Fall patterns begin to develop in Bemidji area lakes
The seasons are beginning to change in the Bemidji area and fall is already in the air.
Most schools and universities are now in session across the country and many summer residents are returning to their homes in more southern climates before the first snowflakes have had a chance to fall.
The number of pleasure boats, water skiers and jet skies on the lakes drops off significantly after Labor Day, but the number of experienced anglers on the lakes in the fall actually increases because of the great fall fishing for most species.
It is still likely there will be more hot weather this fall but it is also likely the last couple days of cooler weather were the beginnings of the fall cool-down on the lakes.
Fishing for most species was pretty good this past week with many anglers still using aggressive summer presentations with the surface water temperatures in most lakes holding above 70 degrees.
Fall patterns will begin to develop as the surface temperatures drop below 70 degrees and fall through the 60s. Much like in the spring, some of the best fishing of the fall occurs as the lakes move through the 60-degree range.
Anglers will still be able to use presentations normally associated with summer for a while longer as the lakes begin to cool.
Spinner rigs have been the ticket for many walleye anglers this summer and they should continue to work, but anglers may have to make a few modifications in the cooler water.
Water in the lakes will begin to clear as it cools so walleyes and other fish are able to see more clearly. Anglers may want to consider using smaller spinner blades and more neutral colors instead of larger spinners in louder colors.
Anglers may also have to slow their presentation when using spinners so switching from a plastic quick-change clevis to a metal clevis can help reduce the friction on the line and make the spinner turn better at slower speeds.
Options for live bait are changing too, with more restrictive regulations on transporting live bait. Most bait dealers do not have the wide selection of minnows they have had in the past. Anglers’ basic choices this summer have been night crawlers, leeches, fatheads or sucker minnows.
Jigs and minnows are the presentation of choice for many walleye anglers in the fall. Walleyes in most of the deep lakes will hold in tighter schools in deep water with anglers trying to fish vertically over the top of the schools of fish.
Walleye anglers fishing in the spring and summer like to make long drifts or trolling passes on spots and mark where they catch walleyes. It is an effective approach to finding and catching walleyes.
Once walleyes move into deeper water, making long passes on structure to locate fish is no longer practical. Anglers need to rely more heavily on their electronics so they can search for fish on sonar and not stop to drop a line until they see fish.
Crappies have been hard to locate and catch most of the summer. Many lakes had a shallow thermocline with little oxygen below the thermocline. That caused many crappies to suspend right over the top of the thermocline in open water.
Once the lakes begin to cool the temperature difference between the water above the thermocline and the water below the thermocline will begin to equalize, which will make the thermocline disappear.
Once the thermocline is gone the water in the lakes will begin to mix. The mixing water will slowly increase oxygen levels in deeper water, allowing fish to move back into deeper water.
Crappies tend to be more active during the day in the fall, with deep rocks and wood acting like magnets for schools of crappies.
Perch fishing has been picking up on most of the larger lakes. Perch like to feed on large chara flats where they can find a mixed diet of crayfish, minnows and smaller perch.
Lakes like Leech Lake, Winnibigoshish, Cass Lake and Lake Bemidji all have good numbers of larger perch.
PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org