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The Story of Summer

By Russ Bassdozer

The summer season's not the same for the Deep South sportsmen or the Canadian outdoorsmen far north. For some of us, it is already a bit too hot. Others remain a shade too cool.

Still, it is undeniably early summer everywhere! No matter where you are, this coming weekend will be "just right" to get out on the water. Don't deny it!

Summer is the season of "just right" for bass. Their biological systems operate more effectively in summer. There is a period when water temperatures range from the upper seventies to mid-eighties when bass thrive best and achieve maximum growth rates for the year. Not only bass but most everything else in their world grows rapidly in the warmth of summer. Young fish of all species spawned in spring are growing as fast as corn in the field now. Postage stamp-sized bluegills, crappies, shad, and minnows swarm in dense schools, dimpling the surface in big sheets of life as evening twilight bathes the waters. Free from their doting, overprotective dads, schools of rambunctious bass fry flash and streak recklessly through the shallows each early daybreak. On the high summer moons, crayfish and other crustaceans split and shed shells much too tight to contain their growing summer bodies. Water weed beds bloom thicker and grow lusher each day. They top out on the surface to provide the cover required to house the growing population of the summer's young-of-year of every species.

It's the growing season. Everything grows in summer. The new young-of-year grow to be big enough to survive winter (if they can survive the gamefish gauntlet of fall). The mature adults that have learned the ways to survive from one year to the next, they also grow in summer.

There's a thing called the "biomass" and a concept about it says biomass (barring any calamity) remains relatively the same within any given body of water. That is, the total lump sum of every living critter within a certain lake, river or sea - the "biomass" of life there - will remain the same regardless of the fluctuations of any particular species. For example, one year there could be more of species A and B, less of species C. The next year, there could be a majority of C and less of species A and B. From year to year, however, the lump sum of the biomass (adding up all As, Bs, and Cs) remains the same. It always adds up to a "full house". Without having a much larger conversation about it, that's the notion of biomass in a nutshell.

Now I do think biomass outwardly appears to vary with the seasons, and biomass visibly expands to look a whole lot bigger in summer when there are so many young around. Compare this to winter and spring when a whole lot of the biomass is carried within the gravid bellies of female fish of every species. The biomass is not lower then, just a lot's not born until spring and not swimming around on their own until early summer. In autumn, thick aquatic vegetation beds die off and shrink back, exposing the vast populations of young-of-year that had hidden in the plant growth all summer. Coverless and vulnerable to heavy predation now, these junior members of the biomass go back into the bellies of fish again - as food during voracious fall feeding frenzies. The biomass has not shrunk, just a good chunk of it is now being locked away into fat stores, much of which will be converted over winter into eggs for next spring and next summer's hatch. It is the way the story goes, and who can say if next spring there will be more of species A, B, or C but the biomass remains relatively the same "full house", especially in summer. So that's one chapter in the story of summer, and it highlights the abundance and importance of young-of-year in summer.

Let's touch upon another chapter in this story. In summer, I say there are no distractions for adult bass like they face in spring and fall. Bass are quite vulnerable and easy to catch in spring and fall. In spring, their hormones are raging. They literally "see red" and ravage everything that falls within striking distance of their young fry or nests. Even in prespawn, their blind compulsion is to eradicate any varmint (including your lure) from their soon-to-be nursery grounds. In autumn, bass become preoccupied once again. This time they become intent on instinctively stockpiling stores of fat within their own bodies to survive the rigors of winter and renewal of next spring. So I say bass are blinded by their instincts and easily strike out at our lures in spring and fall. We catch more then. Not so in summer! Summer bass live well. With so many young-of-year of every species, food is good and plenty. The weather is stable. Water temperatures put them at their metabolic peak. All their sensory systems are heightened and more alert in summer. They have no distractions like in spring and fall. What they eat is rapidly converted not into fat as in fall, not into reproductive systems for spring, but summer's bounty provides for annual increase in body growth of bones, organs, etc.

Summer. It is a good time to enjoy being a bass. It's a good time to enjoy being an angler too! It is a good time to fish brief moments of dawn and dusk when bass look to waylay young-of-year that become briefly exposed as they shift from daytime hiding places to nighttime hiding places. It is a good time to have fun fishing lighter lines and summer's time to "match the hatch" more closely than in any other season.

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