Wanna step outside? Warm water work-arounds

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 29, 2023

By Dan Kibler

When I checked the thermometer earlier today, just before the predicted thunderstorms arrived, it read 86 degrees.

That’s hot, especially if you’re a fish that can’t retreat into an air-conditioned man cave when the mercury is towering.

In turn, that makes it a little bit tough on the fishermen who are chasing them, especially bass fishermen. And especially those bass fishermen who like to fish in shallow water.

Marty Stone is one of those guys. A successful former bass pro who grew up in Rockingham County, graduated from Appalachian State and lived in Kernersville and Fayetteville before recently moving to John H. Kerr (Buggs Island) Lake near the Virginia border. Stone’s idea of a depth finder is sticking his rod down in the water until it touches bottom. That’s how shallow he wants to be fishing.

Now the lead commentator on Major League Fishing’s television show, Stone said that fishermen who love shallow water don’t need to panic just because most of the bass in the lake have moved deep to escape that layer of hot water close to the surface.

At least not yet.

“I’ll tell you, we’ve had a lot of rain, and most of our lakes are full, and the water hasn’t really gotten blazing hot yet,” Stone said. “And not all of those bass go deep in the summer.”

Stone has a multi-pronged game plan for summer bass.

First, he expects to find a decent topwater bite at first light.

“I would be looking around rocky corners, rip rap, the ends of sea walls,” Stone said. “You want to fish for a reaction bite. You fish a walking bait or a popping bait — even a buzz bait will work. And you don’t use a pop-pop-pause cadence. You want to work it fast, to get that reaction bite.”

Second, Stone knows that the water under boat docks and piers is a little cooler because of the shade.

“Fish the shady spots around boat docks,” Stone said. “That bite can last all day. You can swim a jig or flip and pitch soft plastics. That’s pretty simple.”

Third, Stone knows that bass are attracted to places where they can readily find food. In the summer — especially around the full moon — that means bream beds. The feisty little sunfish set up in the shallows, finning out dish-shaped beds in shallow water where they lay and fertilize their eggs. A sprawling bream bed might contain dozens of fish — and bass know it.

“For the most part, the big mass of bluegill haven’t gone to the beds yet,” Stone said. “The bass will really key in on those bream beds.”

Expect bass to be outside the beds in slightly deeper water, waiting to slide into the shallows for a quick meal. Stone said to fish a topwater popping bait — “especially a popping frog” — swim a jig or fish a soft-plastic stick bait (think Senko) rigged, wacky style, with the point of the hook through the middle of the bait, leaving both ends to wobble as it falls through the water column.”

Last but not least — especially when it gets “really hot” — Stone said to head up the river in a reservoir or look in the backs of “active” creeks that have current.

“A lot of bass go to those places,” Stone said, explaining that current both cools the water a bit and delivers a lot of dissolved oxygen, which will allow the bass to be more active in hot conditions.

“It’s really River Fishing 101,” he said. “There are a lot of baits you can throw: shallow-running crankbaits, swim jigs, even buzz baits. And you can pitch or flip soft-plastic baits around any kind of cover that breaks the current.”

State-record blueline tilefish is caught off Nags Head

Does anybody know what a blueline tilefish looks like? Well, if you answered in the negative, you’re not alone. It’s a tasty bottom fish that lives in extremely deep water off the South Atlantic coast, often out into 100 fathoms or better, and typically on very steep ledges.

And you thought grouper and red snapper liked deep water.

The NC Division of Marine Fisheries has certified a new state-record blueline tilefish caught on June 11 near Tower B offshore of Nags Head. The fish weighed 17 pounds, 1.9 ounces, was 36 inches long and 20.5 inches in girth, and was caught by Thomas Adkins of Sutherland, Virginia.

Akins was using cut bait, a Trevala rod and Shimano 700 reel when he caught the fish, fishing with his father. The previous state record was a 16-pound, 8-ounce fish caught off Oregon Inlet in 2004.

NC licensing software down for upgrade until Saturday

Don’t think about trying to buy a fishing license or register a boat before the weekend — the NC Wildlife Resources Commission shut down its licensing software system at 5 p.m. this past Tuesday to upgrade and launch a new system, Go Outdoors North Carolina.

The new system, which is designed to make it easier to buy licenses and register boats, will go online at 7 a.m. on Saturday.