Another snowstorm backs fish out of the shallows
Spring took a step backward this week when another snowstorm hit the Bemidji area. After heavy rain eroded the ice on many lakes last week, the new snow covered up many of the potential hazards on the ice, making them more difficult for anglers to see.
There is still more than two feet of ice in many areas, but the ice is not consistent because of the rain and runoff of melting snow.
Anglers should be very cautious when traveling on the lakes, especially near shore and in areas where water has eroded the ice around ice heaves and anglers' old fishing holes.
Most anglers have quit driving their vehicles on the lakes and many resorts have closed their accesses to vehicle traffic. A few anglers are still on the lakes ice fishing, but most of them are using ATVs or snowmobiles to access the lakes.
Fishing had been good for perch, sunfish and crappies, but many fish moved back out of the shallows when the weather returned to more winter-like conditions.
The internal clocks of fish are affected by both by the amount of sunlight penetrating through the ice and the growing length of the days.
When water is running down fishing holes, the fish will get more active and begin to move shallow. When lakes refreeze and get covered by more snow, fish back out of the shallows and hold along the edge of the dropoff or move back into deeper water, where they wait for the snow to begin melting again.
The spring fish migrations and the changing weather conditions make it more difficult for anglers to stay on the fish because they are on the move. The good news is the fish are usually biting if anglers can find them, so anglers willing to put in the time and drill a bunch of holes are usually able to find some active fish.
Perch have been biting in many of the larger lakes in the Bemidji area, with most perch feeding on the edges of large flats. Areas with rocks or chara on the bottom seem to be holding the most food, which makes these areas more attractive to feeding schools of perch.
Perch are day feeders, which is an important part of what makes them so popular with anglers fishing on late ice. Anglers should expect perch to be biting and keep moving until they find an area with active fish.
Leech Lake, Winnibigoshish and Pike's Bay have been getting the majority of the fishing pressure for perch, but there are other less pressured lakes with fishable populations of jumbo perch.
Crappies have been holding in deeper water in most lakes, with many of the crappies suspended well off the bottom. In clear lakes, many crappies will feed in the mornings and evenings, while crappies living in stained lakes are more likely to feed during the day.
Sunfish are visual feeders and will usually bite well during the day, but they also usually have a good flurry of activity in the mornings and evenings, especially for larger fish.
Most anglers have gotten used to the practice of releasing larger fish for brood stock and keeping the medium and smaller size fish for eating.
Bluegills are among the most vulnerable species to overharvest of larger fish, so more anglers need to practice catch and release with big bluegills if they want the quality of bluegills to remain high in their favorite lakes.
Perch and crappies are much less sensitive to overharvest, so anglers need to focus more on those species for food fish and harvest less large bluegills to eat.
The Rainy River is open for anglers wanting to get in a boat and do some open water fishing for walleyes. Fishing during the spring walleye season in the Rainy River is usually best while the water is relatively clear and will get tougher once runoff muddies the stained water.
The spring walleye season on the Rainy River closes at midnight on April 14. Anglers should check the special regulations before fishing the Rainy River.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.