Bemidji area spring walleye bite usually peaks during Memorial Weekend
Anglers tried to regroup and take another shot at the walleye opener on the second weekend of the season. Fishing was good for many anglers, even though it rained much week.
Anglers will have another opener this weekend as the bass season begins on Saturday. Many walleyes were pre-spawn when the walleye season opened and virtually all of the bass will be pre-spawn when their season opens this weekend.
Memorial Day Weekend is usually close to the peak of the spring walleye bite. Surface water temperatures are in the upper 40s in most of the deep lakes while many shallow lakes and bays have surface temperatures in the low 50s.
The full moon is tonight so anglers will have the option of trying some night fishing for walleyes this weekend.
Anglers had to stay close to current early in the season to find-post spawn walleyes. Once the walleyes are out of the rivers, the migrating fish will spread out and work one shoreline or the other to make their way towards the next lake in the chain.
Walleyes usually don’t go in a straight line and swim over open water, at least in lakes in the Bemidji area. They are much more likely to follow one shoreline or the other and feed their way to the outlet of the lake.
Anglers can check food shelves along each shoreline and catch some of the migrating walleyes that have stopped there to feed.
A food shelf is any part of the lake where the dropoff is far enough from shore to provide a shallow area for baitfish and other prey to concentrate.
The best food shelves often have some rock, points and inside turns and an irregular steep break that leads into deep water. Saddles that connect one or more structures are another desirable feature of food shelves.
Most walleyes don’t use mid-lake structure until they reach their home lake. Walleyes living in smaller lakes often have fewer options for structure, so some walleyes may head directly to mid-lake structure after they spawn if that is where the best habitat is located.
Walleyes in larger lakes usually have enough shoreline structure to hold some walleyes all summer long. Most walleyes on shoreline structure are feeding on perch and spot-tail shiners until the shiner minnows finish spawning.
When the spot-tail shiners are ready to leave the shoreline, many of the walleyes feeding on the shoreline will follow them.
About the same time the walleyes are ready to leave the shoreline, the insect hatches will be starting in deep water. This gives walleyes a plentiful food source to utilize as they head for deeper water and mid-lake structure.
Most of the larger lakes and their connecting waters have been good for walleyes this spring. Anglers have been catching walleyes in Upper Red Lake along the shoreline break in 4 to 7 feet of water using jigs and minnows or bobber rigs and minnows. The best areas have been close to the Tamarac River or Shotley Brook.
Walleyes in Lake Winnibigoshish have been biting in Cutfoot Sioux, Third River Flowage, near the mouth of the Mississippi River and in Sugar Lake. Most of the walleyes have been biting on jigs and shiner minnows in 5 to 8 feet of water.
Leech Lake has been good in all the shallow bays. Anglers have been catching walleyes in 6 to 10 feet of water along the windward shores of Sucker Bay, Portage Bay and Steamboat Bay. Walleyes have been feeding in both the emergent cabbage weed beds and the rocks.
Lake Bemidji and Lake Irving have been good for walleyes in 7 to 12 feet of water using jigs and shiners, with some anglers starting to catch walleyes on leeches on live-bait rigs.
Anglers fishing the Cass Lake Chain have been concentrating on Andrusia and Kitchi early in the season but the bite is beginning to improve in Cass Lake. The best depth varies in the clear water. Walleyes will move shallow in low light or wind but will head deeper when the sun gets too bright.
PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org