Idaho Outdoors fish rap (Sept. 9): The ‘witching hour’ is worth the wait

On summer evenings, something magical happens on lakes, ponds, rivers and streams across Idaho. It is a joyous time for anglers as temperatures cool to perfection, the sinking sun casts a golden hue across the water and nature’s dinner bell tells fish, “It’s time to eat!”

I call it the witching hour, which is inaccurate on pretty much all levels. The actual witching hour takes place in the wee hours of the morning and is generally associated with sorcery and bad luck. But, my best fishing buddy and I started using the term for whatever reason and it stuck.

Whatever you call it, anglers are sure to recognize that coveted time frame that usually occurs in the last hour or two of daylight. The serenity of an evening on the water is already worth looking forward to, and when fish start jumping in the boat, well, it just doesn’t get much better.

I’ve found that witching hour rules apply particularly to lakes and reservoirs. We coined the term on Lake Lowell, where slow and steady afternoons often turn into fast and furious races to land 20 fish before sundown. During May and June, it often seems any type of soft plastic lure pitched toward the weed line gets gobbled up before you can count to 10. Watching your line zip sideways through the glass-calm water never gets old.

There is some science behind the success of the witching hour. For one, fish that hunt primarily by sight — bass in particular — know they only have a short period of daylight left to secure a meal, so they become super active. In addition, the shadows and lighting conditions provide excellent cover, allowing fish to more easily stalk their prey. They also feel more comfortable coming out of hiding, as attacks by ospreys, eagles, otters and other fish-eating predators become less likely.

It’s a great time to throw fun lures like frogs, big flies and buzz baits — fish are far more likely to come flying toward the surface for a thrilling top-water strike.

If you think of the fishing season as one long day, we are entering the witching hour of 2015. The daylight hours are getting shorter, temperatures are falling and fish know they only have a few weeks of prime hunting left. Make sure you’re on the water when that dinner bell rings.

Tight lines!