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Mayfly hatch ends quickly with arrival of summer

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Summer took its own sweet time getting here this year but now it is suddenly very hot in the Bemidji area. Surface water temperatures in the local lakes soared past 70 degrees earlier this week and are now in the mid-70s and climbing.

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The mayfly hatch went quickly once the warm weather arrived. The mayfly hatch was two to three weeks later than usual this year and resulted in a reduced number of mayflies that survived the cold spring and were still able to hatch.

Hopefully enough mayflies were able to reproduce so there will enough mayfly larvae this winter to feed the hungry schools of perch.

A good supply of mayfly larvae will keep most of the perch in deep water during the winter where they are easier for anglers to locate.

A poor supply of mayfly larvae during the winter usually forces the perch out of deep water and moves them into the shallows to hunt for minnows and crayfish. Shallow perch are constantly moving, which can make them tougher for anglers to pattern.

Walleye fishing was spotty during the mayfly hatch in most lakes. Walleyes will bite better on the days with some wind or clouds but they can be difficult to catch on the bright days with little wind.

Upper Red Lake has had the best bite for walleyes on the days with light winds. The water levels are very high in Upper Red Lake and many of the walleyes are still on the shoreline break in four to eight feet of water.

The slot limit has changed on Upper Red Lake for the summer months. Anglers are allowed to keep four walleyes under the protected slot of 20 to 26 inches, with one over the slot allowed as part of the four-walleye limit.

The best walleye bite on the cloudy days with some wind has been on Lake Winnibigoshish. Most of the walleyes have been on the mid-lake bars and humps in 18 to 24 feet of water. Some humps have more slot fish while other humps have more keepers. Anglers can keep moving until they find a hump with the right size fish.

There has also been a decent walleye bite on Bemidji and Cass Lake when the conditions are right. Most of the walleyes have been in 16 to 28 feet of water, with walleyes on both mid-lake structure and shoreline connected structure with direct access to deep water.

The walleye bite on Leech Lake has slowed in the shallow weedy bays. The best walleye bite has been on the bars and humps in the main basin with more walleyes using the structures with direct access to water deeper than 30 feet.

Muskie anglers have still been seeing more muskies than they have been catching. The muskie action should be picking up as the algae blooms increase and the visibility in the water decreases.

The summer peak for muskie fishing usually happens when the lakes green-up from the first algae bloom of the summer. The muskies can take a week or more to adjust to the loss of visibility in the water, which makes them more vulnerable to anglers' presentations.

Bass fishing has been good on many of the smaller lakes or in the shallow bays and backwaters of the larger lakes. The bass have been using some of the heaviest cover in the lakes. Anglers can find bass in wild rice, on cattail edges, in reeds or bull rushes or between weed types or in areas where rocks and weeds are mixed.

Bass are aggressive biters and good fighters. Some fishermen believe that they don't taste very good so most anglers release all the bass they catch and keep other species if they want to take some fish home to eat.

Northern pike are also underutilized in the Bemidji area. Pike are good to eat if anglers can learn to take out the bones and pike are usually more willing to bite than walleyes when the conditions are tough.

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

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