Barbs and Backlashes

Here comes Lightning by whitetips
June 23, 2010, 3:28 pm
Filed under: Fishing

So this is what it is like to live in a rain forest?  I cannot remember the last night when we did not have a thunderstorm.  I have had two fishing trips in the past few days impacted by thunderstorms; one I just plain quit fishing and the other I sat in the pickup for a time while the storm blew through and then went back to fishing.  So, I have been thinking about lightning and fishing a lot the past few days; might as well put some of those thoughts on my blog.

“Safety first”

Of course I have to mention that if there is lightning in the area it is time to quit fishing.  The weather experts say that if you can hear the thunder you are probably close enough to be at risk of a lightning strike.  The danger from lightning is real and one that anglers should take seriously.  I believe I have some of that fear of lightning in my DNA.  My Grandma Bauer was always super cautious anytime lightning or thunderstorms were in the area, and I think some of that rubbed off on me.  Whenever the lightning starts flashing, I get uncomfortable and it is time to head for the pickup.  (I believe my fly-fishing, Montana nephew has even more of my grandmother’s DNA; if there is lightning anywhere in the same state as he is in, he is ready to quit fishing)

That brings to mind a couple of stories . . .

If you have spent anytime fishing you probably have some stories of a hot bite just before a storm rolled through.  I was on Calamus late one summer afternoon and had just located a bunch of wipers that were going nuts; they were chasing shad to the surface and I knew all I had to do was get a bait in there and I would have a hook up.  I was grabbing my rod and heading for them when I look up the reservoir and literally saw lightning strike the surface of the water a mile or two to the west.  That was it.  Even though there was a feeding frenzy occurring in front of my eyes, I put the rod back in the pickup and watched the storm roll in.  Of course, after the thunderstorm the fish were gone, no more feeding frenzy, but no fish is worth that risk.

On another occasion I was rigging up and getting ready to fish again at Calamus.  This time there were storms to the west and clouds overhead, but no lightning that I had seen and no thunder that I could hear.  I picked up a spinning rod and raised it in the air and it began to hum.  That was strange.  I put the rod back down and the humming stopped.  Picked it up again, held it up in the air, and again it started humming.  Once again that was enough for me.  I put the rod back in the pickup and forgot about fishing.  The humming was caused by all of the static electricity in the air and that is what lightning comes from.  I ain’t messing with that.

Feeding Frenzy?

I have already mentioned that an approaching storm can trigger feeding activity and I have experienced some fantastic fishing at those times.  The temptation is great to fish up to the last possible second; just make sure you are safe.  However, I must tell you that in my experience, once the lightning starts flashing, and by that I mean lightning that is quite a distance away, not a risk, but close enough to see the flash, my experience has been that the fish get tough to catch.  I cannot think of one occasion when I had great success with lightning being visible, even distant lightning.  Right up to the point of seeing lightning, yes, some great fishing, but once the lightning is visible the bite usually tails off.   I do not know if that corresponds with others experience, or if it is just my phobia about lightning?

Fish Kills?

Lightning strikes water, no doubt.  It happens all the time, but fish are rarely killed by lightning strikes.  I am not an electrical engineer so I cannot explain it all, but electricity does not necessarily travel through water as you might expect.  From what I have been able to gather the current from a lightning strike on the water may tend to travel along the surface of the water, and that electrical current may be more likely to travel in the water around the fish more so than through the fish.  Fisheries biologists use electricity in the water to stun fish so we can collect them.  Rarely are fished killed by electrofishing; momentarily stunned, yes, but rarely killed.  Might their response to a lightning strike be similar?  If there is a fish kill caused by lightning, and I cannot think of hardly any instances where lightning killed fish, but if it were to happen it would probably be most likely in small bodies of water and probably would only kill a few fish in the immediate area of the strike.

Gotta include a lightning photo; this one from the beautiful Nebraska sandhills!

You can see that photo was taken by my buddy Ron Fry from Alliance.  When Ron sent me that picture this week; that was it, I knew I had to do a blog post on lightning.  Ron graciously gave me permission to use his photo.  If you live out in that part of the state, God’s country, and need a good professional photographer, I can provide you contact information for Ron, just ask!  Thanks Ron.


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