Fish are still biting if anglers can get on lakes
Surface water temperatures in the area lakes are hovering around 40 degrees, which is where the surface temperature will be when the lakes start to freeze.
The ground is frozen in most of the Bemidji area, with many of the swamps and shallow ponds covered with ice.
Much of the snow on the ground melted during the week, but there is the possibility of more snow in the forecast for this weekend.
Many anglers have been in the woods chasing deer this past week, but there were still a few anglers on the lakes, despite the cold weather and blustery winds.
Some of the shallow lakes are starting to get a rim of ice around the edges, so anglers are limited to lakes where they can get a boat into the water.
Most large lakes still have open water and are accessible to anglers, but many anglers have put their boats away for the winter.
A few anglers might go back on the lakes if there is an unexpected warming trend or after they have bagged their deer.
The fish were biting in many areas before the deer season started, so there should be some good fishing opportunities if anglers can get their boats in the water.
It can hard be hard on anglers' equipment to go fishing when the air temperatures are significantly below freezing. Water pumps in outboard motors don't work right when the temperatures are too cold and anglers risk seizing up their motors before they have a chance to warm-up.
Livewells and bilge pumps also don't function properly when the weather is too cold, and most anglers don't like the cold much, either.
The weather took a drastic turn toward winter the night before the rifle deer season began, with a light covering of snow on the ground in most areas.
Snow on the ground helps hunters see movement in the woods because of the contrast between the white snow and the dark brown deer.
Melting and refreezing snow can get quite crunchy, which means anything moving through the woods is going to make noise.
Snow also helps hunters track wounded deer and makes fresh deer sign easier to see, which is why most hunters like snow on the ground for deer hunting.
It has been pretty cold for most hunters sitting in a deer stand the first week of the season, especially on the windy days. Hunters end up dressing too warm for walking to be able to stand the cold for a few hours sitting in a tree.
If anglers are still trying to get out on the lakes, most of the walleyes should be tightly schooled in areas with direct access to deep water.
A jig and minnow is still the bait of choice for most anglers. Anglers should consider looking for schools of fish with sonar before stopping and trying to present a vertical presentation to the fish.
Ice fishing tactics work well during the cold water period, whether anglers are fishing on the ice or out of their boat.
Jigging spoons and jigging minnows can be very effective in either scenario, with an aggressive jigging action followed by a long pause usually the most effective presentation.
Muskie anglers can find active fish in current areas or in other locations where post spawn tulibees and whitefish are located. Many of the same areas dark house anglers will be spearing once the season opens are the same locations anglers can find muskies and big pike late in the open water season.
Crappies are also in their winter patterns, often suspended over deep water near some structure.
There may be a few sunfish still holding to healthy green weeds, but most of the sunfish have moved to the moderate depth mud flats, which hold zooplankton, bloodworms and other small insects.
Perch in most lakes have also moved into deeper water, with the key area on the edge where the hard bottom meets the soft bottom in the basin. Perch will feed on the hard to soft breakline on a mixture of insect larvae, crayfish and minnows.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.