The magical atmosphere of fishing during the “Dog Days” of summer

Tom LounsburyFishing, Uncategorized

When July eases in, I automatically start longing to go wade-fishing on the nearby Upper Reaches of the Cass River, something I have been doing since childhood. Early July and all the way through the month of August represent what are known as the “Dog Days” of summer. I used to think this timeframe, typically featuring warm and sultry weather, was so named because the usual heat was hard on dogs. However, this is referring to a very bright star, named Sirius, which becomes visible during that timeframe as it arcs across the southern horizon in the night sky. Sirius is the chief star in the constellation of Canis Major, meaning “big dog”, and hence the term “Dog Days”.

For starters, I’m not an astronomer, but I am fully aware that the Dog Days represent some great fishing opportunities, and this has nothing at all to do with a star appearing in the night sky. This timeframe relates to the feeding patterns of fish, which during the spring were having a steady feast on various insect hatches. By midsummer, the hatches are pretty much all done, and fish have to work a little harder for a meal, and in turn, can be a little easier to catch. In my opinion, this is especially the case with catching fish in a river environment, which is one of my favorite pastimes, either by wading or using a canoe.

My beloved Cass River does offer some splendid fishing opportunities for bass and pike, with one of my favorite fish to target being rock bass, which are quite feisty in my opinion, not to mention they are delicious to eat. So are smallmouth bass, which typically leap out of the water when hooked, and I’ve caught some real dandies in the Cass River, as well as northern pike.

Lynn showing her Pike from Cass River

There is no question that my favorite Dog Days fishing method when river water levels are typically lower, is wading, and such allows some truly great opportunities which can be accessed in no other way. My equipment and gear hasn’t changed much over the years, and I like to keep matters simple, which allows me more mobility. I don’t require waders, and much prefer just jeans and sensible wading shoes, and it is sure a great way to cool off on a hot day. I carry all I need in a fanny-pack and have a stringer for the fish I am going to keep, hanging from my belt.

My favorite fishing gear is a very simple-to-use cane pole, to which I attach my fishing line by wrapping and tying it to the tip and have enough extra line to wrap and tie again a couple inches further down the pole, as this takes the pressure off the very tip when battling a fish. I prefer a 12-foot cane pole using 10lb Dacron fishing line that I cut off at the exact length of the pole, and tie on a swivel for attaching a short (mono or steel) leader for the hooks and lures. In this manner, all that is required to land a fish is to simply lift the pole tip up into the air, which brings the fish in and makes it easy to reach. Sometimes, however, there can be a bit of a tussle during the process which depends upon the size and feistiness of the fish!

Cane poles are a dream to use with a bobber and live bait, as well as flies, poppers, spoons and any artificial bait you can think of. They are handy for successfully working a lure or bait around obstacles such as lily pads, boulders, fallen trees and sunken logs. And, yep, folks, one of my favorite fish to target using a cane pole is northern pike which often prefer that sort of habitat!

There really is something quite serene about wade-fishing in those otherwise inaccessible locations on a river, and I have had some amazing experiences doing so. Sightings of various wildlife is a common occurrence, not to mention observing an abundance of songbirds, butterflies and dragonflies which frequently make a strong and colorful appearance during the Dog Days. Having an occasional bald eagle or osprey soaring overhead will certainly add to the outdoor ambiance, trust me. 

One memorable experience I had while wade-fishing, was when I hooked into a decent smallmouth bass. I had the fish nearly in and was reaching for it when a very respectable northern pike suddenly appeared out of nowhere and viciously latched onto the bass, broadside, and attempted to swim away with it (I’m glad my hand wasn’t in the mix)! I managed to stop matters, with the pike thrashing and swirling around in the water, and I assumed I had it also hooked for sure. As I brought the fish in close while thinking the fight was over, the pike took one look at me, let go of the bass, and quickly vanished. The pike had simply been too stubborn and aggressive to let go of the bass, which was a tad chewed-up when I put it on the stringer. 

          My 3 sons grew up with wade-fishing, quite literally. In the early days I put lifejackets on them, connected them to each other with a rope, which in turn, was attached to my waist, and I towed them, bobbing along, while I fished. They loved it, and the Dog Days provided the perfect mellow atmosphere! When they became big enough, going wade-fishing was second nature.

Today, my sons remain to be wade-fishing fanatics, especially during the Dog Days, and their favorite location remains to be the Cass River, where they had their first adventures. They have, through years of experience, learned where their favorite “fishing holes” are, which usually can only be accessed by wading, and if the water conditions allow, by canoe as well.

A good friend of mine, David Rose of Traverse City, is a fishing guide in inland lakes and rivers. In fact, he is the one who enlightened me a number of years ago about the relationship of the star, Sirius, and the Dog Days, which are definitely a favorite timeframe for him to fish. According to Rose, who uses primarily lures and artificial bait, a good color to use is green. During the Dog Days when there are fewer insects to feed on, the fish turn their primary attention to frogs, and according to Rose, all fish like frogs, including trout.

A real beauty about Michigan, is all the wonderful fishing opportunities available throughout our state, and the Dog Days of summer are a great time to give them a hearty try.

Yep, folks, it certainly works for me!

Tom Lounsbury