Muskie season opens in Minnesota on Saturday. Anglers will be able to fish for the gamefish species of their choice this weekend, with the seasons open for walleye, northern pike, bass, trout and muskie.
Surface water temperatures in the lakes in the Bemidji area dropped this past week, with many lakes falling from the mid 60s to below 60 degrees again.
Sudden drops in water temperatures usually have a negative impact on the fishing, but the good news is water temperatures around 60 degrees are ideal for walleyes and most other species so the fishing should rebound quickly when stable weather returns.
The extended forecast is predicting warmer and drier conditions into next week so anglers should have a good weekend on the lakes no matter what species they want to pursue.
Walleye fishing was pretty good this past week, despite high winds, rain and colder temperatures. Anglers' biggest challenge was boat control and figuring out how far the walleyes and other species pulled back with the dropping water temperatures.
Many of the larger lakes were almost abandoned on the more stormy days with anglers going to smaller lakes or strategically accessing the larger lakes closer to where they planned to fish.
There are still shiners spawning in the shallows so a portion of the walleye population is still using the shoreline cabbage and rocks that are holding shiners. The presence of baitfish in an area is a good sign. Some predators usually are nearby to take advantage of the food source.
Walleyes are beginning to disperse into the lakes with many of the larger walleyes moving to deeper water on mid-lake or main-lake structure.
The first humps and bars to get fish late in the spring are usually the ones closest to shore. Clumps of sunken islands or complex areas are usually more attractive to walleyes because they offer more features and feeding options.
Access to deep water is another important feature of mid-lake structure with walleyes often preferring the largest structures with the most features and the most direct access to the deepest water.
Isolated humps can also be good for walleyes because they act like an oasis in the middle of a desert, especially if they are in a part of the lake with numbers of fish passing through.
Many of the walleyes have pulled away from the primary shoreline break and have moved to secondary breaks during the extended period of cooler weather.
Anglers have still been using jigs and minnows for the shallow walleyes but anglers fishing deeper water have mostly been using live-bait rigs with leeches or larger minnows. Some anglers have also been using spinner rigs and night crawlers on bottom bouncers with some success.
Many of the same concepts anglers use to locate walleyes can also be used to locate other species of fish. Muskies are capable of feeding in several different ways, depending on what feeding options are available for habitat in their home lake.
Muskies usually prefer eating tulibees, suckers and perch when they are available but muskies don't get huge by starving themselves so they will eat just about anything if it gives them the best chance for a meal.
Muskies can be size specific when they look for food but they have also been caught on leeches and smaller baits, so it is hard to pattern what muskies will do. Many larger muskies prefer prey that is considerably larger than the average lures used by most muskie anglers.
Muskies often key on prey that stands out from the crowd and looks different than the rest of the fish. This is good for anglers because many of their lures don't look like anything that normally swims in the water.
One of the time-proven presentations for early season muskies is the bucktail spinner, which can be fished over the tops of the emerging weeds. Bucktails are also easy to fish - just make long casts and reel them in. As long as the blades are turning, the bucktails are working.
PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at email@example.com