There are lots of fishy critters in the lake that will bite a minnow and that’s really good news for fishermen trying to find a productive fishing pattern during the July heat. I’ve had my 92-year-old dad visiting recently, we managed to get out and fish on some days before the heat got too bad. We used an old fishing secret to catch a big mixed bag of fish species, also known as a smorgasbord of fish.
The key to much of our success was the always popular, but simple, minnow. There’s not much in any of our area lakes or rivers that won’t bite a minnow during the summer and if you fish the right places, you can catch crappie, catfish (blues, channels and even flatheads), white perch, largemouth bass and even some big bream on minnows.
Using minnows to catch a lot of fish is not news-breaking information to many anglers. However, if you’re looking for a quick fix to any fish-catching shortcomings right now, minnows are a good bet as a fishing tactic. During July and August, fishing can really get tough at times, but the simple minnow rig can cure a lot of fishing problems.
The water in the minnow bucket warms up, the oxygen is quickly consumed and the minnows die. Back in the spring, during the peak of crappie fishing season, you could keep them alive for days with little care, but not now.
But with a little care and keeping the water cool, you can keep them alive long enough to make for a good morning of fishing.
Recently my dad and I went fishing for a few hours early in the morning. Not only did we beat the worst of the heat, but ended up catching a real smorgasbord of fish species. While we kept some fish for a fish fry, we tossed a lot of them back. Basically, the action was very good until about 10 in the morning when the heat started getting oppressive anyway and we shut it down and came in.
The really good news is that we just used very simple rigs and tactics. No high tech stuff, other than using a graph to find the right spots to set up. We had only two technique strategies and employed minnows as bait.
We took light-tipped spinning rigs with eight-pound test line, put a number four Eagle Claw hook on it with a number three split shot about a foot above the hook. We anchored on ledges, humps and drops in about 14-16 feet of water where the graph depicted both shad and larger fish near the bottom, or near brush or stumps on the bottom. With some rods, we fished tightline vertical, keeping the bait within a couple feet of the bottom. On other rigs, we cast out flatline style and we fished directly on the bottom.
Dad sat in the front of the boat and had three rigs spread out around him. One, he put the “personal touch” on by holding the rod and slowly raising the minnow up and down, and this did have a positive effect on hooking fish. The slight bit of extra effort he used was worthwhile in terms of getting fish action. However, those rods sitting in the rodholders were getting bites in rapid-fire succession as well, especially when we kept fresh, lively minnows on them. Often Dad would be fighting a fish on the rod he held in his hand, only to have one of the other rods nosedive with a fish that self-hooked on an aggressive bite.
One rod in particular seemed to be the crappie rod that morning at the first place we fished and most of the big crappie came from that one rod. The way the boat was anchored, that rod was adjacent to some brush in about 15-feet of water. The other rigs were equally bit by white perch, both large and small, an occasional crappie and catfish of all sizes and species. Plus we caught two bonus largemouth, which we released.
The pattern for the morning was to move and work different places when the action slowed at one place. When we did, we found cooperative fish in several places in the lower end of the lake, but the key was being able to mark baitfish and larger fish on the graph before setting up. One area was level-bottomed and we actually drifted with the light breeze keeping our bait just off the bottom and caught several fish in that manner.
Of course, we had many small throwback-sized fish, but in terms of action and staying busy, it didn’t seem to matter to Dad. He enjoyed hooking and fighting fish. As expected on the minnow rigs, we had a few hefty fish, probably larger catfish, which broke the eight-pound test line. I considered putting slightly heavier line on the reels. But using light line does often generate more bites from average-sized fish.
To keep the minnows lively, we took a water bottle, filled it with water, then froze it and placed it in the insulated minnow bucket. That kept treated water out of the minnow bucket, but it kept the water much cooler. We did that a couple times during the course of the morning and the minnows stayed lively.
If you’re looking for a fun, bite-filled fishing trip, take a bucket of minnows, some simple rigs and go catch a smorgasbord of fish.