August 2020: Fishing Tips & Common Species
Post & Photos by Karlee Holmes
Largemouth bass are a popular recreational fish species in Pennsylvania, there are regulations, such as, seasons, size limits, and harvest limits put in place through the PA Fish Commission to manage the species. Largemouth bass can be found in clear, vegetated lakes, ponds, swamps, creeks, and rivers from the St. Lawrence River down to the Mississippi River basin. Bass prefer spawning, or laying their eggs, in water systems that have mud, sand, or rocks on the bottom. Spawning occurs in the spring and males will stay close to protect the eggs.
The fishing gets good after spawning occurs since the adults are hungry and moving away greater distances from the nest to feed. The best places to find largemouth bass are near submerged objects like downed trees, stumps, or tree limbs (be careful not to get snagged). Aquatic vegetation also serves an important role as excellent bass habitat because they hide in it to hunt their prey passing through. To get them to bite, it is important to know that their normal diet consists of smaller fish, crayfish, insects, and frogs.
There are two species of crappie - white crappie and black crappie. They are found in the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and Mississippi River basins all the way from New York, over to South Dakota, and down to Texas. Rivers, backwaters of rivers, and lakes. Spawning is popular in a lot of fish species in late spring and early summer, crappie included. Males create the nests in shallow water or around brush. Unlike other fish species, crappie males get darker throats during spawning season. White Crappie are considered mature in their second or third year of life, during that time, they will grow up to 9 inches.
White Crappie are found more in murky water than black crappie and like to be in the open water during morning and evenings then in shallow water where they can find downed trees and logs to hide in for protection. Black crappie have to have vegetation to hide in but white crappie like being in the open water most of the day. All crappie sit and wait for prey to come by instead of ambushing something. This strategy allows them to save their energy by reducing search time. Crappie diet usually is made up of small fish and crayfish.
Bluegill can be found in nearly any body of water in North America. Ponds and lakes are the main areas they reside. They are a very abundant species, therefore, their harvest limits are usually much higher than other fish species in Pennsylvania. Bluegill spawn in late spring and early summer, they prefer the weather to be 70-75 degrees. The nests are made by the males and look like a dish and they will defend it against any predators.
Prime habitats for bluegill are in the submerged weeds, under piers, under overhanging limbs or under objects in the water like downed trees or piles of rocks. They aren’t picky and will eat almost anything that is near them. Their favorite foods are insects, insect larvae, and mainly worms.
July has been a hard month for fishing because of it being so hot, when it is so hot, fish don’t feed as much during the day - although Bluegill seem to be hungry anytime of the day, they are more sluggish and less interested during daytime hours. Fishing at dawn or dusk is an excellent way to stay out of that peak sun beaming down on the water, and temperatures are cooler turning it into a more pleasurable experience for you and your bait more appealing for the fish.
The best tips for fishing in the heat are:
Find downed trees or rock piles
Fish tend to go deeper in the water when the sun is beaming on the top of it. Moving deeper allows fish to find cooler water temperatures. In addition to being deeper, many fish will relax under brush and rock piles for shade purposes so throwing your line out near those objects will increase your chances of getting a bite.
Use flashy bait
When the sun is shining directly into the water, using bright colored, reflective, artificial baits can help attract fish to bite more than just worms. Minnows are always good if you’re trying to catch bigger fish but using artificial baits allow you to control the movement more in the water.
Keep trying areas with any action
Fish like to settle down in a spot when it’s hot - don’t we all feel a little lazy when we are overheated? Try finding that prime habitat and keep throwing out your bait past it.
Going after the food is a lot of effort and energy so they are more intrigued to bite if the prey is easy to access… aka, close to their face. If you get to a spot where you get a bite or two, thoroughly cover the area to try to stir up a school of fish in the area.
With that all being said, when the fish aren’t biting, it’s nice to just go for a ride and enjoy time on the water with friends and family! It’s never too early to start out a little fisherman in the making!
Karlee Holmes holds a Master's in Environmental Science and Management from Duquesne University and is a biology instructor at Butler County Community College. She is a wife to Joshua and mother to Jasper. In her spare time, Karlee likes to take photos of animals; check "lifers" off of her bird list; catch bass; and teach continuing education classes.