Outdoors

Sunset fishing can be picture perfect

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jun. 28, 2019 8:30 am Updated: Jun. 28, 2019 8:36 am

KELLERVILLE, Ill.

The sun remained high enough in the afternoon sky to annoyingly bounce off the shimmering water and make Phillip Robertson regret leaving his sunglasses in the tent.

Tony Robertson laughed at his brother's misfortune, but offered no help.

No one was retreating to the campground for any reason.

"When we hit the water, we're here to fish and we're in it for the long haul," Tony told Phillip, who at 22 years old is three years younger and tends to let his older brother lead the way. "The sun won't bother you for long. It will be setting soon enough."

Until the sun dropped significantly and started casting shadows instead of laser-beam reflections, Tony had a plan. He'd tuck their boat into as many shaded coves as possible, giving his brother's eyes a slight reprieve and taking advantage of areas he has learned over the years tend to be late afternoon hot spots.

"Look for the vegetation," Tony said. "If it's shady and growing, fish will be around. They know they'll have cover and food."

The Robertson brothers, who are from the Fort Madison, Iowa, area, hadn't sat longer than 10 minutes in a remote part of the Siloam Springs State Park lake before the fish started biting. And they didn't stop.

There weren't any keepers being pulled from the shallow area, but they each plucked two bluegill and a trout in less than 20 minutes. All were released back into the lake before the brothers rowed away.

They could feel the temperature starting to drop and the wind picking up ever so slightly as the clock ticked closer to 5 p.m.

Prime time fishing awaited.

"There are times when we're camping here that we don't come down to the dock until 5:30 or 6 p.m.," said Phillip, who goes camping with his brother at least once a month and usually every other weekend. "We don't get in a hurry and we don't rush. It's the sunset fishing we like, as the night starts to get cooler and the fish start to get jumpier.

"There's something relaxing about the fading sun and the dark backdrop and the fireflies dancing atop the water. It's majestic."

Quite fruitful, too.

The Robertsons believe the biggest fish they take from the lake usually are landed after 6 p.m., sometimes as late as 8 p.m. when the ability to see is limited and there is a hurry to get back to the dock before it gets too dark.

"The fish dive deep when the sun is beating the top of the water and making everything miserably hot," Phillip said. "As the topwater cools and bugs are bouncing all over the place, the fish come up. They're hungry. They're active. They're chasing bugs and anything that looks and smells appetizing."

That's where patience takes over.

You can't abandon an area after a couple of empty casts and you can't chase ripples in the water from fish hitting the surface to eat bugs.

You need to have done your homework, stick to a plan and cast the areas you feel most comfortable fishing.

"Our dad taught us to sit on a cast and not reel it in too quick or too often," Tony said. "You've got to be diligent in your approach and confident in your game. I always believe I'm going to catch fish. I'd pack more food in the cooler if I doubted myself."

Phillip laughed at his brother's bravado.

"Arrogant, isn't he?" Phillip said. "I'm the one who always packs the food cooler so I know we have enough for any circumstance.

"There are times we've been glad we've brought more than a couple packages of beef jerky and a box of granola bars."

This night, they didn't need much else.

They had plenty of salt, pepper, garlic and lemon seasoning, along with potatoes, olive oil and onions. The fish they kept catching made the meal complete. They each landed three catfish measuring at least 15 inches long and providing quality filets for the brothers to get their dinner fill.

The biggest challenge was cleaning the fish and prepping them with only the glow of the campfire. No lights. No lanterns.

"We do our best to rough it out here," Tony said. "It feels natural."

It should. Ending the night with fish on the fire, a cold beverage in hand and the sun having disappeared beyond the trees is picture perfect. It's the kind of sunset every angler wants.

Things to Do