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Area water temperatures gradually becoming warmer

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Lakes in the Bemidji area have been gradually getting warmer but the progress has been painfully slow.

Most lakes now have surface water temperatures in the upper 40s to the low 50s, which is usually the point in the spring where crappies and sunfish begin to move shallow to feed.

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There has been some sporadic movement of panfish into the shallows later in the day on the days with the most sun but the cool unstable weather has dragged out the progress of the walleye spawn, as well as delaying the feeding movement of panfish into the shallows.

What both the fish and the anglers need right now is some warm stable weather to coax the walleyes to complete the spawn and move the crappies and sunfish in to the shallows to feed.

River spawning walleyes are usually more than a week ahead of the lake spawning walleyes in a normal year because rivers warm significantly faster than lakes in the spring.

This means river spawning walleyes spawn first, with the lake spawning walleyes starting to spawn about the same time the river walleyes are finishing their portion of the spawn.

The ability of walleyes to spawn in both rivers and lakes spreads out the walleye spawn and gives them a better chance of producing a good age class of fish each year.

It is unusual for both the river spawning walleyes and the lake spawning walleyes to have a bad spawn in the same year, but it does happen.

The walleye spawn in the rivers dragged on for weeks this spring, with the DNR egg stripping stations taking much longer than normal to fill their quota of walleye eggs to stock in Minnesota lakes.

With the walleye opener only two weeks away, the weather needs to turn warm soon so the walleyes can finish spawning and have enough time to recover before the season opens.

Anglers should be able to get their boats in the lakes a little easier now that many of the docks were put into the water at the public accesses this week.

Anglers are reminded that everyone is expected to get an invasive species rules decal on their boats and trailers this spring. The decal is a two part sticker with one part of the sticker going on the trailer near the winch and the rest of the sticker going somewhere inside the boat where it can be displayed to a conservation officer or other official when requested. All types of watercraft are subject to the rule and need to display the stickers.

The invasive species decals are available at state licensing centers, DNR regional offices and some bait stores, but the stickers have been in short supply so anglers may have to do a little searching to find them. Anglers can get more details on the DNR website.

Anglers making their first trips on the lakes this spring should remember that water levels are lower than normal this year. Some shallow areas that may not have been a problem in high-water years may be a hazard this year.

Crappie anglers may also be impacted by the low water levels, with some backwater areas tough to get a boat into this spring.

Anglers can also find crappies on bog edges where the bottom drops a couple of feet right at the edge of the bog. Any wood in the water may also attract feeding crappies because the wood attracts minnows and offers panfish some cover. Beaver lodges and the food piles of branches the beavers stash in the water are examples of areas that may attract feeding crappies.

Deep reeds are another potential feeding area for crappies in the spring. Crappies like hard bottom, with rocks and weeds mixed into the reeds a bonus for spring crappies.

Bobber rigs with a jig and minnow are a good presentation for spring crappies. Anglers can cast their bobbers to likely spots on the edges of the weeds and let the bobber sit for a short time to see if anything bites. Once some crappies have been located, anglers can anchor or hold in place with a trolling motor to try to pinpoint the school of crappies.

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

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