August begins with the River level at the ‘Action’ stage, which means access can be dicey and dam gates are open. This is the new normal, as siltation has become a factor in backwaters throughout Pool 9 and directly upstream.
But the ‘new normal’ is different this year. Since June the River level has been like harmonic waves which roll behind an upbound tow running heavy long after the tow has passed upstream around the next bend. Wave crests and troughs behind a tow must be respected–but they are manageable.
Fish patterns have been the same way. Daily movement +movement driven by changes in River level of a couple feet or so from week to week, making it easier to predict where fish are gonna be when I get to the job site pretty much every morning.
Although habitat parameters have been good all summer, we’re at a point where both forage base and aquatic weed growth are at max levels. With an abundance of food in the system, it’s tough to get fish interested. They get a vote too, usually choosing something without a hook.
The panfish bite has been most consistently good throughout the day. One segment of the bluegill/crappie forage base is always relating to the wood. Another bunch is relating to the weeds, where both location and attitude change every day.
Last Thursday’s trip we struggled to put a mess of panfish in the boat. A fairly stiff NW breeze from an overnite cold front felt great, but pretty much shut ’em down. Returned to the same 2-4 fow yesterday and absolutely pounded the crappie, gills and perch. In days gone by there has been a wingdam bite for late summer gills. Too much water this year for this to happen–unless the harmonic wave of River level drops Her down about 3′ more.
Willocat have generally been the best weapon for wingdam walleyes this summer. Somedays, the marble-eyes want cranks bounced off the rocks. But floating eelgrass can be a factor. A drift bite with a 3/16 pyrokeet jighead and half-crawler has usually been more productive.
Pike are always pretty easy and active all day long. With SMB, the bite is best early & late in the day–playing the shade–on the rocks. Frog fishin’ for LMB is always predictably easy if you know what other habitat parameters to look for. Personally, I’ve never cared much for frog fishin’. Cranking in a 10 pounder which comes with 8 lb. of weeds just isn’t fun. Just like old school hay baling to pull a chunk of deer jerky from the middle of the alfalfa once the bale is in the boat.
With significant temperature differences between water & air between towering bluffs which line the upper Miss, morning fog is a factor probably 5 days a week in August. Navigation in the fog is profoundly hazardous. I don’t rely on electronics much on the River, BUT having mapping capability with a Lakemaster or Navionics chip is a Godsend when sneaking through the morning fog.
Eelgrass has been a minor nuisance with perpetual River level changes all summer long. This situation will get worse as water temperatures cool. Weeds are a major factor in bait presentation as we get into September and beyond.
My latest book: Tails, Trails & Tales with the Old Guide is available on Amazon, local outlets along the River in in Kindle ebook. There might be a Vol II next Spring–or I’ll finally start an all encompassing book on fishing the upper Miss. This will be a lot of work. Would rather be fishin’.