The fishing season has swiftly drifted into the doldrums of August, as hot, muggy weather and passing low pressure systems have combined with soaring water temperatures, low water conditions and diminished oxygen levels to put fish down.
Surface temperatures on most area lakes now hover in the mid to high 70 degree range, and while some of the local rivers and streams are considerably cooler, the diminished dissolved oxygen content has combined with extremely low water levels to make fish slow to take, and weak on the fight.
The bright sun puts fish down, and it also provides a huge advantage to winged predators such as heron, osprey and eagles.
While fish may still be on the prowl for food, it is up to the angler to present offerings at the proper feeding level during the appropriate time of day. Successful anglers have been presenting offerings at depths of 20-30 feet and greater to take advantage of the cooler, oxygenated conditions.
For flyfishermen, terrestrials remain the fly of choice as trout are keying in on ‘hoppers and other patterns such as flying ants, beetles and foam spiders.
On the lakes and ponds, both bass and trout have only been responsive for limited time frames, with small windows of opportunity available during the early morning hours and again from dusk and into the evening’s darkness.
Popping for bass along the shoreline of an Adirondack lake in the pitch-black darkness is an exciting endeavor. I prefer to troll a popper about 25-30 feet behind the boat. After popping or chugging such offerings as a hula popper or a floating mouse, I listen for the splash of a strike. More often than not, the fish are hooked as they strike on a slowly trolled line.
On recent trips along the Raquette River and the Saranac, we took smallmouth bass quite regularly at the base of falls and rapids. We also took bluegills, river shad and an occasional pike. I’ve given up on most of the trout streams due to the low water and warm temperatures. Fishing for trout in the rivers at this time of year puts too much stress on their systems, which makes it difficult to safely release them.
Mirror Lake, Lake Placid and Lake Colby are again featuring the lake lanterns of August, with anglers still-fishing for browns and rainbow trout during the late evening hours. I’ve also received reports that Lake Colby has been giving up some decent browns during the late afternoon and early evening hours. There have been a few flyrodders that are stubborn enough to fight off the ravenous smallmouth bass in order to find the trout.
Where there’s thunder, lightning’s not far behind
The recent spell of foul weather has increased the danger of lightning strikes which kill more people annually than hurricanes and tornadoes combined.
Thunderstorms produce lightning in varying degrees. Sometimes there's just an odd flash or two evident, while at other times, storms can produce lightning nearly continuously, with lots of flashes to the ground.
It's the flashes from the cloud to the ground (CG flashes, for short) that create problems. Typically only a small percentage of the total flashes produced by a thunderstorm are visible, since most lightning stays within the clouds. However, it only takes one CG flash to get you!
The human body is essentially a bag of salty water, and it conducts electricity much better than air. As a result, lightning will often try to travel through a person to reach the ground. Any thunderstorm, despite size, should be a matter of concern for campers, hikers, paddlers, anglers and other outdoor travelers. Travelers should be aware of what to do if the situation becomes hazardous.
On average, there are nearly 100 people fatally stuck by lightning annually in the United States. But it doesn’t always kill you to create major problems in your life. Hundreds of people are affected by lightning in the U.S. every year, short of being killed. Such strikes can adversely affect a person’s central nervous system for the remainder of their life.
If you are outdoors, you've already increased the risk of being struck by lightning. Highest risk categories include golfers, mountain climbers, boaters and increasingly, flyfishermen. There is only one word for a person who continues to stand in a stream or on an open fairway waving a highly conductive shaft while the sky is dark and thundering. The word is dumb!
What should you do if the weather turns to thunder and rain? At the first hint of thunder travelers should get off the water, out of the stream or leave the golf course.
Hikers should avoid the mountain summits, the crests of ridges, of slopes above timberline and large clearings. These are extremely dangerous places to be during lightning storms.
If you are caught in such an exposed place, quickly descend to a lower elevation, away from the direction of the approaching storm. Whenever lightning is near, take off backpacks with either external or internal metal frames, toss the golf bag and drop the graphite rods.
In all cases, squat down or kneel down on a pad, life jacket or waders keeping your head low and body out of contact with the ground. A dense forest located in a depression provides the best protection.
Avoid taking shelter under isolated trees or a tree that is much taller than the adjacent forest. Seek out hardwood trees if possible, since softwoods are more prone to strikes due to the high moisture content.
Remember, lightning strikes the tallest object. Stay as low as possible. If caught in the open, seek a depression in the earth, a ditch or hole.
Be proactive in your travels and learn to recognize approaching thunderstorms and adjust your activities accordingly. Since most mountain thunderstorms tend to form in the early to mid-afternoon, it's generally advised that you begin hiking the higher peaks in the early morning. This will allow you to be on the way down from the summits when the threat from thunderstorms is at its highest.
Keep your eyes on the sky and be prepared to abandon your hiking, paddling or angling plans if a thunderstorm develops unexpectedly. You should be able to recognize developing thunderstorms before they begin to produce lightning.
Fair weather clouds on a mountain may be puffy, but they are short and show little or no vertical development. If they begin to tower up and build into deep clouds with dark bases and a flat top, they are likely in the process of becoming thunderstorms.
A cloud that is tall and beginning to flatten out at the top is usually a thunderstorm. If you see clouds like this around, and there are dark cloud bases overhead, then you are in a potentially dangerous place! And you had better get moving!
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.