Bemidji area ice anglers await consistent cold temperatures
The firearm deer season in the Bemidji area is heading into its second weekend and many deer hunters will still be in the woods hoping to have venison in the freezer this winter.
Many hunters like to hold out for a large buck early in the season but hunters with doe permits will likely lessen their standards towards the end of the season to be sure they fill their tags.
The lakes are ready to freeze but the little bit of skim ice that has been forming overnight on the lakes and ponds is melting once the sun hits the ice.
The lakes won’t actually begin to freeze until the daily high temperatures stay below freezing for an extended period of time and the low temperatures approach the single digits at night.
There are still a few anglers on the lakes and most of them are fishing for muskies, walleyes or crappies.
An angler fishing for muskies on Mille Lacs this past week caught and released a large muskie that he measured at 56 inches with a 29-inch girth.
The fish would have likely been in the 50-pound class and close to a record if it would have been weighed on an official scale. The photo being circulated of the muskie, which shows a fish with an unusually large girth, looks legitimate.
Muskie anglers have one of the best opportunities of the season to catch a trophy-class fish late in the fall. Some of the heaviest weights for muskies are recorded in the fall because the fish are beginning to form eggs and the muskies are feeding heavily to add weight before winter.
Tulibees are readily available to muskies and other large predators in shallow water late in the season because tulibees spawn in the fall when temperatures are in the low 40s.
Tulibees are a high calorie, high fat content forage that is easier for muskies and other large predators to catch when they are schooled in the shallows.
Most of the tulibees and whitefish are done spawning but they typically hang out in the shallows after they are done spawning until after the lakes freeze. Anglers have a good opportunity to catch muskies right up until the lakes freeze.
Walleye anglers have also been catching fish, with vertical presentations usually working the best. The anglers catching the most fish are the ones with good electronics and good boat control. They are able to find the fish with their sonar and then hold over the fish once they find them.
There can be walleyes in a wide range of depths late in the season. The shallowest fish are usually the most active and can be released more easily than the deeper fish.
Walleye anglers should start in the upper teens to mid 20s and work shallower or deeper from there, depending on what they are seeing on sonar and where they are getting the most bites.
The Rainy River close to Lake of the Woods continues to be hot for walleyes, with both “eaters” and larger fish being caught. The limit is four walleyes, with a protected slot of 19.5 inches to 28 inches. Anglers are allowed to keep one walleye over 28 inches.
Crappies are also active right up until the lakes freeze. Crappies are usually close to the deep holes in the lakes late in the fall. Anglers can find the schools of crappies with their electronics and then try to anchor or hover over the fish and find a way to get smaller lures into deeper water to catch the crappies.
Super braids have much smaller diameter than monofilament and have less water resistance, so they make it easier to get small baits into deeper water. Visibility is also an issue so most anglers will use a fluorocarbon leader on the super braids. By doing that they have the advantage of both low water resistance and low visibility which can help them catch more fish.
Once the deer hunting season is over anglers will have time to get their ice fishing gear ready. There is usually enough ice somewhere in the Bemidji area for anglers to walk on by the weekend after Thanksgiving.
PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org