Lakes in the Bemidji area are super cooled and ready to freeze for the winter. Some of the shallow lakes in the area are already frozen, but the ice is not thick enough yet for ice fishing.
More lakes should start to freeze over as soon as cold temperatures and calm winds occur on the same night. The wind is capable of keeping lakes from freezing and also capable of re-opening lakes after they freeze.
Despite the cold and windy conditions this past week, there were still a few anglers out on some of the larger lakes.
It has also been cold for deer hunters, with one weekend left in the season. The rifle deer season in Zone I will close one half hour after sunset on Sunday.
The ice fishing season typically begins the weekend after Thanksgiving, obviously subject to the ice conditions.
There are a handful of lakes that typically freeze considerably sooner than the rest of the lakes in the Bemidji area, including Upper Red Lake, Midge, Lake Irving, Little Wolf and Three Island Lake. Some of the shallow bays on the larger lakes also usually freeze well ahead of the rest of the lakes.
Lake Bemidji, Cass Lake and the deep bays of Leech Lake are typically the last lakes in the area to freeze. There are usually about two weeks between the first and last lake to freeze, with anglers usually ice fishing on Upper Red Lake before Lake Bemidji is completely frozen.
Only time will tell how many lakes, if any, will be ready for ice fishing before the end of November. The dark house season begins on Dec. 1, so there will probably be someone on the ice by then.
Many anglers have their favorite spots where they traditionally go on first ice. Most anglers look for an area where they don't have to cross much ice to reach the shoreline break.
Points or inside turns along the shoreline drop-off are often contact points for gamefish like walleyes and northern pike. The best areas usually have access to deep water, with the gamefish making a feeding movement out of the deep water.
Most anglers don't want to venture too far out on the ice on their first ice fishing trip. The best areas are close to the access point for anglers, so the amount of ice they have to cross is minimal.
Most anglers are aware it takes between 3 and 4 inches of ice to hold an angler and at least 5 inches of ice for a group of anglers.
Wearing a life jacket on the ice is a good idea early in the season. Many vendors make "ice picks" for helping anglers pull themselves out of the water if an accident should occur.
Anglers can take the time they have left before the ice fishing season begins to switch over the reels from their summer rods to their ice fishing rods.
Some anglers get their reels ready for winter by spraying them with a water displacer (such as WD 40) and wiping out the extra grease inside the reel with a cotton swab. Dirty grease thickens in the cold weather and makes reels stiff.
It is also a good idea to start with new line for the ice fishing season. Most ice fishing reels perform best with about two thirds of the spool full of line. Most anglers use 2- to 4-pound test line for panfish in the winter and 6- to 8-pound test for walleye jigging rods.
Anglers wanting to see all of the latest equipment for ice fishing should consider going to the St. Paul Ice Show at the River Center near the Xcel Energy Center on Dec. 5-7.
Everything new in ice fishing is at the Ice Show including tackle, rods, clothing, new inventions, portable and stationary fish houses, outfitters and resorts, seminars, many special deals, all together in one location.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.