Fishing in the Dog Days of Summer

By Dennis Doyle

Years ago, when my energy levels were at their peak, my angling days during these sweltering months began at 5 a.m., at the latest, and for good reason. First of all, both the early air and water temps were still cool and the perch and rockfish remained active and hungry. That was prime time to work tributary rock shorelines, shallows and wooden structures with lures such as Beetle Spins and Rooster Tails for perch and Rat-L-Traps and sometimes poppers for rockfish. There were few anglers on the water this early and the fish were numerous, big and plump. To a certain extent the situation is the same today.

As the years passed and my energies ebbed, I started out later and later, and the fish got fewer and smaller and the better spots more and more crowded. It was not a difficult pattern to recognize and the solution obvious—but getting up earlier eventually became a non-starter. After all, I had a day of work ahead and I was still catching enough whities for our family fish fries, though the rockfish became ever more scarce.

But still the blazing sun and heat in mid-summer definitely slowed down my activities, my angling results, and that of everyone else as well. These periods are still commonly known as the dog days. You don’t have to be a scientist to know why they’re called that, though originally the term did involve a study of the heavens.

Way before there were conventional calendars, the Dog Star or Sirius, a point in the Canis Majoris constellation and so named by the ancient Greeks, was the first and brightest star observable in the summer night sky. Folks everywhere knew when that point of light emerged they were at the start of what would be the hottest days of the year—at least those civilizations that adopted astronomical observations as part of their traditional knowledge base.

Weather and associated practical knowledge became more commonly known among civilizations at least a thousand years ago. A study of the stars was one of the earliest scientific disciplines. Curiously, the constellation Canis Major has always been known as the dog (or wolf constellation) around the globe, though it is doubtful that astronomers at that time had close enough contact with each other to share that designation.

Currently the dog days of summer are still called that, not because of the star, but because everyone that gets outside in mid-summer notices that actual dogs (our longest close companions) everywhere are laying about in the shade dozing all day and rarely become active before nighttime. Hence a continued reference to the period as the dog days persists to the present.

When rockfish season reopens August 1 it will be prudent to note that very early mornings will continue to be the solution for the dog day doldrums just as they’ve been for endless years prior. The first anglers of the mornings will always catch the best and most fish during these hot summer months. Good luck to all out there and stay cool.