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Food is key to late-season fish location

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The open water season continues to wind down in the Bemidji area. Surface water temperatures are now in the low 50s in most lakes and should drop into the upper 40s this coming week.

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Anglers will have more difficulty launching their boats for the rest of the season because most of the docks have been removed from the public accesses.

There are not very many anglers left on the area lakes, but the few anglers who are braving the elements are catching fish.

Anglers have one of the best opportunities of the season to catch big fish in the fall, as most fish enter the winter with their heaviest weights of the season.

One of the keys to late-season location is a plentiful food source. Most fish don't want to move too far to get a meal in cold water.

Any concentration of food is likely to attract several predator species into the area to take advantage of the feeding opportunity.

Tulibees spawn in the fall and are now moving into the shoreline in their prespawn feeding mode. They spend most of the year suspended over deep water, but once a year the move shallow to spawn, where they are like sitting ducks for predators.

Tulibees are a preferred food source of any predator that is big enough to eat them. Any area with prespawn tulibees may attract some of the largest predators in the system. This can include muskies, northern pike, walleyes and even largemouth bass.

Tulibees will spawn in many of the same areas walleyes used to spawn in the spring. This includes windswept areas of the shoreline with gravel and broken rock. Any current area also has potential for spawning tulibees.

Anglers should expect most species of fish to be concentrated into a few key areas, similar to winter, while other parts of the lake may have very few fish.

One example of a concentration of walleyes occurs in lakes with a shiner minnow migration. Emerald shiners come out of the Lake of the Woods in the fall to feed on zooplankton in the Rainy River.

The shiner minnows may stay in the Rainy River for several weeks in the fall, but most of them will move back into Lake of the Woods for the winter, with the walleyes following them in and out of the river.

The first few miles of the Rainy River will have more fish than areas further upriver. Four Mile Bay is at the mouth of the Rainy River and will have migrating walleyes moving through the bay in both directions.

Many anglers like to use an anchor in the fall to fish the Rainy River. Anglers pick a key area where walleyes should be passing through and set their anchor to hold on the spot.

Most anglers anchor along the main river channel, with points or turns in the channel examples of key areas.

Anglers typically fish with jigs directly below the boat and wait for groups of walleyes to pass through their anchored position.

There will be lulls between waves of fish, but it is usually easier and more productive than trying to slide down the river on drifts or back troll up the river for walleyes.

Anglers have also been catching walleyes in many of the local lakes. The presence of baitfish is usually a key factor. Walleyes may be using a range of depths, so anglers shouldn't get their minds locked into a certain depth range if they are not catching fish or seeing them on sonar.

Anglers can also catch panfish in their "early ice patterns" late in the open water season. There is the chance to find good numbers of fish if anglers can find the right locations. Again, food is often the key.

The October full moon is next Thursday. Anglers will have the chance to fish big walleyes at night this week, if they can get clear skies and are able to stand the cold.

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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