Winkelman: Fishing, ‘Made In The Shade’

Think about going to a picnic on a hot, sunny, summer day. You arrive at the park and find wide open spaces, along with big leafy trees spaced out here and there. You load up your paper plate with delicious picnic food and wonder where to sit to enjoy your meal. Unless you’re working on a suntan, I can guess where you’ll go. Yup, you’ll stroll on over and grab some shade under one of those trees.

Babe and his daughter and a nice crappie.
Babe and his daughter and a nice crappie.

As human animals on hot days, we seek cool shade instinctively. It assists us in maintaining our body temperature, helps us retain valuable fluids and contributes to our general mood and well being.

Here’s another reason we intuitively seek shade — and this time as predators, so you’ll relate to this if you think about going hunting. Let’s say you’re looking for a spot to set up for some afternoon turkey hunting. Will you sit in the open with the bright sun affecting your vision? Heck no. Instead, you’ll find a place in the shade with the sun oriented behind you so you can look from a dark environment out onto a brightly lit landscape. It gives you a huge visual advantage, and puts the turkey at a disadvantage.

We’re not too different than fish either when it comes to our fondness for shade. They prefer it when the sun is high in the sky. Knowing this can help you locate fish and catch them! Here are two reasons why:

1. Shadowy Ambush
For the same reason as illustrated in our turkey-hunting analogy, fish lurk in the shadows to be more effective predators. Shade hides their form from baitfish, and also gives them the edge for seeing prey without being seen.

2. Cooler Water
Just as you get out of the heat at a picnic, fish seek cool shadows to be more comfortable, too. This can help reduce their metabolic rate so they can conserve energy and afford more time between meals (if bait is scarce).

So, the next time you’re going out for some afternoon fishing on a sunny day, keep shadows in mind. Begin your search on the side of the lake that’s oriented for the greatest likelihood of shade. This could be because of the sun’s location in the sky; or because of steep banks and higher trees; or because there is submerged timber, lily pads, etc., in certain areas of the lake. Boulders also make nice shady pockets that shouldn’t be overlooked. And never forget about boat docks and swim platforms, too. All of these scenarios result in shade. And where there are shadows, there are fish!

When you get to a shadowy spot, think about where the fish will be within those shadows. For example, let’s say you’re out in front of a dock that could hold some bass or panfish and the sun is beating down from left-to-right. To which side of the dock should you cast? Well, because the fish will prefer the sun to their backs the same as you would, you should cast to the right side of the dock.

Finally, here’s a great tip for tackling sunfish on a bright summer day. It’s especially useful if you’re fishing with the kids and you want everyone to have a nice productive day. Ease the boat into a likely looking spot, like on an outside submerged weedline adjacent to deeper water. Lower two anchors to the bottom very slowly. You don’t want to send them down fast and spook fish or disrupt the bottom sediment. Two anchors (one from the bow and one at the stern) will keep the boat from spinning if there is any breeze.

After securing the anchors, sit back and relax for a few minutes. In the underwater world, the fish will quickly realize that there is suddenly an amazing source of shade up above. The water temperature will cool underneath the boat, and sunfish (plus crappies, bass and baitfish, too) will gravitate to the spot.

Before long, you’ll be plucking scrappy fish from right under the boat! The technique requires no bobber or complicated set-ups. Just a jig with a small leech or grub fished on a straight line. It’s perfect for the kids and a great way for the whole family to have it “made in the shade.”

Good Fishing!

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