The fall colors are very close to peaking in the Bemidji area and should be in full splendor in the next week, unless wind and rain knock down most of the leaves before they have a chance to turn color.
Anglers fishing on the lakes can get spectacular panoramic views of the trees from the water, so bring a camera in the boat and take advantage of a great photo opportunity. Fishing has also been pretty good, so there may be an opportunity for some catch, photo and release shots of fish too.
Most lakes in the Bemidji area now have surface water temperatures in the upper 50s, with surface temperatures holding steady or rising slightly this past week. Warm weather slows the cooling process in the lakes but it also extends the good fall fishing.
Walleye fishing has been good on most of the larger lakes in the Bemidji area but there can also be good walleye fishing on some of the smaller lakes in the fall. The good fishing should continue for most species right up until the lakes are ready to freeze.
Cooling water temperatures usually concentrate walleyes, largemouth bass, crappies and perch into larger schools which reduces the number of locations in the lake holding fish. The result is the fish can be tougher to find but there can be a reward once a school of fish is located.
There are several factors to consider when looking to find and catch a specific species of fish. A well used angling formula is summarized by the equation F(ish) + L(ocation)+ P(resentation) = S(uccess).
If anglers have a good mental approach to fishing they can work the formula before they hit the lake and create a plan of action to pursue whatever species they want to catch.
The "fish" part of the equation means understanding the habits and seasonal movements of the specific species of fish you are trying to catch. This includes understanding what type of habitat is available to the fish in their home lake or river so you know the playing field.
Regardless of what type of structure fish species prefer, they can only use what is available to them. Fish can't use it if is not in the lake. Fish have to adapt to whatever is available to them and anglers have to figure out what the fish are doing in order to find them and catch them.
"Location" is probably the most important factor in catching fish. Most good anglers can catch fish once they find them.
There are plenty of short cuts to help anglers locate fish but the biggest clue is usually depth, especially for walleyes. If anglers know how deep the walleyes are in a specific lake or river, they can narrow their search to the right depth range and use their electronics to help them locate the fish.
There are almost always fish using more than one pattern at the same time in most lakes. Anglers have to take any information they receive as a starting point and expect to have to adjust the pattern based on the conditions.
"Presentations" are only limited by our imagination and what we can buy at the bait store. Anglers in some areas are extremely limited in what they are able to find for bait while other areas have a better variety of bait at certain times of year when certain baits are "in-season".
New tougher restrictions on transporting live bait, especially minnows, limit many areas to what trappers are able to catch locally. Most states now limit importing baits from other areas.
Fathead minnows are native to most of the northern states so anglers can usually find fatheads for bait in most areas in the north.
Anglers can catch most species on jigs and fathead minnows, including walleyes, perch, crappies and pike. Night crawlers are also available for bait in most areas but leeches and select minnows are getting more difficult to find, especially late in the season.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.