Dog days bright and clear indicate a happy year — but when accompanied by rain, for better times our hopes are vain.
— Unknown author
Sirius (the dog star) is soon to start rising around sunrise, which means the dog days of summer (July 3 to Aug. 11) are fast upon us. In Egyptian folklore, the heliacal rising of Sirius — their “watchdog” for this event — signaled the start of the much-needed yearly Nile river flood season.
This event was a highly anticipated occurrence, because it turned an otherwise dry, barren desert into productive farmland. After the floods, food crops could be grown and harvested so that the people would have enough food to last through the winter months.
For those of you who are more into Greek or Roman history, the dog star isn’t looked upon quite so favorably. They believed that Sirius (which means “scorching” in Greek) brought drought, disease, death and disquiet to their land. I don’t know about you, but it sounds like the Egyptians got the better end of this deal.
In Capt. Mike’s world, both of these elucidations are combined together to make sense out of what the dog days of summer mean to us here in Southwest Florida. First, it means that it’s about to get really hot (yes, you could say scorching) outside. Second, it means that it’s time to change up when we go fishing, unless heatstroke is something you always wanted to experience. Third, it means that due to the seasonal rains that flood our rivers, the black water is returning — which is a good thing.
July and August are very hot months, and though fishing can be good all day long, you really shouldn’t spend much if any time in the midday sun. The best times to fish in the dead of summer are very early in the morning (first light until about 9 a.m.) or very late in the afternoon (6 p.m. to dark). If you have to fish during the midday heat, please bring and drink plenty of water. If you hate water, sports drinks will do — and no, beer is not a sports drink.
Also remember to use sunscreen and bring something for shade like a big umbrella or a straw hat. Heat-related illnesses kill hundreds of Americans every year, and 20 percent of us develop skin cancer by the age of 70. Being a statistic is not something you want to be, trust me.
Now, about that black water we are soon to experience once the summer rains really kick in: Though we do not see flooding to the extent the Nile River used to see, we do get quite a bit of inland flooding that pours out of the Peace, Myakka and Caloosahatchee rivers and into Charlotte Harbor, turning the water a dark brown.
For some reason, many people mistake this as a bad thing. In reality, it’s a healthy and necessary phenomenon — much like the flooding of the Nile. The nutrients that flow down the rivers and into our Harbor nourish plankton and seagrasses and help them grow. That’s the base of the food chain which keeps our Harbor healthy and keeps the fish from leaving.
Heavy summer rains also keeps the water in the Harbor a few degrees cooler, which is another reason the fish stay around. This past week, we have seen water temperatures in the Harbor sometimes exceeding 90 degrees. Once the rains start, we should see that drop to the mid 80s. It’s not much, but it makes a huge difference.
Summer can be a great time of year to go hunting and fishing in Southwest Florida — if you just use a little common sense when it comes to the heat. Fish hard, stay hydrated, and don’t let Sirius bite you in the derriere.
Capt. Mike Myers, owner and operator of Reelshark Charters, is a full-time Charlotte Harbor guide. Having fished the waters all along the Southwest Florida coast for more than 40 years, he has the experience to put anglers on the fish they want. His specialties are sharks, tarpon and the nearshore Gulf waters. For more info, visit ReelShark.com or call Capt. Mike at 941-416-8047.