Memorial Weekend is the beginning of the summer tourist season and also one of the busiest and best fishing weekends of the summer.
Anglers in the Bemidji area this weekend should be able to find good fishing for walleyes, bass, northern pike, crappies, sunfish, perch and even trout. Muskies are the only species that will be off limits this weekend, with the muskie opener set for June 2.
The spring peak for walleyes happens when the larger female walleyes have recovered from the spawn and start to show up on structure, hungry and ready to feed. The peak usually occurs when the surface water temperatures are between 60 and 65 degrees.
Walleyes in the larger lakes have been concentrated on shoreline structure, feeding on spawning spot-tail shiner minnows. Once the shiners finish spawning they will move into deeper water with walleyes following close behind them.
The fish fly hatches have started with midges and gnats already in the air. The larger mayfly and dragonfly hatches are later with the smaller species of fish flies hatching earlier than the larger ones.
Largemouth and smallmouth bass season opens Saturday. Most anglers prefer to fish for walleyes as long as they are biting but there are a few diehard bass anglers who only like to fish for bass. The bass anglers will likely have much less company on the water this weekend than the walleye anglers.
Crappies and sunfish are also very active in the shallows right now as they get ready to spawn. Anglers can target the male crappies by harvesting the darker colored fish and letting the lighter colored female crappies with the obvious bulging stomachs go so they can reproduce.
Larger sunfish of both sexes should also be released as brood stock for the lake, especially this close to the spawn. A good bench mark is to release sunfish longer than eight inches, with nine-inch sunfish considered trophy size.
Walleye fishing has been good when the weather is stable but the passing of several cold fronts have made fishing tougher on post-frontal days. There has also been a good deal of wind on some days, limiting fishing on the larger lakes.
Most anglers have been using jigs and shiner minnows for walleyes. Other presentations are also starting to work for walleyes as the water temperatures increase.
Anglers should be able to use jigs, live-bait rigs, spinners, bobber rigs, jigs and plastics or artificial minnow baits this weekend and have a reasonable chance to catch walleyes with any of those presentations.
Most of the active walleyes in the larger lakes have been feeding in eight to 14 feet of water. A few walleyes are beginning to head for mid-lake structure. Walleyes in smaller lakes often move to mid-lake structure sooner than walleyes in larger lakes because they have fewer options in the smaller lakes.
The walleye movement to mid-lake structure on large lakes is usually more gradual than on smaller lakes with the humps and bars closer to shore usually getting fish sooner than structure further from shore.
Oxygen levels and water temperatures are within suitable levels for walleyes in all parts of the lakes so there is nothing limiting where the walleyes can go, as long as they are able to find enough food.
Many larger female walleyes head for deep water right after they spawn and lay in the cold water while they recover. The cold water on the bottom of the lakes slows their metabolism and helps their bodies tighten back up, almost like a cold compress on an injury.
The timing is right for larger female walleyes to be fully recovered and ready to feed this weekend. Many anglers release the larger walleyes after a quick picture and keep the smaller walleyes to eat. Hopefully most anglers will be able to catch enough smaller walleyes to have a meal or two of fish this weekend.
The lakes should be busy this weekend if the weather cooperates, so be careful and have a safe Memorial Day Weekend.
PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org