The 2007 season for walleyes and other gamefish closes Sunday night at midnight for inland waters of Minnesota. Anglers are allowed to fish for panfish and rough fish year 'round in Minnesota. There are also extended seasons for gamefish on some of the border lakes.
There was a change in the 2007 fishing license regulations this year that went into effect after the 2007 regulations were printed. According to the Minnesota statewide DNR information center, anglers can use their 2007 fishing licenses until April 30, 2008.
Licensed fish houses may be left on lakes unattended until Feb. 29 south of State Highway 200 and until March 15 on lakes north of Highway 200. Anglers are allowed to use portable fish houses after the deadline as long as they are occupied and removed from the ice by midnight each night.
The cold weather continues to be the big story this winter. Most lakes have close to 28 inches of ice, which is about as much ice as most brands of ice augers can drill without using an extension.
Anglers can scrape the ice free of snow with a shovel before drilling their holes, to get another few inches of clearance for their ice augers.
Upper Red Lake, Winnibigoshish and Lake of the Woods have more ice than most other lakes in the area, so anglers may want to bring an auger extension when fishing these lakes.
Fishing has been slow recently for most species of fish. The flurries of activity have been brief and the average size of the fish has been on the small side.
Multiple cold fronts with bitterly cold weather can shut down the fishing at any time of year, but this is especially true in the winter.
Fish do not have the same urgency to feed in the winter because their metabolism is slow in the cold water. Large fish can go for long periods of time between meals in the winter, so they can be patient and wait for a perfect opportunity to feed.
Small fish cannot afford to be picky about when they feed and have to feed more often because they are eating smaller meals. They also have to spend considerable energy trying to avoid getting eaten by larger fish.
Small fish have to be more opportunistic about when they feed, especially if they are feeding in the same areas as larger fish.
The best time for smaller fish to feed is often whenever the larger fish are not feeding. Small fish are more likely to feed when the conditions are poor, while large fish are more likely to feed when the conditions are favorable.
Anglers may notice when they fishing in an active area, the fish tend to come through in waves. Small fish usually disappear when there are larger fish in the area and then come back when the large fish are gone.
The same is true when the conditions are bad. There may be small fish biting in the area under poor weather conditions or during the middle of the day and then the larger fish show up when the conditions improve or at prime time in the mornings and evenings.
Fish are concentrated in the winter, so there are many areas that have virtually no fish, while other areas can be loaded. This can make some fish more vulnerable in the winter, especially in smaller lakes.
The heavy snow cover still has many of the fish in deep water. The eventual movement of fish on late ice is towards shallow water, but that won't happen until some significant melting occurs.
The forecast is for a brief warmup this weekend, so anglers should be able to get out on the lakes for the last weekend of the gamefish season without too much of a challenge from the weather.
Once the season is over for gamefish, anglers will turn their attention towards panfish and fishing's version of March Madness.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.