If you had to choose one season that captures the essence of fishing, it would almost certainly be summertime. Unless you happen to be a devotee of ice-fishing, it's probably not too hard for you to picture spending long, lazy days out on the water with your tackle box, a cooler, and maybe a good friend or family member.
To many casual anglers, that’s the picture of a perfect summer day.
But when temperatures start climbing into extremes, that image of perfection starts to melt. Could it be too hot to fish?
Is such a thing even possible?
As fishermen, our biggest concern in hot weather should be for our personal safety.
Just as it is with extreme cold, exposure to extreme heat can be very dangerous. When temperatures climb into the upper nineties (F), the risk of heat-related illnesses increases dramatically. This includes heatstroke, heat exhaustion, cramps, rashes, and sunburns.
The best way to avoid heat-related illnesses is to stay indoors during the middle of the day when temperatures are at their highest. Of course, this can be difficult to do when you are out on a boat for the day, so it’s important to understand the dangers and be wary of any symptoms that might arise.
You should also use the “buddy system” of fishing with a partner – especially on hot days. That way, both you and your partner can remain vigilant over each other, and potentially care for each other in the event of an emergency.
Remember to pack plenty of water to keep you and your partner hydrated. Avoid drinking beer or alcoholic beverages, as these will exacerbate dehydration, and can mask some of the symptoms of heatstroke and heat exhaustion.
You should also take care to shield yourself from the sun as much as possible. While sunscreen can help protect you from sunburn, it will be less effective than shade or wearing long, loose-fitting clothing to cover your skin.
Because low-level sunburn is so common, It’s easy to underestimate the impact of exposure on your body. But make no mistake, prolonged exposure to the sun can not only cause sunburn, but it can also contribute to a number of life-threatening conditions, both short and long-term.
Protecting Your Gear
Unlike you, most of your fishing gear should be able to take extremes of heat in stride. However, you should still take care to protect your gear as much as possible in the summer, especially when you are not using it.
For example, it’s pretty common for gear to be left inside a locked car or truck, where temperatures can rise as high as 200°F in a very short period of time. Even in temperatures as low as 60°F, the temperature inside a locked vehicle can rise to 110°F in an hour’s time.
While many of the metal, plastic, and fiberglass parts of your rod and reel may be able to endure the heat with little or no damage, the same is not true of rubber seals and lubricants.
Polymers like rubber tend to shrink when heated because their molecular chains curl up, making the rubber harder and less malleable. Over time, repeated heat exposure will cause rubber seals and gaskets to deteriorate, crack, and break apart.
Oils and lubricants will lose viscosity and thin substantially at higher temperatures. This can cause them to migrate out of bearings, gears, and spindles, which can impede performance and shorten their lifespan. Upgrading to ceramic or hybrid bearings can help, as they are less dependent upon lubrication to perform.
Other parts of your tackle box may be more susceptible to the heat than others. For instance, even the hottest car interior is not going to melt a metal hook, but hot temperatures can easily damage crankbaits and lures, as well as kill live bait.
Fishing line is also not designed to withstand heat. While many anglers believe that heating their line will reduce its “memory” from stretching with use, the truth is that heat has a detrimental effect upon nearly every type of fishing line, from monofilament to braided. Heat causes fishing line to lose its elasticity, making it more brittle and easy to break.
So, while your gear may SEEM to be able to take the heat pretty well, exposure to heat will hasten the degradation of most fishing equipment, especially over time. Anglers should take an abundance of caution with own safety in hot weather, but they should not neglect to take care of their gear as well.
What About the Fish?
Water heats at a much slower rate than land, which happens to be the fact that drives about 90% of the world’s weather. It also helps protect fish from the kind of extreme heat that we surface dwellers must endure.
However, fish do still feel the heat, especially in smaller bodies of water. Generally, the shallower and more stable (low currents, few waves) the water is, the warmer it will get on hot, sunny days.
Fish respond much the same way that we do in higher temperatures. They become lazy and listless, and tend to lose their appetite. And they look for ways to stay cool.
Smart fishermen will use this to their advantage in pursuing their quarry. Rather than casting in the shallows, they will fish the deepest parts of their body of water, knowing that’s where the fish will go to escape the heat. Fish will also be drawn to currents when hot just like people will be drawn to the breeze from a fan, so finding where water is moving is a great way to find fish on a hot day.
However, the best strategy for catching fish on a hot day is to fish early in the day or later in the afternoon when temperatures are cooler and the fish are more likely to be in the mood to feed. It just happens to also be the best way to fish safely on hot summer days.
Hot summer days may be part of the lure for those who are passionate about fishing, but extreme temperatures should always be approached with caution. Be smart when planning your outings, and understand the risks to your safety as well as your equipment.
The fish can take care of themselves.