For the Texas outdoorsman, July can be the cruelest month.
First of all, there’s the typical summertime heat, which starts early in the day and builds toward a broiling crescendo as the sun gets higher in the sky, the old burning ball helping to end the day with a stifling resemblance to the inner portions of one’s oven…set to bake.
In addition to curtailing even the faintest desire to go outside, the daily grind of summertime heat also means that there is very little to do outside, at least where hunting and fishing are concerned. If you’re on the Texas Gulf Coast enjoying the beaches at Port Aransas or South Padre Island, that may be different. But locally, when the mid-summertime heat is on, about all that’s left to do is go water skiing on Lake Texoma or simply pine for cooler days to come.
For starters, the good local fishing action of spring is a distant memory while the coming good times of autumn are still months away.
If you’re willing to travel away from Texoma, the summertime offshore structure fishing can be phenomenal for largemouth bass on Lake Fork, some 90 or so miles to our southeast. In fact, the hotter it gets in July and early August, the better it can get.
But closer to home on Texoma, most largemouths and smallmouths are sulking in the dark shadows of the big pond, waiting on an irresistible chance to ambush prey, the cover of darkness, or both. Crappie on Texoma are also sulking in the deep, and even the plentiful bluegills can play hard to get in July.
The local exception of course, is the striped bass that roam the offshore waters on Lake Texoma, a pelagic species that makes morning forays towards the bank where points, humps, and rocky structure help linesiders corral threadfin shad in the shallows.
For the local angler willing to get out on the big pond before the sun even thinks of rising, the results can be brief flurries of topwater splendor in the skinny stuff, action that quickly vanishes as the sun gets above the horizon.
As the heat of the day builds, topwater blitzes will occasionally form in the deep water of Texoma as big schools of stripers corral clouds of shad into baitballs. In between the surface action, slabbing can work wonders when an angler’s electronics find a willing school sitting off a river ledge in the deep stuff.
The problem with striper fishing in the summer months is that as the water temperatures rise towards their hottest readings of the year, Texoma stripers can succumb to the stress of hot water and being caught. If you’re catching fish for the table, by all means, continue on. But if you like to catch-and-release your linesiders, you might think twice before a long day out on the water.
Hunters aren’t in much better shape as the heat of summer broils on since dove season is still nearly a couple of months away. Archery deer seasons and waterfowl seasons are even further down the pike, meaning that any real hunting action is a long way from being a reality.
So what’s a local outdoors enthusiast to do right now when the heat is on? First of all, be thankful that even in the depths of a Lone Star State summer, the hot weather won’t last forever. Fall will eventually come and all that arrives with it on the outdoorsman’s calendar.
Next, be grateful that in Texas, there are very few weeks on the calendar where something isn’t moving for the hunters or some sort of piscatorial species that isn’t biting for the fishermen.
The same can’t be said of all states in this great land. In some places, the whitetail hunting may be great, but the duck hunting or bass fishing is lousy. And in other places, it’s the bass fishing that is superb while the deer hunting and duck hunting leaves something to be desired. In still other spots, the duck hunting is grand but…well, you get the picture.
With all of that in mind, why not grab a glass of ice cold lemonade, a good outdoors book or a hunting season catalog or two, and let a few smiles come to mind as you do some remembering and some reflection.
Remembering the good times that have already passed by — on the water, in the woods, and with family and good friends. Followed by a little reflection on what’s yet to come, again, more good times on the water, in the woods, and with those you love and who mean the most to you.
There have been plenty of good times for Texas outdoors enthusiasts, and there are surely more good times to come. And right now is the perfect time to be thankful for it all, and for the Creator who gives it all to us, even in the heat of another Lone Star State summer.
Some might think of Christmas in July around these parts. But for this outdoors writer, thankful for the chance to write in this space each and every week since the early 1990s, and for the wife, kids, family, and friends that I’m privileged to share it all with, there’s another holiday theme that makes perfect sense to me right now.
And that’s a little Thanksgiving, even in the middle of the summertime.