This is the last weekend of the season for walleyes, northern pike and other gamefish species on the inland waters of Minnesota. The gamefish season closes at midnight on Sunday.
There are extended seasons for gamefish on the border waters with Canada like Rainy Lake, Rainy River and Lake of the Woods, so anglers wanting to continue to fishing for walleyes and other gamefish species will need to drive a little farther to fish after this weekend.
Walleye action on most of the larger lakes in the Bemidji area has been spotty during the day, with the best action in the mornings and evenings or after dark.
Most clear water lakes have been best for walleyes in 14 to 26 feet of water, with the walleyes deeper during the day and moving shallower to feed during low light.
Stained water lakes like Upper Red Lake and Lake of the Woods usually have a better day bite for walleyes than the clear water lakes. Both types of lakes often have the most activity in the mornings and evenings as the sun is rising and setting.
Anglers in Upper Red Lake continue to catch most of the walleyes in nine to 12 feet of water on the shoreline break, but there are also anglers spread out into the basin catching fish.
Anglers have been catching a few crappies in URL but mostly only one or two. There are also plenty of large northern pike in Upper Red Lake but anglers have to release all pike between 26 and 44 inches.
Lake of the Woods has been hot all winter for walleyes, sauger, northern pike and big perch. The difficult ice conditions early in the season protected some areas from fishing pressure but now anglers are making up for lost time with some great fishing.
Anglers are catching walleyes in 22 to 28 feet of water on the sides of structure or on the shoreline break. Some walleyes will suspend over deeper water during the day and the sauger bite has been best in 28 to 35 feet of water.
Some anglers put their houses in an intermediate depth, trying to catch both walleyes and sauger in the same location. Other anglers put a stationary house in deeper water for sauger and use portable fish houses to move shallower for walleyes in the mornings and evenings.
Generally speaking, anglers can usually get by with heavier lures, heavier line, brighter colors and more aggressive presentations in stained water lakes than they can in clear water lakes.
Visibility is limited in stained lakes so fish have to rely on their other senses to help them locate potential food sources. If anglers up-size their presentations and use brighter colors, rattles and liquid scents, it usually helps them get more bites
Anglers fishing in clear water lakes may need to use more finesse tactics and down-size their presentations using lighter line, smaller lures, more natural colors and less aggressive presentations to get the fish to bite.
Anglers can usually get by with 5 to 8-pound test line in stained water lakes, but may have to go as light as 2 to 5-pound test line in clear water lakes to get the same results.
Likewise, anglers can use more aggressive presentations in stained water lakes with lures one or two sizes larger and have good results, while the same approach on a clear water lake might spook the fish, at least under full sunlight.
Anglers serious about ice fishing should bring several different action rods rigged with different weight line and different sizes or styles of lures so they are ready to try different approaches until they find what is working under the conditions they are fishing.
It is the same concept most anglers already use during the summer when they rig a bunch of rods for the boat.
Anglers should also bring a variety of baits including wax worms, eurolarve, a couple types of minnows and a selection of scented plastics to maximize their chances for angling success on the ice.
PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org