October is a month of transition in the Bemidji area.
The beginning of October can be very nice, with some of the mildest weather of the season. By the end of October, most anglers will have put their boats away for the season and will be getting ready for winter to arrive.
The number of anglers on the lakes in October is largely dependent on the weather. If the weather is good, they will be out there fishing. If the weather turns cold, there will be almost no one on the lakes.
The Bemidji area has been nipped by frost a couple of times this fall, but there has not been a hard frost yet in most areas.
Unfortunately, the weather is going to get cold soon; it is just a matter of when it will happen.
Anglers need to take advantage of the few remaining days with good weather, or they will have all winter to wish they did.
It is not too early to start thinking about ice fishing. Anglers can do some homework in the fall to get ready for the ice fishing season.
It is much easier to look for potential ice fishing spots from a boat than it is to find spots once the lakes freeze.
Many anglers have GPS, which allows them to mark spots on the lakes that they can return to once the lakes freeze.
Fish are much less mobile in the winter than they are in the summer because of the cold water. Fish prefer locations in the winter that offer everything they need in a limited area, so they don't have to make any big movements to find safety and get enough to eat.
Walleyes will make feeding movements in the winter, but they will position themselves close to their food and then move off of structure when they rest between meals.
Walleyes use "contact points" to access structure, much like people use doorways to get into buildings.
A contact point for walleyes could be the most direct route from deep water onto structure. Contact points can also be some unique feature on structure that distinguishes it from the rest of the structure.
A pile of rocks, logs on the bottom, a series of steps that leads up to structure, a saddle between two structures, or a distinct edge between hard and soft bottom can all be examples of contact points for walleyes.
Anglers looking for potential ice fishing locations can also look for the "spot on the spot" on structure.
Examples of a "spot on a spot" would be the highest point on a sunken island, a depression or rise on a flat, rocks or logs on a piece of structure, or a bald spot in a weed bed can all be examples of potential key areas for ice fishing.
An underwater camera can be another useful tool for searching for good spots to set up a fish house in the winter.
Anglers can look at structure with an underwater camera to see what is there and try to figure out what might attract fish to a specific location.
A little homework this fall could translate to better fishing this winter. Anglers don't even have to make a special trip to the lakes, they just have to pay attention while they are on the lakes and look for something interesting for the winter while they fish.
Fishing reports from around the Bemidji area this past week have been good for walleyes.
There is a shiner minnow migration in many larger lakes in the fall that can concentrate walleyes into high traffic areas like the mouths of rivers.
The shiners may move several miles up the river to feed on zooplankton, depending on the situation.
Examples of lakes with a shiner minnow migration in the fall include Lake of the Woods up the Rainy River, Winnibigoshish with the Mississippi River, and Lake Winnipeg with migrations up both the Red and Winnipeg Rivers in Canada.
Paul A. Nelson is a multi-species fishing guide living in the Bemidji area. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.