Big weekend ahead on Bemidji area lakes
The Fourth of July is one of the biggest weekends of the summer on lakes in the Bemidji area.
The Bemidji Jaycees Water Carnival is in town and the fireworks on Saturday night will make Lake Bemidji a busy place to be this weekend.
There will be plenty of anglers out on most of the lakes, with resorts and campgrounds full of visitors from all over the country.
Anglers will be sharing the lakes with pleasure boaters, waterskiers and personal watercraft, even though the water in the lakes is still quite cold for this point in the season.
Surface water temperatures dropped back into the low 60s earlier in the week, but temperatures have been on the rise again the last few days.
The water in most lakes is still very clear. Algae grow very slowly until water temperatures exceed 70 degrees.
Algae blooms happen during extended periods of warm weather. Algae give water in the lakes a greenish tint, which reduces visibility and has a drastic impact on fish location.
Walleyes have been scattered in most lakes, with the fish using a wide range of depths. There have been walleyes anywhere from the cabbage weed edge to the edge of where the hard bottom meets the mud basin, which can be well past 30 feet deep in some lakes.
Insect hatches out of the basin have been sporadic, largely due to the fluctuating water temperatures that have been going up and down like a roller coaster.
The largest mayflies have not hatched yet in the Bemidji area. There should be another major insect hatch as soon as surface water temperatures get above 70 degrees again.
Walleye fishing is best during stable weather, regardless of the time of year. Most walleyes in the deep lakes have been biting best in the mornings and evenings and have been tough to catch in the middle of the day.
Walleyes feeding in shallow water on rocks or in the cabbage weed beds usually bite best with a little wind to break up the surface of the water.
Lakes stained with tannic acid from peat bogs or swamps have their own filtration of the sun from the coffee colored water.
Walleyes in stained lakes usually bite best when the conditions are calm. Two of the better stained water walleye lakes are Lake of the Woods and Upper Red Lake.
Anglers are already starting to fish with summer presentations, even though the water temperatures are not there yet.
Locating active walleyes can be a challenge for anglers in the summer. Anglers can search for walleyes trolling crankbaits or using bottom bouncers and night crawlers to cover water more quickly while searching for active fish.
Spinners tend to lift the baits towards the surface, so more weight is needed. Bottom bouncers come in sizes from ½ ounce to 2 ounces, so anglers can adjust the weight of the sinker to help them keep their bait on the bottom and closer to the boat.
Once an area holding active walleyes is located, anglers can slow down and fish the area more thoroughly with live bait rigs.
Jigs and minnows continue to work well for shallow walleyes in lakes like Winnibigoshish, Leech and Upper Red Lake. Most anglers fishing the deeper lakes have switched to live bait rigs and leeches or night crawlers.
Anglers using artificial presentations often have better success when water temperatures are near their peak for the summer. Peak water temperatures typically happen in the last half of July through the first half of August in the Bemidji area.
Anglers fishing for other species have had mixed success. Muskie fishing has been a little slow in the clear water, but should improve when the algae starts to color the water.
Bass fishing has been improving, with most bass using the shallowest, heaviest cover in the lakes. Sunfish have been moving out of the shallows to the deep edges of the cabbage and coontail weed beds.
Crappies have been suspending off of structure during the day and moving into the points and deep weed edges to feed in the mornings and evenings.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.