Summer Transition: Where Fish Go When They Disappear
The spring to summer transition is always one which can have anglers thinking all the fish in the lake have disappeared. The shallow bay systems you've been fishing that were stacked with fish & bait last week are completely empty. You fish your way out of the bay towards deeper water and still can't find anything. This can mean only one thing; the summer transition is in full swing! Fortunately, there is an easy fix to get you catching fish again!
We want to start off by clarifying that the summer transition occurs at a different point for each species and that it has nothing to do with the date on the calendar. The transition of fish from spring areas to summer haunts is driven completely by the water temperature of the main lake! Its important to emphasize main lake water temperature here as the bay systems the fish have been using may still be a comfortable temperature to hold them yet they are nowhere to be found. It is common for fish, and especially the biggest fish of a population, to head to summer areas as soon as the water there is in their preferred comfort range. While we do not have anything more than empirical evidence to support our theory we believe it is due to the stability of water temperature, ability to move up and down in thermocline as needed based on conditions to maintain peak growth efficiency, as well as abundance of larger forage.
This past weekend we spent way too long targeting fish in pre-transition locations where we had found them the past few outings. Despite the water temperature in these locations being within the preferred range for our target species and it being close to a month earlier on the calendar than we would normally hit summer spots we did not find any of our target species in the pre-transition zone. The reason for this? The main lake temperatures are unseasonably warm for this time of year making the summer locations habitable! Don't get us wrong, it took fishing both Saturday & Sunday targeting a different species each day to connect the dots, it's not easy. There will always be doubts in your head that the fish should not have left, or they should still be around, but the results speak volumes. From the very first time you say "why are there no fish here" you should be thinking of moving to summer locations. By the time we weened through post-transition areas, intermediate zones nearby, and got to summer spots we had just enough time to hit one last spot. As soon as we got to the spot the very first cast lead to a solid muskie follow and bite. Results speak volumes. If only we had adjusted earlier and stopped trying to make pre-transition spots work when the conditions were saying to do something else.
Keep these tips in mind the next time you hit the water to put more fish in the boat. On small waters the distance fish move to reach summer areas may be small but on big waters like Georgian Bay and the Great Lakes they can move half a dozen miles to find suitable conditions.
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