Fish biting despite the cool temperatures
The unseasonably cool weather did not prevent fish from biting this past week in the Bemidji area.
Surface water temperatures in most lakes in the Bemidji area have finally made it out of the 40s and are now in the 50-55 degree range.
The water in the lakes is at least 10 degrees cooler than normal for this point in the season. It would not be unusual to have surface water temperatures warmer than 70 degrees by the beginning of June.
Walleye anglers are still having good success in many of the shallower lakes, where water temperatures are the warmest.
The best walleye bite is beginning to shift from the shallow lakes to the deeper lakes, as water temperatures continue to rise and more time passes after the spawn.
Walleye fishing is typically best in the spring while surface water temperatures are between 55 and 65 degrees, so the walleye fishing should just continue to improve as more lakes hit the peak temperature range.
The location of spot-tail shiner minnows will impact walleye location as the shiners move into the shallows to spawn. Other gamefish species like northern pike, bass, muskies and even big crappies will feed on the spawning shiners.
When the post spawn walleyes finish resting, they wake up with an appetite and an attitude. The spot-tail shiners come into shore to spawn just as many of the larger female walleyes are moving in to feed.
Walleyes are easier to catch when they are hungry and food is scarce. Early in the season, all of the minnows in the lakes are adults and at least one year old.
Walleyes have to work harder to catch the mature minnows, so they often have to feed for longer periods of time to get enough to eat early in the season.
Once the new hatches of minnows start to grow and the insect hatches begin, walleyes have more food to eat and will become more fussy about what and when they eat.
Leeches and night crawlers will catch walleyes at any time of year, but they are most appealing to walleyes when food is plentiful and they are looking for a treat rather than the main course.
Most of the walleye action has been on shoreline structure with emergent weed growth or rocks. The best depth on most lakes has been between 6-14 feet of water, depending on the conditions.
Walleyes in smaller lakes may move to mid-lake structure almost immediately in the spring, especially when the lake has a lack of good options for walleye habitat.
Walleyes living in larger lakes will usually stay on shoreline structure through the shiner spawn and then move to mid-lake habitat as the insect hatches begin in deeper water over mud bottom.
Bass anglers found many of the bass in a biting mood on the bass opener. Anglers often had to use a slow presentation like an un-weighted plastic worm or a floating minnow lure to catch the pre-spawn bass.
Crappies and sunfish will follow the bass into the shallows to spawn after the bass have finished spawning. The crappies and sunfish often spawn in old bass beds, which are hollowed out circles on the bottom that bass sweep clean with their tails.
Upper Red Lake continues to be red hot for walleyes, but the crappies have been few and far between. Most of the crappies in Red Lake come from one age class (1995). The maximum life expectancy for crappies is about 12 years in most lakes.
There are many other good lakes for bass in the Bemidji area. Many of these same lakes also have good populations of crappies and sunfish.
Most anglers release all of the bass they catch because they are considered poor table fare by most people. It would also be a good idea to limit pressure on sunfish and crappies when they are spawning, so they can create the next generation of fish.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.