Anglers anxious to hit lakes during holiday weekend
Memorial Day Weekend is consistently one of the best weekends of the summer for catching walleyes. Saturday is also the bass opener in most of Minnesota so the lakes should be busy this weekend, especially if the weather cooperates.
Very few bass will have spawned by the time the season opens this weekend. Anglers are encouraged to release all bass quickly near where they were caught so they can resume their spawning activities.
Surface water temperatures actually dropped this past week with the persistent rain and cooler weather. Most lakes now have water temperatures in the mid-50s, which is usually the point where walleye action starts to pick up in the spring, especially for the larger female walleyes.
Extended periods of cold weather early in the season can inhibit the development of zooplankton, which is critical as the first food source for newly hatched walleyes and perch.
Warmer water temperatures would increase the amount of zooplankton in the water, which would help the young walleyes and perch thrive and produce strong age classes of fish.
A shortage of zooplankton early in the season can devastate an entire age class of fish before they even have the chance to start growing.
Warm stable weather would also coax more of the larger female walleyes to start biting and would help the bass, crappies and sunfish get ready to spawn.
Walleye anglers have been finding most of the active walleyes along shoreline structure, especially in the larger lakes.
The key element to locating the concentrations of feeding walleyes has been finding areas with new emergent weed growth or areas with boulders or broken rocks on the bottom.
Areas with a mixture of weeds and rocks is ideal because they provide a mixture of cover for spot-tail shiners, perch and other minnows, which will eventually attract schools of feeding walleyes and larger perch. Northern pike and muskies may also be using the same areas to feed.
Another important factor to walleye location in shallow water is proximity to deep water. Walleyes like to be able to make a hasty retreat out of the feeding areas to deeper water if the need arises. This makes shallow feeding areas closer to deep water more attractive to walleyes than those that are further away.
There has been a good walleye bite on most of the larger lakes in the Bemidji area during the first two weeks of the season. On the calm days, Upper Red Lake has been red hot for walleyes and on the days with wind and clouds the clear water lakes like Winnibigoshish and Leech Lake have been better for walleyes.
Lake Winnibigoshish is surrounded by good shallow cover. The most active walleyes have been on the points and turns along the windward shoreline when the skies are bright, but on cloudy days the walleyes can be biting all over the lake.
Walleyes in Leech Lake are also wind driven, with the most active walleyes usually on rocks or cabbage weeds on the windward side of the bays.
The walleye action on some of the other lakes like Bemidji, Cass, Plantagenet and Pike Bay has been improving, with more of the larger female walleyes starting to get active.
Anglers have been using jigs and shiner minnows for walleyes on most lakes but more anglers have been switching to live-bait rigs tipped with leeches, night crawlers or larger minnows as the water temperatures increase.
Anglers have also been catching crappies and sunfish in the shallow bays of the larger lakes or in many of the smaller lakes in the Bemidji area. Bass, crappies and sunfish all spawn when water temperatures reach the mid-60s.
The Blue Moon Saloon and Bluewater Outdoors will be holding their annual walleye tournament on Lake Plantagenet on Saturday June 4. The entry fee is $170 per two-person team, with an additional $20 for the big fish pot. Entry forms will be available at Bluewater Outdoors until the rules meeting on June 2. Anyone with questions can call 218-444-2248.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.