A couple of weeks ago I made the comment to a friend that if this Covid thing reduced turkey hunting pressure this year, the decent weather we were having to that point should add to our good fortune, boosting poult survival.
This, I opined, would make for great gobbler hunting in 2021 and maybe even beyond.
That’s when day after day of buckets of cold rain arrived, an early tropical storm wrecking the best laid plans of mice and men. I thought we were never going to see the sun again. Chilly and wet are not conditions conducive to the survival of young turkeys, so it will be interesting to see what the turkey population surveys due out later in the year will forecast for next year’s hunt.
The pessimist in me wants to say we probably lost ground on the turkey front late last month.
So the optimist in me wants to go fishing.
There’s still a good month or month and a half of daylight bass fishing left, for instance, though it will get tougher as the weather warms. Fishing early and/or late are always the rules of summer, but you don’t have to learn to fish “offshore” just yet, the way you should at any of the area’s best holes angling the real dog days.
There’s plenty of topwater, crankbait and plastic worm fishing to be done relatively shallow right now. Frankly, that is more fun to me than some of the finesse techniques and deep water tactics that spell success as the mercury rises. And if you’d rather fish for something other than bigmouths, you can almost certainly find your favorite still biting.
However, there’s not much time left on that dance card. It’s almost time to switch over to night fishing, something I used to do a lot and got away from for a number of years before returning. I find now that fishing after dark fits my goal to hit the best fishing at the best times under the best conditions and give it a full effort while not detracting from other urgent needs, like turkey hunting, preparing for archery deer season and (oh, yeah) making a living.
Over the years I’ve developed a bit of a pattern—maybe even a “system” as the kids say. Well before the sun and heat drive me to fish under the stars, I try to get a bunch of fishing “out of the way” before the turkeys call for my full attention. Especially when the gobbler outlook seems rough, extra scouting and some time spent exploring new locations might mean the difference between filling a tag and getting skunked.
So I try to push as much fishing as I can into early March and even mid-to-late February, assuming decent weather and water conditions. That way I not only get a jumpstart on tackle prep, knocking the personal cobwebs loose and locating fish, but I use my hunting vs. fishing time wisely. While crappie and bass fishing (especially for big fish) are really starting to get hot in early March, it’s not the best time to scout for turkeys. (The early season in SC would be an exception.)
On the other hand, waiting to wade into the fishing scene after turkey season begins means you’ve missed much of the year’s best opportunities, and you’re starting rusty. I like to get a lot of fishing done before gobbler fever grabs me, so that when it is time to come back out of the woods and hit the water again I’m not starting cold.
To be honest, there is always a tension between turkey hunting and almost any kind of fishing. I suppose we just have to deal with it!
Then there is the phase we’re in now, where you can concentrate on fishing, sometimes for a whole day at a time without discomfort. I usually figure this lasts until mid-July, depending on your favorite quarry. Again, the best fishing is usually in the cooler, low-light hours, but there are fish to be caught at high noon if you know how or just get lucky. It’s once I have trouble raising a bass before the sun tops the trees in the morning or getting a good hour in before full dark that I break out the night fishing gear.
For me, that means bass fishing with topwater lures and soft plastics or catfishing while anchored over a good hole with downlines. I’ll cover some techniques in a future column. In the meantime, you might want to stock up on Jitterbugs, propeller baits and weedless fishing gear, along with circle hooks and some dead fish, shrimp and cheap dog food …
More on all that later… Stay tuned …