Heat, storms result in spotty walleye fishing
The hot weather and frequent storms have slowed the fishing for walleyes on some days, while on other days the bite has been surprisingly good.
Part of the reason for the fluctuation is that the fish, especially walleyes and muskies, have to eat more in the hot weather to maintain their elevated metabolism but they still pick their times to feed.
Fish can be a bit lazy and they don't want to work any harder than they have to for their food. They want to use every advantage they can to make finding and catching their food as easy as possible.
Fish can be opportunistic. They will often take advantage of unexpected opportunities to feed on a preferred food source if the opportunity falls into their laps, or rather into their mouths.
Walleyes are more likely to feed when they can use their superior eyesight to its best advantage. This includes mornings and evenings and even after dark when they have enough moonlight to see. This also includes when wind, clouds or algae blooms block enough sunlight to allow walleyes to feed comfortably in full daylight and still retain their sight advantage over their prey.
Walleyes can be coaxed into biting if anglers repeatedly work live-bait rigs through a school of fish at different angles, trying to put the right bait in front of the right fish that may be willing to bite if the bait comes close enough.
Anglers can also turn up the speed on the walleyes and try to force them to bite. When visibility is limited, a spinner rig will help the fish know something is coming as it approaches and when the bait moves quickly through their field of view, it forces them to strike fast or miss the opportunity to feed.
Storm fronts are the wild card in determining when the fish are most likely to feed. A storm front acts like a big "reset" button on the fishing patterns. When a storm approaches, fish will increase their feeding activity. As the storm front passes the activity levels taper off. By the time the front passes many of the fish will have fed and moved into deeper water where they will rest and digest their food while the weather conditions stabilize.
There is usually a wind shift after a storm front passes and rain washes the dust particles out of the air, which makes the skies clear and the UV ratings high. A wind shift after a storm typically shifts to the west or north, with the prevailing winds out of the south.
The change in wind direction breaks down any feeding patterns that have been established with a day or more of the same wind, so after a storm front passes, most fish won't begin to return to normal feeding patterns until the second day after the storm.
Once the fishing patterns reset after a storm, the number of fish feeding during each low-light period will slowly build in intensity until peaking again as the next storm front approaches.
Ideally there are at least a couple of days between storms, with the worst case scenario being a series of storm fronts passing day after day with too little time between fronts for feeding patterns to stabilize.
Anglers have still been finding walleyes in a range of depths in most of the larger lakes. The thermocline is setting up in the deeper lakes, which will eventually put a lower barrier on how deep the fish are able to go.
Shallow lakes like Winnibigoshish, the main basin of Leech Lake and Upper Red Lake are "turned-over" periodically by the wind, so a thermocline may begin to set up, but the wind breaks them back down.
Walleyes in many lakes have been moving tighter to structure and into shallower water to feed after the insect hatches finished in deep water. The algae blooms continue to increase, which is giving the water a tint that allows walleyes and other species to move back into the shallows and comfortably feed during the day.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.