Dropping water temperatures will trigger fall patterns in Bemidji area lakes
Surface water temperatures in the Bemidji area are holding in the low 70s in most lakes. The extended forecast predicts cooler weather this coming week so the lakes should be cooling even further in near future.
Summer fishing patterns will hold as long as surface water temperatures stay above 70 degrees. Once surface temperatures drop into the 60s, fall fishing patterns will begin to develop in the lakes, although the changes won’t happen overnight.
Many walleye anglers prefer to use faster presentations for summer-pattern walleyes. These presentations include trolling various types of spinner rigs with live bait.
Anglers use different ways to deliver the spinner rigs to the fish, with bottom bouncer working better in deep water and safety pin spinners or bullet sinkers and spinner rigs working better for shallow water.
Anglers also use other trolling presentations for summer-pattern walleyes, including trolling various types of crankbaits or stick baits.
Anglers can troll crankbaits on small diameter super braids in shallower water. They can also use leadcore line, snap weights, downriggers and even bead chain sinkers to get artificial lures to walleyes in deeper water.
The biggest challenge in trolling artificial lures is to get the lures into the same zone as the walleyes and then be able to repeat the presentation when a productive presentation is found.
Leadcore line comes in measured lengths of different colors so anglers can let out a set number of colors to get their lures into the same depth as the walleyes.
Anglers can also use line-counter reels when trolling artificial lures so they know how much line to let out once a productive pattern is established.
Down riggers, snap weights or even bead chain sinkers can be tricky to use and anglers need to learn how to properly use them to be able to put lures in the same depth as the fish.
There have been books written about different precision trolling presentations which include specific instructions about how much line to let out to get individual lures into a certain depth. Most of the anglers on the professional walleye trail use this book to help them get their lures to the right depth rather than trying to figure it out each time by trial and error.
Trolling artificial lures for walleyes is more common on the Great Lakes or on other large bodies of water around the country but the trolling presentations will also work on lakes in the Bemidji area.
Once lakes in the Bemidji area begin to cool into the 60s fall patterns will begin to develop. Walleyes in many lakes will begin to gather into larger schools and most anglers will switch from spinner rigs back to jigs and minnows or live bait rigs with leeches, night crawlers or larger minnows.
Deep lakes with a thermocline like Lake Bemidji, Cass Lake and many other lakes will have walleyes spending much of the summer feeding on top of large flats or other structures with the right depth on top.
When water in the lakes begins to cool some of the algae will begin to die and water clarity will increase. Walleyes that have been feeding in shallow water in the deep lakes will begin to drop into deeper water, although they still won’t be able to go below the thermocline until later in the fall.
Walleyes in shallow lakes that don’t have a thermocline usually stay in deeper water during the summer and will make a feeding movement into shallow water in the fall, much like what happens in the spring. Lakes like Winnibigoshish, Upper Red Lake, Mille Lacs, and parts of Leech Lake and Lake of the Woods tend to have a good shallow walleye bite in the fall, while most of the deep lakes will have a better walleye bite in deep water.
Fishing should be improving for most species of fish in all of the lakes as the water begins to cool. It is too early to tell if the current weather pattern is the actual fall cool down or just a temporary situation with more hot weather to come later in August and September.
PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org