Busy weekend ahead on the area lakes
The Fourth of July weekend is usually one of the busiest of the summer on Bemidji area lakes.
High gas prices and cool weather reduced traffic significantly on the fishing opener and Memorial Day weekend, so it will be interesting to see how busy Bemidji will be this holiday weekend.
The lakes are still pretty clear, with little algae bloom in the water. Walleyes and big pike are able to go as deep as they want and are only limited by the availability of food.
The largest of the mayflies haven't started hatching yet and there are still a few spottail shiners spawning in the shallows, so the lakes are way behind where they should be for this time of the year.
Many large perch are in deep water feeding on mayfly larvae, which makes them tough to locate and catch. Once the mayfly hatch is finished, most perch will move to areas with rock or chara on the bottom, where they can feed on crayfish and minnows.
Walleyes are still using several different types of habitat. Some walleyes are feeding on the windward shorelines in the larger lakes. Other walleyes are feeding in deep water, where they can feed on a combination of mayflies and baitfish.
Visibility in the water has an impact on the depth of the fish and also helps determine when the fish will feed.
Walleyes using deep water are more likely to feed during the day, because enough sunlight is filtered out by the depth of the water. They are able to pick what depth to feed that gives them just the right amount of sunlight.
Weed fish will hide at the bottom of the weed beds when the sun is too bright or when they are resting and then rise up to feed when the conditions are right.
The days are long in the summer, so anglers can often fish for more than one species of fish during their day on the water, to try and stay on an active bite.
Northern pike, sunfish and bass are all more cooperative during bright sunlight, because they take advantage of the shade and their natural camouflage to help them feed.
Walleyes and crappies will feed most actively in shallow water during the mornings and evenings. Walleyes can still be caught in deep water during the days and anglers can find suspended crappies during non-feeding times and try to put their bait in the right zone to try and catch them.
Rainbow trout are another species that will feed shallow in the mornings and evenings and then drop into deeper water during they day, where they can still be caught with presentations in the right depth range.
Trout are able to quickly adjust their air bladders and can change depths much more quickly than most other species. This is an adaptation to clear water and the relatively infertile environments they live in, so they are able to use the entire water column in their pursuit of more limited feeding opportunities.
Muskie fishing is just getting started, with many anglers waiting until after the Fourth of July to get serious about muskie fishing.
Muskie fishing usually gets better when the water starts to "green up" from algae. There is a "sweet spot" in the water clarity, where muskies can see well enough to target your bait, but don't get too good a look at the bait because of the algae bloom.
The best lakes for walleyes recently have been the larger lakes in the area. Upper Red Lake has been best on the calm days, with some walleyes moving further from shore into deeper water.
Leech Lake has been good for walleyes on the windward shorelines and also on the mid-lake humps and reefs in deeper water. Some anglers have started to troll crankbaits with some success along the rocky shorelines.
Lake Winnibigoshish has been good for walleyes on mid-lake humps and larger bars. There are also some walleyes feeding on the edge of the cabbage weed line.
Cass Lake has been good on the sides of mid lake structure, with most of the fish using deeper water. There has also been a good night bite for anglers trolling minnow baits after dark.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.