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March snowstorm misses lakes north of Bemidji

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The northern edge of the latest March snowstorm went right through Bemidji so lakes south of Bemidji got more new snow than lakes north of Bemidji.

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The line at the edge of the storm was so distinct that Cass Lake got less new snow than Pikes Bay, which is slightly south of Cass Lake.

The same thing happened with Lake Winnibigoshish and Leech Lake. Winnie is north of Highway 2 and got very little snow while Leech Lake is south of Highway 2 and is covered with new snow.

Anglers can search the internet for the key word "MODIS" to see daily updated aerial photographs of most of the United States.

Once anglers learn how to navigate the MODIS website they will be able to zoom in on the lakes in the Bemidji area.

The photos show the current ice and snow cover on the lakes as well as the cloud cover, so the view may be obstructed on some days.

Anglers can use the website to track the progress of open water as it moves north and be able to see when open water returns to lakes in the Bemidji area.

The closest lakes with open water are currently in southern Iowa, so without a dramatic warm-up open water is likely several weeks away.

The post-frontal temperatures after the recent snowstorm dropped into the single digits so lakes in the Bemidji area were actually making more ice this past week.

The cold overnight temperatures are expected to continue into the middle of next week so anglers should be able to get onto the lakes for at least one more and possibly two more weekends.

Anglers are able to buy their 2011 Minnesota fishing licenses right now but the 2010 licenses are still good through April 30.

Most panfish in the local lakes are either staging to move shallow or have already moved into the shallows to feed.

Anglers who have fished late ice in previous years have an advantage over less experienced anglers because they already know what areas the perch, crappies and sunfish will eventually move into when the conditions are right.

Most fish follow the same patterns from season to season, unless too many of the fish get harvested. Many of the same fish will return to the same areas next season.

Fish in most lakes have already moved from their wintering areas and have staged close to where they will make their late-ice feeding movements.

Persistent cold weather usually slows the final migration into the shallows and backs the fish off to the closest deep water. The fish often hold on the breakline of the deeper water until the conditions improve and then make their move into the shallows.

The later it gets into the spring, the more "anxious" the fish become to make their move into shallow water. The fish are affected by both the weather and the amount of sunlight so they know when things are getting behind schedule.

The first areas where fish move into on late ice usually include areas adjacent to inlets, which bring in warmer water in the spring.

Other areas include shallow dark-bottomed bays and shorelines with soft bottom. The north and west parts of the lakes and bays warm faster than the south and east parts of the lakes because of the angle of the sun and there are usually more fish moving into the shorelines with the most direct sunlight in the spring.

Deep water adjacent to shallow bays and soft bottomed shorelines often attract staging panfish where the fish school while they wait to move into the shallows.

Perch tend to prefer weed flats covered with chara so they can search for crayfish, insects and minnows hiding in the mats of chara.

Crappies like to move into the deepest reed beds so they usually stage in deeper water adjacent to the deepest patches of reeds.

Sunfish like to eat insects so they usually move into old cabbage weed beds or areas with shallow mud like lily pads or wild rice.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at panelson@paulbunyan.net.

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