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Anglers should always avoid dangerous pressure ridges

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Most of the Bemidji area got at least a few inches of new snow this week. Strong winds caused some drifting on the lakes but anglers still have good access to most of the lakes.

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Anglers got another reminder about the dangers of driving on the lakes and getting too close to ice heaves this week. Another name for ice heaves is pressure ridges, which more accurately describes what happens when the ice cracks on the lakes.

Ice heaves can push upwards and look like the edge of a cliff, with large sheets of ice stacked at odd angles. The ice can also buckle and collapse into the water, with standing water that looks like wading pools on the ice.

The best advice is to stay a good distance away from ice heaves, especially the ones that are piled up high or sunken into the ice. Resorts often establish crossings over ice heaves at low spots, where they have tested the ice and put a bridge and markers over the crack.

Driving on the lakes after dark can also be a problem because anglers can drive faster than their headlights can see and that can result in not being able to stop or change directions in time if something obstructs their path.

The safest way for anglers to travel on the lakes is to stick to roads or established trails on the ice whenever possible. If anglers go off the roads on the ice, do it when the sun is out so anglers can see where they are going. It is also wise to use a GPS to mark the trail so the same trail can be used to get back to the access.

Anglers should also unlock their doors, unfasten their seatbelts and open a window or two when crossing a lake in a vehicle. Windows and doors in most vehicles are electric which can make it more difficult to get out of a vehicle in an emergency.

The best walleye bite in the area is currently to the north on Lake of the Woods. The ice was suspect in some areas on LOW earlier in the winter but now the ice is good and anglers are fishing most of the big lake.

The bite has been excellent for both walleyes and sauger on Lake of the Woods. Anglers using portable fish houses can make a couple of moves during the day. They can set-up on shoreline rocks or up the sides of structure in 18 to 24 feet of water in the mornings and evenings and then move out to 28 to 35 feet of water for the sauger bite during the day.

Walleyes in LOW often suspend off the bottom over deeper water, at approximately the same depth where they will make contact with the bottom when they move into structure to feed.

Emerald shiners are the main forage for walleyes in Lake of the Woods and they like to suspend off the bottom and feed on zooplankton. Anglers should watch their electronics for suspended fish and try to move up and catch them when they pass through. Another option is to watch where most of the suspended fish are coming through and put a bobber rig at a similar depth.

Walleyes (and other species) can be spooky when anglers try to lift their bait to a suspended fish. Anglers should stop several feet below the fish and try to get them to come to you. If not, then inch the bait up slowly and try not to spook the fish.

The walleye bite on Upper Red Lake has slowed but anglers are still catching fish if they are willing to keep moving until they find active fish.

Walleyes have also been biting in Lake Winnibigoshish in 18 to 26 feet of water on top of humps or on the sides of structure. There has also been a good perch bite in eight to 12 feet of water but the fish are on the move and can be difficult to pattern.

The walleye and perch bite has also been picking up on Leech Lake, with many of the fish in 10 to 14 feet of water.

PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at panelson@paulbunyan.net.

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