Paul Nelson Column for April 16: Crappies become active as temperatures increase
Strong winds kept most anglers off the lakes in the Bemidji area this past week.
Surface water temperatures have not reached 50 degrees in most lakes yet, so anglers are having difficulty finding crappies in shallow water. Once water temperatures reach the mid 50s, more crappies move into shallow water to feed.
Crappies in many lakes suspend over deep water until the shallows warm, usually close to the areas they plan to feed when water temperatures are right.
Eventually, most of the crappies will move closer to shore and hold along the 8-12 foot breakline. From there, groups of crappies will make feeding movements into the shallows at peak times of the day and move back out when they are resting.
Crappies are spooky by nature, especially when they are in shallow water. When crappies get spooked, whether it is from a predator or anglers making too much noise, they usually back out to some area close by that has cover such as weeds, submerged wood or slightly deeper water.
Some anglers searching for crappies like to run the shallows with their trolling motor and look for fish with their polarized sunglasses. The crappies usually spook out ahead of the boat, but anglers can mark the areas where they see crappies and return later, when things have had a chance to settle down.
Finding areas holding crappies is the most important part of the equation. Once they have been located, anglers can fine tune their presentations and locate where the fish are holding and where they are feeding.
When in search mode, anglers should keep moving quickly, until they make contact with the fish. Anglers can use their electronics to search for crappies when they are located in deeper water.
Most crappie fishing has been in deeper water so far this spring. There should be more crappies moving shallow this week as water temperatures rise over 50 degrees.
Most perch have finished spawning. The larger female perch have moved back into deep water, where they will stay until they recover from the spawn.
A few male perch will hang around the spawning areas long after most of the spawning is done, presumably waiting for any late arriving females.
Male perch recover from the spawn much quicker than females, so they will be the first ones to resume normal feeding patterns after spawning.
Walleyes in most river systems are spawning right now. Many river systems connected to key walleye lakes have been closed by the DNR to all types of angling until May 14. Anglers fishing for suckers or panfish should check the closings before going fishing on any local rivers.
Many walleyes are spawning towards the high end of their preferred temperature range this spring. This is because walleye gestation is both time and temperature sensitive.
Walleye eggs are firm during the winter, but they need to soften and get runny before the female walleyes are ready to expel their eggs.
Many lakes have a large portion of their walleye population staying in the lake to spawn. Lake spawning walleyes often have a higher success rate than river spawning walleyes, because water levels are more stable in lakes and there are fewer problems with silt covering and suffocating the eggs in the lakes.
Water temperatures in the lakes right now are similar to where water temperatures usually are on the walleye opener.
Anglers usually catch more male walleyes than female walleyes early in the season. Female walleyes typically need at least a couple of weeks to recover from the spawn, before they show up in the shallows to feed.
This year should be different than most walleye openers in recent history, with a good chance for a great bite on the opener, even on the large deep lakes.
Walleyes should be fully recovered from the spawn and fully dispersed back into their home lakes. Anglers can expect both male and female walleyes to be ready to bite on the opener, but the patterns will probably be well advanced beyond where they normally are when the season opens.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.