Firearms deer season begins with fish still biting
The rifle deer season opens in most of Minnesota on Saturday morning. Hopefully it won't be too windy or raining since many people reading this will be sitting in a tree before sunrise on Saturday.
The ideal hunt for those who are not done fishing would be to harvest an adult deer opening weekend so they can go back to fishing before the lakes freeze.
Another option for those who are not done fishing is to hunt deer in the mornings and fish in the evenings. That way you can have the best of both worlds.
It can be a little dangerous backing a boat into the water in the mornings when the temperatures are below freezing and there can be a coating of ice on the ramps. Anglers can slide into the lakes with their truck or have trouble pulling the boat out of the lake when the ramps are covered with ice.
Anglers can bring some sand in a container and put it on the ground to get a little extra traction on the ramps if it is needed.
The evening bite for most species has been the best so anglers can wait until later in the day, after the boat ramps have had a chance to melt.
Walleyes have been slowly moving shallower when they feed on many of the deep lakes as the water temperatures continue to fall into the low 40s.
Most of the walleye action in the evenings has been in 18 to 30 feet of water in the deep lakes and in eight to 14 feet in the shallow lakes.
Jigs and minnows have been the most productive presentation, with shiners, rainbow chubs or large fatheads all producing fish.
Walleyes can be spooky in the shallow clear water so anglers may want to get their baits away from the boat by casting if the fish seem to be scattering when the boat passes over them.
Crappies have been schooled in deep water in many of the smaller lakes in the Bemidji area. Anglers should use their electronics to locate the crappies and then hover over the fish and try to get their baits into the same zone as the crappies.
Crappies like to feed at or above eye level so anglers can easily have their baits too deep and be fishing below the crappies.
An easy way to be sure your bait is going through the right zone when fishing for crappies is to let the jig hit the bottom and then raise the bait about 10 feet and slowly fish it back to the bottom, pausing every foot or two to work the bait.
Sunfish tend to be shallower than crappies in most lakes, with flats in the mid 20-foot range usually the key areas.
Good electronics are needed to see the crappies and sunfish when they are tight to the bottom, with the most active fish tending to be higher off the bottom.
Perch have been in shallow water in most of the larger lakes, either on rocks or on the chara flats where they can feed on minnows or crayfish.
Northern pike and muskie anglers can have good fishing right up until the lakes freeze. Many areas in the lakes will be nearly void of fish, while other areas can have large concentrations of big fish.
The key to muskie and northern pike location in the late fall is the location of the fall spawning tulibees and whitefish, which are both favorite forage of muskies and pike.
Tulibees and whitefish spawn on gravel or broken rock in areas with current or consistent wave action and use many of the same areas walleyes and suckers use in the spring.
The emerald shiners have moved into the Rainy River from the Lake of the Woods, along with many walleyes from Lake of the Woods. The walleyes and shiners usually stay in the Rainy River until the big lake starts to freeze, with the first few miles of river closest to Lake of the Woods often the best for fishing.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.