Fish still biting with fewer anglers on the water
The days are getting shorter by about three minutes per day, so there is less time to spend on outdoor activities in the fall.
Many anglers also like to go hunting, with archery deer season, bear season and small game seasons currently open. There are also school-related activities, outdoor projects and fall sports to take time away from fishing late in the season.
Each angler has to decide when to pull the plug on the open water season and put the boat away for the winter. This means there will be fewer people on the water as fall progresses to compete for the more popular fishing spots on area lakes.
The water temperatures in the lakes have stayed pretty stable in the past week, with most lakes in the low 60-degree range.
The thermocline has broken down in most lakes, so fish are able to access deep water if that is where they can find the best feeding opportunities.
Walleyes and crappies are two species that like to go deep in the fall in many lakes, while perch, sunfish, bass, northern pike and muskies usually prefer to stay in shallow water.
Healthy green weeds will attract fish late in the open water season and even under the ice. Dead and dying weeds are less attractive to fish and usually won't attract fish while they are decomposing.
The weed beds will begin to break apart in the fall after they have formed their seeds. The mature plants become more brittle and get broken off by they waves.
The tops of the weeds get carried away by the waves, which spreads their seeds to new areas in the lake. This is all part of the normal process of reseeding the weed beds for next spring.
The short stocks of the weed beds will eventually die off, but protected areas in the lakes tend to have green weeds longer than wind-swept areas in the fall.
The remaining healthy green weeds are attractive to many species of fish including walleyes.
Walleyes in shallow lakes like Winnibigoshish and Leech Lake will make use of the green weed beds in the fall and will often feed on the deep edge of the weeds.
Other species like sunfish, bass, northern pike and muskies are all attracted to green weeds late in the season, with the healthiest weeds able to support fish even after the lakes freeze.
The shallow walleye bite has remained good on both Winnie and Leech, with good numbers of walleyes using 6-10 feet of water in areas with broken rock or green weeds.
A jig and minnow has been the presentation of choice for most anglers in shallow water, with crankbaits and live bait rigs also producing some fish.
Anglers should use lighter jigs in shallow water whenever possible, to avoid dragging their baits on bottom and collecting weeds or getting snagged in the rocks.
Anglers are also using jigs and minnows in the deeper lakes. Most anglers like to keep their baits directly below the boat in deep water, so they can feel the bites and be sure they are close to bottom and in the right zone to catch fish.
Anglers should watch their electronics closely in deep water to be sure they are fishing areas holding fish. Sometimes fish will hold tight to the bottom in deep water, which can make them more difficult to see on sonar.
Crappies also like deep water in the fall and will usually be more active during they day than they have been most of the summer.
Crappies are often be attracted to areas with deep rocks late in the season, so anglers are able to watch their electronics to find schools of crappies if they are looking in the right areas.
Anglers often need to use small jigs to catch crappies, so getting small jigs into deep water often takes light line and ultra light rods to be able to feel the bites.
Some anglers like to use plastics for crappies whenever they can, because plastics are more efficient and don't need to be reeled up and checked every time anglers miss a bite.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.