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Bemidji-area anglers beat the heat by fishing early and late in the day

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The hot weather continues in the Bemidji area and we are experiencing one of the hottest summers in recent memory. Most of the local lakes now have surface water temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s, which is very warm for northern Minnesota.

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The biggest impact of the hot weather on most anglers is that it takes the fun out of being on the water during the middle of the day when it is this hot.

Many anglers have been going out early in the mornings or later in the evenings to avoid the heat, especially on days with little or no wind.

Sunscreen is almost mandatory for anglers on the lakes. Serious sunburns are possible after only a few hours on the water.

Anglers should remember that sunscreen puts a negative scent on an angler's hands, a scent that can repel fish and kill minnows and leeches. Anglers should be sure to wash their hands after applying sunscreen to keep it out of the bait bucket and off the handles of fishing rods.

The hot weather also has a major impact on the fish. It causes the fish to burn more calories and forces them to feed more often to avoid losing weight or getting too weak to feed themselves.

Algae blooms in many lakes give the water enough color to break the sunlight and allow the fish to be more active during the hottest and brightest portion of the day.

Anglers can look for walleyes and perch on top of many structures like humps, bars, flats and shoreline points. The edges of weed flats are also possible locations, with areas covered with chara and having scattered rocks and cabbage weeds usually the most attractive to both predators and prey species.

There may be another group of walleyes in some lakes that stay in deeper water, hugging the upper edge of the thermocline to stay as cool as possible and still be in the zone with the most oxygen.

The water below the thermocline in many lakes is already out of oxygen. Only the deepest clear lakes still have enough oxygen below the thermocline to allow fish to survive below the thermocline.

Examples of local lakes that may still have viable oxygen levels below the thermocline would include most designated trout lakes and super deep clear lakes like Cass Lake and Pike Bay or deep bays like Walker Bay on Leech Lake.

Anglers should be able to see the thermocline on good electronics when they drive over the deepest part of the lakes. Most lakes should have a thermocline somewhere between 30 and 40 feet deep, although it can be slightly shallower or deeper in some lakes.

Many walleye anglers have been using bottom bouncers and spinners tipped with leeches or night crawlers to search for active walleyes.

Bottom bouncers in the 1½ or 2-ounce sizes are heavy enough to allow anglers to drop spinners into deeper water and still be able to fish them at higher speeds, which help anglers cover more water when searching for active fish.

Many anglers can have trouble knowing when to set the hook when using bottom bouncers. Sometimes anglers can set the hook too soon and pull the bait away from the fish. Other times anglers can set the hook too late and miss the chance to set the hook while the hook is still in the fish's mouth.

Anglers can watch the tip of their rods when fishing bottom bouncers and spinners and set the hook when the tip of the rod loads up and begins to bend from the fish. They can also put the rod in a rod holder, but they have to be ready to grab the rod when the tip of the rod loads up from a fish.

Another way to eliminate smaller perch from hitting the spinners is to get rid of the live bait and use a scented plastic without bait. This will discourage all but the larger perch and still allow anglers to catch walleyes and northern pike.

Safety pin spinners are another good way to fish for walleyes in shallow water. The rigs can be trolled or casted, depending on whether anglers have a school of fish pinpointed or are searching for active fish.

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

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