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Area lakes will be busy this weekend

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Memorial Day Weekend is usually one of the best fishing weekends of the summer. With the nice weather, it should also be one of the busiest weekends of the summer on the area lakes.

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Bass season opens Saturday, so anglers will have another choice to make if they decide to go fishing. Muskies are the only species anglers won't be able to pursue this weekend, with the muskie opener set for June 5.

Virtually everything in the lakes has been biting recently. Anglers have been catching walleyes, northern pike and perch in most of the larger lakes. Crappies and sunfish have been biting in many of the smaller lakes or in the shallow bays of larger lakes.

Bass in most lakes have been using heavy cover in six feet of water or less. Many bass are still on their spawning beds or are just finishing spawning.

Walleyes have been biting best on many of the larger lakes in the mornings and evenings or when there is some wind or clouds to break up the amount of sunlight penetrating into the water.

Upper Red Lake, Lake of the Woods and other stained lakes are the exception to the rule for walleyes, when it comes to wind and clouds.

The coffee-colored water filters out much of the sunlight, just like putting on a pair of sunglasses. This usually makes stained lakes better for walleyes when the winds are light and the skies are clear.

Many lakes have a good walleye bite going in both shallow and deep water. The shallow walleyes have been biting along wind-swept rocky shorelines or in emerging cabbage weed beds, especially in areas with spawning spot-tail shiners.

The typical deep walleye bite has been along steep breaks along both shoreline and mid-lake structure. Walleyes feeding in deep water usually make a feeding movement towards shallow water when they get active and drop back into deeper water when they are inactive.

Anglers can use their electronics to find walleyes in deep water by slowly cruising up and down the breakline until fish are seen on sonar.

Anglers should pay close attention to where they see baitfish, even if they don't see any larger fish. If the food is there, something will usually be there to eat it when the conditions are right.

Presentation can make a big difference for walleyes. Anglers often make the mistake of giving the fish one presentation over and over again until they give up on the spot and go somewhere else on the lake and use the same presentation again.

If it isn't working, change it. Anglers can switch from jigs to live bait rigs. They can try leeches, night crawlers or different kinds and sizes of minnows. Anglers can switch colors, add spinners, change speeds or go to lighter line and longer snells to try get the walleyes to bite.

Anglers fishing Leech Lake this past week may have noticed frequent shotgun blasts going off in the distance and wondered what was going on.

The federal game and fish people have been shooting cormorants on Leech Lake to help control their population as part of the walleye re-stocking program.

Cormorants nest on rock islands, which are rare in the Bemidji area. Rock islands are more typical of Canadian Shield lakes that have significant amounts of exposed bedrock. Most of the Canadian Shield lakes are located north and east of Bemidji.

Leech Lake has some of the only rock islands in the Bemidji area, with Gull Island and Little Pelican Island the primary nesting areas. Cormorants swarm the two islands, trying to get a piece of the limited amount of space for nesting.

Cormorants eat about a pound of fish every day, the bulk of which consists of small minnows, including walleyes and perch.

Leech Lake has shallow clear water and some of the only nesting areas this far south for cormorants. This has made Leech Lake an ideal location for thousands of cormorants in past summers, even though accurate population counts are very difficult to estimate.

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

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