late-summer opportunities that Nebraska anglers should not miss.
Follow the gulls: By late summer, young-of-the-year gizzard shad are on the menu of all predator fish in Nebraska’s largest reservoirs. Open-water predator fish — white bass in particular — take advantage of the abundant shad; and fish feeding activity often can be observed on and near the surface. Veteran Nebraska anglers know to look for those feeding frenzies, especially early and late in the day. Often, a big tip-off to that activity is the melee of gulls feeding on the shad from above while the white bass herd them to the surface from below.
Boat anglers should be careful not to motor through schools of feeding fish; that can end the feeding activity and scatter fish into deeper water. Stay off at a distance and cast heavy spoons such as KastMasters or slab spoons. A variety of other baits will work well, too, anything that approximates the size and color of the baitfish. Top-water baits such as ChugBugs and Spooks will also work. Hang on, because on some waters a bonus hybrid striped bass, or wiper, may show up right in the middle of the feeding activity.
When the surface feeding activity slows, look for baitfish and white bass nearby in deeper water along points and drop-offs. Vertically jigging spoons, blade baits or tail-spinners can keep fish on the line until the next feeding frenzy erupts on the surface.
Check the 2017 Fishing Forecast at outdoornebraska.gov/fishingforecast for the best waters to fish; Calamus and Harlan County reservoirs are traditional favorites, but Swanson, Sherman, McConaughy, Minatare and others can be good, too.
Get bloody: Everyone knows that channel catfish like smelly baits. Actually, catfish have well-developed senses of smell and taste. In fact, they have taste buds scattered all over their bodies. Catfish anglers use that to their advantage by using a variety of smelly and sometimes stinky concoctions to attract and catch channel cats. In late summer, blood baits tend to work particularly well. Coagulated beef blood is a favorite bloody bait, but liver and other baits with bloody ingredients will work, too.
Catfish fishing lags a little bit in July as active spawning occurs, but then the bite picks up vigorously in August as catfish immediately begin feeding heavily for the coming winter. Drifting blood baits along the bottom works best, but still-fishing in areas where water movement or current can carry the bloody scent trail also will attract catfish. Keep baits fresh after dissipating for a few minutes in the water; re-baiting with more blood will work best.
Other baits that can be particularly good for catfish in late summer include frogs, cut-baits (a good choice anytime) and even grasshoppers.
Channel catfish can be found in a variety of waters from one end of Nebraska to the other, pick one. Check the 2017 Fishing Forecast for some ideas, or give your local river, stream, pit, pond, lake or reservoir a try. There are probably at least a few channel catfish there.