Algae blooms mixed blessing for Bemidji area fishermen
Lakes in the Bemidji area have really "greened-up" in the last week, with a significant algae bloom caused by warm water temperatures and unused fertility in the lakes.
Lakes in much of the country are much more fertile than lakes in the Bemidji area, with some lakes having algae blooms literally as thick as pea soup.
Algae blooms in the Bemidji area come as mixed blessing for anglers and the fish. Algae in many lakes color the water enough to filter out much of the sunlight going through the water, which allows walleyes, muskies and other species to feed more comfortably during the day.
The other side of the coin with algae blooms is that the loss of sunlight penetration into the water is bad for the oxygen levels in the lakes.
Some lakes in the Bemidji area are already virtually depleted of oxygen below the thermocline, which is unusual for this early in the summer.
Most lakes in the Bemidji area are shared by both warm water species and cold water species. Walleyes, northern pike, muskies, perch, crappies and sunfish will be able to survive pretty much any water temperatures the lakes are able to reach.
The species that have trouble surviving above the thermocline if the water gets too warm include suckers, tulibees, whitefish, eelpout, smelt, trout and some minnow species.
Predicting tomorrow's weather based on today's weather is risky at best but if the hot weather in the Bemidji area were to continue for several more weeks or longer there could be a summer kill to remember later this summer.
The most difficult days for most anglers during the summer are the dead flat calm days with bright sunshine and extreme heat. Not only are the conditions hard on anglers physically but they are also hard on fishing, with most species waiting until later in the day to feed.
Walleye action has been picking up in the lakes with some color from the algae blooms. Most species have been moving back into shallower water.
Perch, walleyes and northern pike have been moving on top of some mid-lake structures and larger shoreline points during the day when there is some wind or clouds to break-up the surface of the lake.
Leech Lake is one example of a lake that fishes best with wind. Cass Lake is another lake with extremely clear water and tough fishing without a little wind. The algae blooms should help both lakes improve as the lakes get some color.
Upper Red Lake is the opposite of most walleyes lakes because of the stained water. Upper Red Lake gets too churned up in the wind because of the shallow water and is usually best on days with less wind.
Walleyes in Upper Red Lake travel in large schools but the lack of structure can make locating the schools of fish more difficult, especially when they move away from the shoreline.
The first walleye is often the hardest fish to catch in Upper Red Lake but once anglers catch a fish they can usually put together a pattern and catch walleyes more quickly.
Many walleye anglers on Upper Red Lake use search baits to locate schools of walleyes. If the walleyes are not on the shoreline break then anglers can begin to move away from shore a foot or two deeper at a time.
Trolling crankbaits is a good search technique for walleyes but anglers need to use line counter reels and braided line to get the lures in the right zone with the walleyes.
Anglers can also use a bottom bouncer and a spinner to search for walleyes with either night crawlers or leeches a good choice for bait, not only on Upper Red Lake but on most lakes in the Bemidji area.
There is a trick to fishing a bottom bouncer. Inexperienced anglers often pull the bait away from the fish by setting the hook too fast. If this sounds familiar try putting the rod in a rod holder and pick it up when you can see there is a fish on the line.
PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org