An important facet of hunting and fishing is having respect for the animals that are pursued. Part of living up to this objective is paying attention to the ambient situation so animals are not unnecessarily stressed and their meat is not wasted. A condition that can cause animals to be naturally stressed are warm dry summers like the one we’re having. The long-term forecast suggests this pattern will persist for another several weeks.
The weather across the west this spring and summer has caused water temperatures to rise and water levels to drop. Boaters have been aware of this for the last month as it is getting harder to find a place to launch. Anglers need to pay attention to these conditions as well. For example, if you are thinking of traveling to Montana to fish, some trout streams are currently closed to angling from 2 p.m. to midnight. Rivers are closed in Montana when their temperatures exceed 73 degrees for three days in a row. Closing streams to fishing in the afternoon makes sense as water temperatures are their warmest between 5 and 8 p.m.
Why should anglers avoid catching and releasing trout when stream temperatures are high — especially when fish appear fine when they’re released? It is because fish released at high temperatures are more likely to suffer delayed mortality.
As anglers fight a fish it increases lactic acid and decreases the pH level of their blood. Fish are cold blooded and can’t control their enzymatic rates as efficiently as warm-blooded species. When water temperatures are high, fish are less likely to recover from this change in pH and some will die four to eight hours after they are released.
This is not an issue if you plan on keeping and eating the caught fish but is a concern if you are releasing a lot of trout during the heat of the day. Lakes can be a different situation as deeper waters are often colder and the target may be walleye or bass instead of trout.
Warm temperatures are not only a concern to anglers but hunters as well. Currently many hunters are starting to scout for the upcoming big game seasons. When temperatures are warm, spend more time looking through binoculars and spotting scopes than hiking. This will reduce the number of animals that must flee as you walk through the forests. Due in part to the concern of needlessly disturbing big game, last year’s legislature passed a bill to regulate the use of game cameras on public lands. I have yet to see regulations for this law but if you use game cameras, try to limit disturbance of wildlife as you install and check them.
When you hunt, make sure to carry plenty of water. Most trips I carry almost a gallon of water. While this may seem like a lot, it is enough to get you and a dog through a morning bird hunt or you back to the truck carrying part of a deer or elk on your back. Start drinking before your thirsty and make sure you and the dog take a water break every 20 or 30 minutes. Dress in a light long-sleeved shirt that protects you from the sun. With clothing materials like bamboo, you can be completely covered without overheating. With that warning given, Cache Valley weather is fickle, so regardless of the forecast, always pack a rain jacket.
The end of this month marks the start of Utah and Idaho’s big game seasons. The hot weather means you have to be ready to get the meat out of the woods quickly. If you must leave meat out overnight, make sure the animal is skinned, quartered, and placed in good canvas bags. Depending on the overnight temperature, either hang or lay the game bags in a shaded area. Make sure you have a cooler full of ice at the vehicle. Being prepared for success will greatly reduce the chance of meat spoilage due to heat or flies.
It doesn’t matter if you are camping next to the car or deep in the woods, be aware of the fire restrictions. Throughout much of this region, open fires are only allowed in developed campgrounds. Pay attention to these restrictions as much of the area’s forest and grasslands are tinder dry.
While hunting and fishing over the next month will be hot, September is the month that brings snow to higher elevations and changing colors to aspen leaves. You might be sick of the heat, but don’t be fooled, as cool weather is just around the corner.