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Muskies just beginning to spawn on Bemidji area lakes

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Muskie season opens Saturday and, as was the case when the walleye season began, most muskies will not have spawned or will be just starting their spawn on Saturday.

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Muskies spawn in a wider temperature range than most species. Muskies usually spawn when the water temperature is in the 50s but the spawning range varies from lake to lake and from north or south in their range.

Most muskies in the Bemidji area spawn when the water reaches the mid-50s. This week anglers may also notice the hoop nets along the shoreline of some lakes. The nets belong to the Department of Natural Resources and the Fisheries officials use them to catch the muskies which are sampled and, in some cases, stripped of eggs for the stocking operation.

Surface water temperatures are in the low to mid-50s in most lakes in most of the Bemidji area lakes female walleyes should be getting more active, crappies and sunfish should be moving into the shallows to feed and muskies should be getting ready to spawn.

Walleye anglers have been catching more male walleyes than female walleyes. The larger female walleyes take longer to recover from spawning so anglers usually catch more male walleyes early in the season.

Walleyes that spawned in rivers will recover first because they have been done spawning longer. This helps extend the good fishing in the spring as walleyes recover over a longer period of time, depending on where and when they spawned.

The weather has been more of a hindrance that a help to anglers so far this season. The combination of an extremely late spring and persistently cold temperatures with rain and wind has many anglers scratching their heads as they wait for the weather to straighten out and the fish to become more active.

Weed growth in the lakes is way behind what happens during the average season. Anglers may have noticed that almost all of the weeds they are hooking off the bottom have been brown and dead. There is very little new green weed growth in most lakes, which is very unusual for the end of May.

Most of the pencil reed beds, bulrushes and wild rice should be starting to stick out of the water by this time of the year. Both the emergent and submergent weed beds are way behind the average timetable and that has impacted fish location.

The absence of green weeds in the lakes means the minnows and baitfish have a lack of cover and they may be using areas with rocks more extensively, just to give them somewhere to hide from predators.

Anglers have been finding walleyes using a wide range of depths in many lakes. There have been some fish on the windward rocky shorelines going as shallow as 3 to 5 feet. Other walleyes have been using the 6 to 8 foot edges of flats, while on some lakes walleyes have been in 11 to 14 feet of water along the steep breaks.

There is nothing limiting how deep or shallow walleyes or other species can go in the lakes so they are free to go wherever they can find enough food.

Anglers often have to fish through shallow areas to find out if they are holding fish. Most electronics can only see a small portion of the bottom directly under the boat in shallow water.

New technology in some high-end units allow anglers to scan out to the sides of the boat so anglers can check shallow water more efficiently without having to drive over the top of the fish and risk spooking them.

Jigs and shiner minnows have been the bait of choice for most walleye anglers but some anglers have also been catching walleyes on live bait rigs with larger minnows or leeches.

Fishing should improve for all species as the water temperatures increase. Most lakes are still at least two weeks behind what most people would consider a normal year.

Anglers have been catching walleyes in most lakes on shoreline connected structure, which should continue at least until the spot-tail shiner minnows are done spawning.

PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at panelson@paulbunyan.net

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Paul Nelson

Paul Nelson writes a weekly fishing column for the Bemidji Pioneer. He runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.

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