Paul Nelson column for Aug. 7: Cold weather disrupts dog days of summer
July is usually the month with the warmest average temperatures of the year in the Bemidji area.
Surface water temperatures in the lakes also usually reach their peak sometime in July, although there is often a second peak sometime in August that comes close to the first peak.
This summer, most lakes in the Bemidji area briefly inched above 70 degrees on two occasions during July, but the surface water temperatures quickly dropped back into the mid 60s again, which is where they are right now in area lakes.
Most anglers have been waiting for water temperatures in the lakes to warm up all summer, but it hasn't happened yet and it may not happen at all this year.
Eventually, the shorter days and cooling water in the shallows will trigger an increase in feeding activity for most fish, which is normally what happens late in the summer.
Walleye fishing has been slow on most lakes recently, partially because of the persistent cold weather and north winds. Once the weather stabilizes, fishing should begin to improve for most species.
Most lakes in the Bemidji area fish best on a south wind, with much of the best walleye structure in the lakes facing south.
South winds also usually indicate warm stable weather, while northwest winds are usually post frontal winds associated with unstable weather.
Muskie anglers are some of the hardiest foul weather anglers on the lakes and most actually prefer nasty weather to bluebird skies with little wind.
The muskies in many lakes have been getting more active as the season progresses, but many of the fish have been more interested in smaller baits than they have been in the larger muskie baits.
Walleye anglers are beginning to see more fish on the sides of structure using deeper water, which is more of a late-summer pattern than one normally seen in early August.
The "dog days" of summer are not the same without warm water temperatures and a significant algae bloom in the lakes.
Early in the season it was like extended spring fishing patterns and now it looks like extended fall fishing, with little resembling summer fishing in-between.
Many walleye anglers have been relying on bottom bouncers with nightcrawlers on a crawler harness to locate walleyes. It is a good way to cover water and the sinker works well in both weeds and rocks.
The normal late-summer pattern is to switch back to jigs and larger minnows. Leeches also are a great late-summer bait. Walleyes often get real hungry for leeches about the time the bait stores are running out of them for the summer.
Larger northern pike have been getting more active in many lakes, with big pike moving into the edge of the cabbage weed beds.
Smaller muskie baits can be very effective on big pike, with many of the six-inch jerk baits working well for pike.
Sucker minnows on a bobber rig is also a good way to catch big pike and a magnum jig and sucker minnow works well for trolling, especially in clear water lakes with a deeper weedline.
Bass fishing has been good on most of the smaller lakes. Leech Lake also is a great bass lake, with many of the heavily weeded bays home to good numbers of largemouth bass.
Perch fishing has been good on many of the larger lakes, with anglers also finding a few walleyes and northern pike mixed in with the perch.
Most perch have moved on to the shallow flats and have been feeding on the inside or outside edge of the cabbage weeds and also on areas covered with rocks or chara.
Crappies and sunfish are biting on many of the smaller lakes. The sunfish in most lakes have been holding tight to the deep cabbage or coontail weed edge, depending on what they have available to them in the lake.
Crappies often suspend over deeper water near structure during the day and make feeding movements into the weed edge to feed at dawn and dusk each day.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.