Lakes in the Bemidji area are finally starting to "green-up" with the recent warmer weather. The lakes reacted quickly to the increase in water temperatures and there is a definite algae bloom starting in many area lakes.
The extra color in the water reduces visibility and has a definite impact on feeding patterns and fish location. Summer fishing patterns developed quickly, with an almost immediate increase in the day bite for walleyes.
The end of the mayfly hatch caused many species of fish to be in transition between patterns. They were looking for an alternative food source to take the place of the insect hatches.
Walleyes have been using several different patterns in a wide range of depths, but the algae bloom will push walleyes in many lakes towards shallower water.
The reduction in light penetration through the water because of the algae will allow walleyes to feed more comfortably in shallow water during the day.
Surface water temperatures in most lakes are in the low to mid 70s, which is still within tolerable comfort levels for walleyes.
Young-of-the-year perch are already about one inch long, which makes them a viable food source for walleyes, northern pike and other larger perch. Other young minnows of various species are also growing larger, which will begin to draw the attention of larger predator fish.
Many young fish have spent the summer in very shallow water, where they have been safe from most predators. Eventually, the young fish have to move towards deeper water because they have to hunt for a more substantial food source as they grow larger.
The algae bloom allows gamefish to move shallower at the same time it allows the young of the year to move deeper.
Gamefish will move out of the deep water with mud bottom and move up the sides of bars and points or on top of humps and sunken islands with the right depth on top.
This year's hatches of minnows will move away from the inside edge of the weed beds towards the weed flats and outside edge of the weeds. This feeding movement towards deeper water makes the young fish much more accessible to larger panfish and gamefish.
The warmer water increases the metabolism of all fish, so they have to eat more to keep up with the calories they are burning.
The algae bloom allows fish to feed more comfortably in shallow water during periods of full sunlight. The reduced visibility means fish can't see as well and may chase or strike at baits out of reflex when things move by them quickly.
Fish also have to rely more on their other senses when visibility is poor and may rely more on feeling vibrations in the water or seeing flashes in the distance or smelling scents in the water to help them locate their prey.
Anglers can take advantage of the poor visibility by adding spinners to live bait presentations or by using artificial lures with vibration and flash or by using plastic baits with enhanced scents.
Walleye and muskie fishing have picked up significantly in the past week on many area lakes. Walleyes have been more active off the edges of larger bars or on top of smaller humps with the right depth range on top.
The best depths will depend on how much algae is in the water, as well as the time of day anglers are fishing.
Walleyes will make feeding movements onto structure when they are active and move deeper or bury themselves between rocks or in heavy weeds when they are resting.
Anglers are using live bait rigs with inflated night crawlers or leeches, or using spinner rigs with minnows, leeches or night crawlers for walleyes on lakes with good algae blooms.
Anglers can also use plastics like the "Lake Bemidji Rig," which is a white twister tail on a single hook spinner, fished with a short snell behind a light slip sinker.
Most species of fish have been more active recently, with anglers having success catching muskies, northern pike, perch, bass, bluegills and trout on various lakes.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.