The woods will be busy again this weekend as hunters prepare for the second weekend of the rifle deer hunting season. Most of the Bemidji area is now part of Zone I, with hunters having 16 days and three weekends to harvest their deer.
The cold and windy weather kept many deer hunters out of the woods this past week. The statewide harvest dropped through the first part of the deer season, with part of the drop attributable to the weather and fewer hunters in the woods.
Hunters should be reminded that there are high numbers of deer ticks in the woods in many areas this fall. If anyone doesn't know what a deer tick looks like, they can easily look them up on the Internet.
Deer ticks can carry a number of diseases including Lyme's Disease. Hunters should check themselves for ticks after being in the woods and get medical treatment if they develop any symptoms of tick-borne diseases.
The temperatures have been cold enough this past week to start freezing some of the swamps and shallow ponds.
The lakes in the Bemidji area have cooled into the low 40s, so the water is ready to start freezing when the temperatures get cold enough.
Water under the ice in the winter is typically between 39 and 40 degrees, so the fish are now at the same temperature water as they will be during the winter.
Tulibees and whitefish are spawning on wind-swept gravel shoals or in current areas in river systems. The key spawning for tulibees and whitefish are often below dams, similar to where walleyes spawn in the spring.
Any high traffic areas for tulibees are likely to attract large predators like pike and muskies right up until the lakes freeze.
Some of the key areas for pike and muskies late in the open water season are the same areas that are popular for northern pike spearing on early ice.
The open water fishing season is winding down, with most anglers already having their boats winterized and stored for the season.
A "perfect" fall for many outdoor enthusiasts would allow plenty of time for deer hunting and then have early ice fishing start shortly after the deer season ends.
There are always a few things to do in order to make the transition from open water fishing to ice fishing.
Anglers need to switch their fishing reels from summer fishing rods to winter ice fishing rods.
Spinning reels tend to accumulate dirty grease in most of the moving parts after a summer of fishing. The dirty grease can clog up reels in cold weather and can negatively affect their performance in the winter.
Anglers can open up their reels and clean out most of the dirty grease by using several cotton tip swabs. A dry reel works better in the winter and then anglers can add fresh grease in the spring.
Fishing line usually needs to be changed for ice fishing. Most anglers prefer to use lighter line in the winter to reduce visibility and help make small ice fishing lures work properly.
Fishing reels need to be nearly full of line to work well in the summer, because anglers are casting lures, long line trolling or drifting live bait rigs.
Ice fishing reels usually work better with less line, with approximately two-thirds of a spool about the right amount of line for most situations.
Super braid lines are nice for jigging lures in the winter because they don't stretch much and every little movement the angler makes translates directly to the lure.
One of the problems with braided lines in the winter is the line can freeze on the spool when fishing outside in the cold, which usually isn't a problem when fishing inside a heated fish house.
Braided lines can be more visible than traditional types of line in clear water. Anglers may want to use a "shock leader" of monofilament or fluorocarbon line to reduce visibility when fishing for line sensitive species like walleyes and panfish.
Paul A. Nelson is a multi-species fishing guide living in the Bemidji area. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.