Opportunities still available for Bemidji area anglers
The firearms deer hunting season begins Saturday. The forecast calls for cooler temperatures and a chance of snow, so the conditions should be perfect for hunters to have a good opening weekend.
Many anglers have stored their boats for the winter but there are still good fishing opportunities for anglers wanting to extend the open-water season.
Muskies and big pike are often concentrated late in the season in areas with spawning tulibees. Many of the same areas used by walleyes to spawn in the spring are also used by tulibees and whitefish when they spawn in the fall.
The types of locations used by tulibees and whitefish to spawn include current areas and windswept shorelines or mid-lake structures with broken rock or gravel bottoms.
Many muskie anglers like to do a combination of trolling and casting in the fall. Trolling for muskies is probably more effective in the fall than at any other time of the year because of the concentrations of fish.
It is also a good idea to troll for muskies at least part of the time in the fall because anglers’ hands can get cold very fast when they get wet.
Muskie anglers can switch to mono to help reduce some of the spray from the line but most anglers stick with the super braids which absorb some water and give off a fine mist when casting.
Anglers trolling for muskies on Canadian Shield type lakes usually want to troll areas within sight of the main lake rather than areas further into shallow bays or into longer arms of the lake, unless that is where most of the deep water is located.
Rock bluffs or rock islands facing west are warmed by the afternoon sun and can be key areas for muskies in the fall, especially if the areas have both shallow and deep water in close proximity.
Food is always a key to muskie location so anglers should watch their electronics for large baitfish or individual larger marks that could be muskies.
Anglers with high end sonar are able to shoot the sonar beam out to the side of the boat, which can actually mark individual muskies or see the schools of tulibees. That feature helps anglers locate areas to cast while they are trolling.
Anglers fishing the Bemidji area for muskies should concentrate near outlets, in narrows with current and along areas of shallow rocks or anywhere else they see larger predators breaking the surface while chasing baitfish.
Walleye and crappie anglers can also find good bites late in the season, especially on the days with some sun and light winds.
Walleyes are usually found along steep breaks with direct access to the deeper parts of the lake during the cold water period.
Anglers can also check out steep breaks along the shoreline to look for locations where they may be able to walk out on early ice.
Jigs and minnows are the most common presentation for walleyes late in the season but anglers can also use ice fishing tactics using jigging spoons or jigging minnows fished vertically below the boat.
Crappies in many lakes are suspended along the edges of the deep holes. The most common depth range to find crappies in the fall is between 25 and 35 feet in most lakes. Crappies may be close to the bottom or they may be suspended over even deeper water, depending on what they are eating.
Anglers can find the schools of crappies on sonar and then anchor or hold the boat over the fish and cast smaller jigs with plastics or small minnows. Another method is to use ice fishing tactics such as smaller jigging spoons or jigging minnows.
The Rainy River has had a hot bite for walleyes recently with most anglers fishing closer to Lake of the Woods, in Four Mile Bay or in the first few miles of the river. Most anglers anchor along turns in the river channel and use heavier jigs and emerald shiners for walleyes.
PAUL A. NELSON runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org