Anglers need to adjust to the 'dog days of summer'
The "dog days of summer" are here with surface water temperatures in the high 70s and most species of fish choosing to feed only when they can feed most comfortably and with the least amount of effort.
Most anglers have been catching some fish but fishing has been spotty. At times the bite has been good but the good bites are surrounded by longer periods of inactivity when fishing for most species can be tough.
Multi-species anglers have an advantage over one-species anglers during the dog days of summer. Multi-species anglers are able to stay on active fish by switching species based on the conditions they face each day as well as during the day when the conditions change hour by hour.
Most of the lakes in the Bemidji area have several different species of gamefish and also one or more species of panfish. Anglers could theoretically fish for walleyes, muskies or crappies in the mornings and evenings when those species are most likely to be active, and then switch to northern pike, bass, sunfish or perch during the day when those species are more likely to be active.
If anglers are stuck on one species of fish and want to fish for the same species every time they go fishing anglers need to master several different presentations and fish larger lakes so there are more fish and several patterns likely to be going at the same time.
Anglers need to master several presentations and be able to change approaches based on the conditions until they find something that is working while they are on the water.
Anglers fishing for walleyes can use many different presentations. Bottom bouncers and spinners work well for covering water and searching for active fish. Jigs and plastics or safety-pin spinners work well for casting on the edges of weed beds or on top of structure for walleyes.
Live-bait rigs or jigs work best during prime time when an active school of walleyes has been located. Walleye anglers can also troll with artificial lures, whether they troll them plain or on lead core to get the baits into the same zone as the walleyes.
Muskie anglers usually cast the shallows with spinner baits, big plastics or jerk baits for their "go-to" presentations. When prime time has passed, anglers can switch to trolling deeper diving baits off the sides of structure to target muskies that are suspended off structure and not actively feeding in the shallows.
Northern pike anglers can also use several presentations. Trolling spoons or shallow diving minnow baits is one way to cover water and target the most active northern pike. Anglers can also use larger sucker minnows under a bobber or use smaller suckers on a magnum jig to target pike in different zones in the water column.
Anglers can fish for species like perch during the day. Perch travel in schools, are aggressive biters and give anglers a good chance to catch a meal of fish while also giving anglers a chance for a mixed bag of fish when targeting perch on the shallow flats or on top of mid-lake bars and humps.
Largemouth bass are another species that can be very active during the day, even on days with little wind or clouds. Bass usually prefer the inside edge of the weed line and often like to be on the edges of different weed types or in areas where weeds and rocks are both present in the same areas.
Sunfish and crappies can also be caught during the dog days of summer.
Sunfish like steep breaks on the edges of tall weeds like cabbage, coontail, American milfoil, reeds or bull rushes.
Crappies move into structure at dusk and dawn to feed during the summer and suspend over deeper water during the day. Once anglers know which weed beds or points the crappies are using, they can be there waiting for the crappies when they move in to feed.
There are also rainbow trout in lakes and a few lakes with smallmouth bass, so angler's choices are many during the dog days of summer.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.