Open water season continues into November
November arrives this weekend with 10 hours of daylight, and the Bemidji area is losing about three minutes of daylight each day.
All of the area lakes now have surface water temperatures in the mid 40s, which is the temperature where water is most dense. Any remaining lakes that have not been turned over by the wind will turn over as the surface water sinks to the bottom of the lakes.
The cold water period begins as surface water temperatures drop into the low 40s. Most fish will use similar patterns late in the open water season as they will on early ice.
Tulibees and whitefish are beginning to spawn in some of the local lakes and rivers in many of the same locations walleyes and suckers used to spawn in the spring. Fall spawning species in Minnesota include brook trout, lake trout, whitefish and tulibees.
Northern pike and muskies will be active right up until the lakes freeze as they key on the spawning tulibees and whitefish.
Many areas popular with dark house anglers in December are the same areas with concentrations of northern pike and muskies right now.
Muskie and pike anglers often switch to large jerk baits or big crankbaits in the fall to imitate tulibees. The cold water forces most anglers to do a combination of casting and trolling to spare their cold wet hands.
Most of the public docks have been removed from the lakes, so anglers may want to consider bringing a pair of knee high rubber boots to keep from getting their feet wet while launching the boat.
Many big rigs require two people to launch without a dock. Anglers may want to consider wearing their life jackets in the cold water to help prevent an accident.
A portion of the walleye population in most deep lakes have been using very deep water much of the fall. Many of those fish will move back into more moderate depths later in the fall.
Likewise, many of the walleyes in shallow lakes like Winnibigoshish and Leech have been using 6-9 feet of water most of the fall, but they have also been moving towards deeper water as the shallows cool.
Many walleyes are have been feeding on small perch, so anglers need to look for the areas with perch to find walleyes.
Many lakes have both walleyes and crappies concentrated near the hard to soft breakline, where the hard bottom meets the mud.
Insects hatch primarily out of the basin and feed on plankton, which means most of the insects are located over mud.
Blood worms are plentiful in many of the area lakes, which are the larvae of midges. Midges or "fish flies" are the insects that hatch early in the spring and are about the size of mosquitoes without the stinger.
Blood worms are an important food source for smaller perch, sunfish and crappies in the winter. The larger mayfly larvae are an important food source for larger perch in the winter in lakes that grow jumbo perch.
Most species like a slower presentation during the cold water period. Anglers often use similar presentations late in the fall as they would ice fishing.
It is often a challenge to get small baits into deep water, which is usually much easier to do in calm winds.
Some small plastic baits are designed to mimic the same insects panfish are feeding on and will often work as well or better than the real thing. Plastics don't have to be reeled up to check the bait when anglers miss a bite, which saves time.
Anglers can use light braided lines to get small baits to panfish in deep water. Some small ice fishing jigs have heavy heads to help get them into deep water faster and will work well for catching panfish late in the fall, too.
Good electronics are an important tool for fishing in deep water. Anglers should look for fish on sonar before stopping and trying to hover over the fish.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.