Fall has arrived and fish are on the move
Fall arrived on the calendar this week but weather-wise fall arrived in the Bemidji area several weeks ago.
Surface water temperatures in the local lakes have dropped into the mid 50s, which is usually the point where fall patterns really start to take hold of the lakes, and most of the fish are on the move towards their winter locations.
The thermocline in most deep lakes has completely broken down, allowing fish to go back into the deeper parts of the lake that were below the thermocline during the summer.
Periodically during the summer the big shallow lakes get turned over by the wind and that prevents the water from stratifying by temperature. Consequenty, there is no thermocline to break up in the fall.
Anglers have been finding walleyes in deep water in lakes like Bemidji, Cass, Pike Bay and Walker Bay of Leech Lake. There are also walleyes biting in deep water in most of the medium and smaller-sized walleye lakes.
When walleyes use deep water, it limits how much of the lake anglers have to search and makes the lakes fish "smaller" than they do during the summer when walleyes are spread throughout the lake.
Most small to medium-size walleye lakes are easier to fish in the fall than they are at any other time of the year. Anglers only need to look at structure connected to the deepest holes, so most anglers with good electronics should be able to find fish.
The key areas for walleyes in the fall are often the transition area between hard and soft bottom at the edge of the basin.
The "hard to soft" breakline forms an edge where predators can feed on forage that like both hard and soft bottom in the same general area.
The deepest water in the lakes has the warmest water in the fall until the lakes "turn-over". Once the lakes have turned-over, all the water in the lake gets mixed together and becomes uniform in temperature from the surface to the bottom.
Some anglers confuse the break down of the thermocline with turn-over in the fall. Turn-over occurs when the surface water temperatures drop into the mid 40s, which is when water is most dense.
The mid 40-degree water is actually heavier than the warmer water on the bottom, so it sinks to the bottom and displaces the warmer water, which "turns-over" the water column in the lake. This totally re-oxygenates the lake water and gets the lakes ready for winter with a full compliment of oxygen.
Unstable weather has been the biggest obstacle for anglers to overcome this fall The extended forecast for next week is for near "normal" temperatures and not as much precipitation, so maybe anglers will have some better weather to pursue the species of their choice.
Most walleye anglers have been using jigs and minnows or live-bait rigs with larger minnows for the walleyes in a wide range of depths The deep lakes have had the best action in 18 to 35 feet while the shallow lakes have had the best walleye action in seven to 12 feet.
Crappie anglers are finding fish moving into their cold-water patterns with the fish schooling in deeper water and relating to hard bottom areas. Most anglers use jigs and minnows or jigs and plastics for fall crappies.
Muskie anglers are able to catch fish trolling in the fall when muskies are on the move and actively feeding.
Larger northern pike are also being caught in many of the same areas as the muskies
Many anglers will cast larger baits until their hands get cold and then troll deep diving crankbaits while they take a break from casting to warm their hands.
Perch continue to feed on the shallow flats in most of the larger lakes. The key structures are usually covered with chara or rocks, which hold a mixture of minnows and crayfish. Most of the action has been in six to 10 with jigs and minnows the most productive presentation.