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Fishing good despite unstable weather

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Seasons usually change quickly in the North Country, with little time to adjust when summer turns to fall.

Historically speaking, it is not uncommon for the first frost in the Bemidji area to occur in late August.

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Local gardeners usually plant their gardens using plants that mature in less than 100 days. The past several years, the growing season locally has been longer than 120 days.

What appears to be global warming has had an effect on fishing, too. Warmer water favors some species, but it can also be negative for other species of fish.

Cold-water species like suckers, tulibees, shiners, trout, smallmouth bass and even walleyes and northern pike need cold water sanctuaries in the lakes to retreat to during the heat of summer to live long healthy lives.

Lake water that is too warm over long periods of time can stress cold-water species of fish and be a determent to their long term survival in the lakes.

The Bemidji area is at the north end of the home range for some warm-water species, while it is at the south end of the home range of some cold-water species.

If there are long-term changes in water temperatures in lakes in the Bemidji area, some species of fish may begin to decline in numbers, while others species may begin to increase.

Fishing reports from around the Bemidji area this week have been affected by frequent wind shifts and the passing of several cold fronts.

Unstable weather is usually negative for fishing, but anglers still had some success this past week on many area lakes.

Walleye fishing is usually easier in calm winds late in the season, when many of the fish are deep and anglers are trying to present their baits vertically to the fish.

Walleyes and other schooling species of fish tend to school more tightly late in the season, which necessitates slow presentations to stay on the fish.

Anglers are switching to jigs and minnows as the presentation of choice, although some anglers are still having success using live bait rigs with night crawlers, larger minnows and leeches (if you can find them).

The crankbait bite for walleyes that was so hot for some anglers this summer has declined, with walleyes in most lakes preferring live bait presentations.

Anglers can move slow and still fish a jig aggressively. Reflex bites are always a possibility for species like walleyes. Anglers can try different combinations of hops, twitches and pauses with jigs, until they find something the fish like.

Too many anglers get lazy and fish a jig like a rig and simply drag the bait on the bottom until something takes the bait.

Anglers fishing a jig for any species of fish will usually have better success if they actively work the jig, constantly trying to find the right combination of moves to get a reaction from the fish.

Anglers should try to match the jig with the proper size line, using light line with light jigs and heavier line with heavier jigs.

Under most conditions, jigs 1/8-ounce and smaller require line no heavier than 6 pound test to work properly. Jigs one-quarter ounce and heavier can use either 6- or 8-pound test line under most conditions.

Anglers should use heavy enough jigs to be able to feel the bottom, especially when fishing in deep water or with strong winds, when keeping the boat moving slow enough to fish vertically is a problem.

Ultralight presentations may work best with super braids that come in as little as 1-pound test to get small baits into deep water effectively. Anglers may want to consider a shock leader of monofilament line on super braids if using them in clear water.

The Keg N' Cork/Bluewater Outdoors Fall Walleye Classic will be held Sept. 22 on Lake Bemidji, with openings still available for interested two-person teams.

This tournament should be an example for other tournaments, with all fish measured on the water and immediately released, to help avoid killing or injuring fish.

Anglers can get entry forms at either business or call 444-2248 (Bluewater) or 444-7600 (Keg N' Cork) for more information.

Paul A. Nelson is a multi-species fishing guide living in the Bemidji area. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.

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