Heavy snow limits travel on area lakes
Most lakes in the Bemidji area are covered with at least 16 inches of snow and deeper drifts can be found around fish houses and on the windward side of the lakes.
The ice thickness varies greatly because of the deep snow. Some areas have ice as thin as eight inches while other areas have more than 16 inches of ice.
The weight of the snow is causing pressure on the ice, which can force water out of any crack, ice heave or anglers' fishing holes in the ice.
Anglers are limited to driving vehicles on the plowed roads and established trails on the lakes. Snowmobiles or other track vehicles are the best mode of travel for fishing off the roads on the lakes.
Walleyes have been biting on most of the larger lakes, with the best bite in the mornings and evenings on the clear lakes. The stained-water lakes have been better for walleyes during the day.
Most anglers are using some type of jigging lure for walleyes, which includes a wide range of jigging spoons, jigging minnows and blade baits.
Some jigging lures work better tipped with live bait while others may work better without bait, because adding bait can inhibit the action of the lure.
Anglers can use a whole minnow, the head or tail of a minnow, wax worms or even a few multi-colored eurolarve to tip jigging lures. They all add scent which can help anglers get more bites.
Jigging spoons usually work best when tipped with a whole minnow or part of a minnow. Spoons are fished vertically, with the bait dangling at the bottom of the lure. A jigging spoon flashes and flutters to attract the fish and then the bait encourage the fish to strike at the hooks.
Jigging minnows fish horizontally, with a circular darting motion. Putting a whole minnow or a minnow head on a jigging minnow often inhibits the action of the lure by putting too much drag on the bait.
Anglers are usually better off fishing jigging minnows without bait. If some scent is needed, a couple of wax worms or a few eurolarve on the bottom treble hook add less drag to the lure than a minnow or minnow head.
Blade baits usually do not work well tipped with bait. The action of the lure and the realistic appearance of the lure are the key elements to getting a bite. The vibration of the lure is inhibited by bait, much like it would be dragging some weeds. Anglers can try putting liquid spray-on scents on blade baits, but avoid tipping them with bait.
Anglers have been finding walleyes feeding on hard bottomed areas in most lakes in a wide range of depths, depending on how deep the hard bottom goes on a specific spot.
Anglers fishing larger structure are concentrating on points and turns in the breakline. Anglers fishing deep humps usually have the best action on top of the hump or on the portion of the hump leading most directly into the deepest water.
Rocks are very attractive to walleyes in the winter. Anglers should be able to see what type of bottom they are looking at on sonar but sometimes an underwater camera gives the most accurate picture of what the bottom looks like.
Perch have been feeding on insects in deep water in most lakes but there is usually a portion of the perch population that stays in shallow water and feeds on minnows and crayfish during the winter.
When perch are active they will bite on almost anything. When perch are finicky, anglers may have to use a plain hook and a minnow or a dropper rig below a small spoon or tiny jigs with wax worms or eurolarve to get the fish to bite.
Crappies have been feeding in deep water in many of the smaller lakes. Anglers can fish the edges of the deep holes or in deep water off the sides of structure to find suspended crappies in mid-winter.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.